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DENVER - truly amazing food?

I am visiting Denver from NYC in a couple of weeks and hoping there are some can't miss eats. Type of cuisine doesn't matter - just looking for the best of anything Denver has to offer (eg. but not limited to: tacos/burritos, sandwiches, pastries, ice cream, brunch, breakfast, salads, grilled cheese sandwiches, chocolate, anything exceptional.) I love food that's purely good (like a perfect burger or hotdog) or really creative (like Marlow & Sons in NYC) - fresh local ingredients a plus. What's worth seeking out in the mile high city?

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  1. Mausdeer - Asking for "truly amazing food" recommendations is intimidating. Some of us regulars have posted some of our favorites again and again. "Truly amazing" fine dining can be narrowed down, but "truly amazing" hot dogs or grilled cheese sandwiches? I don't know.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ClaireWalter

      Didn't intend to intimidate or come across as a total NYC food snob, which it seems I did. So sorry. What I was trying to find out is what in Denver is really special - doesn't have to be super high end at all. In fact, I generally prefer food and treats that are simple with a few quality ingredients/elements. I do have to keep it local because I'm visiting family and we're a little short on time. Maybe a better question would be, "what would you miss if you moved away from Denver?"

      1. re: mausdeer

        If I moved, one place I would miss is Lucile's for breakfast.

    2. I think Izakaya Den (on Pearl Street) qualifies as "truly amazing" Japanese/Mediterranean tapas and sushi. And if you're willing to drive up to Boulder, I don't think you'd be disappointed with Frasca, the Kitchen, Jax or Zolo. I'm also a fan of Colterra, in Niwot (just northeast of Boulder).

      But coming from NYC, I don't know - Denver's becoming a foodie town, but it's pretty hard to impress a New Yorker in my experience.

      4 Replies
      1. re: monopod

        Monopod - I like the same restaurants you do, but Mausdeer specifically asked about
        "tacos/burritos, sandwiches, pastries, ice cream, brunch, breakfast, salads, grilled cheese sandwiches, chocolate, ... a perfect burger or hotdog." And s/he specifically asked about Denver too.

        I will reluctantly toss out a few ideas: Wen Chocolates; the large egg raviolo at Prima in the Hotel Teatro, mussel night at Le Central (tho' eating mussels here when coming from the East Coast is a questionable use of time), NM-style green chile at Jack-n-Grill, breakfast or brunch at Snooze (prepare to wait; don't go just before a Rockies at-home day game); pastries from the Devil's Food Bakery. Anybody else?

        1. re: ClaireWalter

          He actually said "but not limited to" those types of food.

          1. re: jerseycorn

            Re "He actually said "but not limited to" those types of food." You're right, Jerseycorn, but given those examples, I inferred that he was looking for not-terribly-expensive food in fairly casual places and figured I was stretching it by recommending Le Central. :->

            1. re: ClaireWalter

              My understanding was "not limited to" the list as well - I was thinking just of things that Denver restaurants do particularly well. Izakaya, while not a traditional Denver offering, is somewhat unique in that there isn't a lot of very good Japanese/Mediterranean fusion around. And I mentioned Boulder because it's not far from Denver and a lot of visitors at least make a day trip (and it's what I really know). But I get it now - regional specialties, in Denver proper. Apologies.

      2. Izakaya Den and Beatrice & Woodsley on the pricey side -- Tacos y Salas #3 for the best authentic Mexican food in town (when I lived in NYC ten years ago, there was simply nothing like this place there, maybe that's changed) -- Lola does a great brunch -- I'd avoid the Italian here entirely, ditto any deli -- and while it's tough to beat NYC for Asian, Superstar Asian compares and is great, as is Kim Ba -- there's also place called J'Shabu that's pretty fun and it's right next door to a Korean BBQ joint that's good too.

        7 Replies
        1. re: jerseycorn

          Thank you for the recs. I apologize to Denver residents - I did not mean to be a snooty New York Foodie. I don't know much about Denver (or the mountain region) and wanted to get a good idea of what types of food are great there. I'm excited about Tacos y Salas #3 because as jerseycorn mentioned authentic mexican food is hard to impossible to find in NYC. Sushi and seafood seem like silly things for a visitor from the coast to seek out in a landlocked place - though I'm glad to know if I end up in the middle of the country for an extended period of time there's good seafood out there. I happen to be an oyster fanatic, but again, no shortage of those here.

          1. re: mausdeer

            Now that I too am getting more of a sense of what you're looking for:

            Agree with jerseycorn about Beatrice & Woodsley on the pricey side; it's very unusual no matter what you're from, with stunning decor. Here are two posts I did about it a while back, one focusing on their brunch, which I like just as much as their dinner. Good cocktailing too.

            http://denveater.typepad.com/denveate...

            http://www.denveater.com/denveater/20...

            Though I like it, I wouldn't put Izakaya in that category.

            Places that will really give you a great flavor of what Denver has to offer that you may have more trouble finding elsewhere:

            Mexican, of course. I'd just do a board search for Denver Mex because you'll find lots of good specific recs that way.

            I got pretty specific on this thread about some of the great bars in this town:

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/609998

            I also agree with jerseycorn re Italian in Denver, with one exception—Frank Bonanno's places, the more downscale Osteria Marco; it's not anything you can't get in NY, but it's done extraordinarily well. The same goes for his new noodle bar, Bones—one of the best meals I've had in ages.

            http://denveater.typepad.com/denveate...
            http://www.denveater.com/denveater/20...

            I'd finally recommend Domo simply for the experience; a lot of people like the food much better than I do, but it's a breathtaking, out-of-the-ordinary spot.

            http://www.domorestaurant.com/

            1. re: tatamagouche

              Thanks for the reminder about Domo, Tatamagouche. We went there for lunch early in '08 (http://culinary-colorado.blogspot.com...) and tried to get a couple of times since but there was always a long wait. This thread is a wake-up call to try again.

              1. re: ClaireWalter

                I'll go with you; I want to give it another shot, since you & others I trust liked the food better than I did.

                1. re: tatamagouche

                  I've never had to wait when I've hit Domo for lunch on Saturdays (and it's cheaper). I like their Japanese curries, but then I've never met a curry from any country that I haven't liked. Service can be sketchy. I don't make it here that often either, but it's probably because there are so many other places in Denver I like more.

                  1. re: tatamagouche

                    Tatamagouche - Good idea (sometime after 5/25). We can trade impressions. Yours of Domo was not favorable. I am the only person on the planet (plus husband and 2 friends) to have had a disappointing experience at Osteria Marco.

                    1. re: ClaireWalter

                      Here's one more person who was not impressed with Osteria Marco.

                      And I'll go with you guys to Domo!

          2. If we are opening things up to about anything, Novo Coffee is some of the best in the country I think, the Ethiopians they roast can be unreal. They have a location in th Denver art museum and served by a few cafes around, like Fluid Coffee Bar.

            And I agree with tacos. Tacos y Salsa is a good one, but they are all over the place, and even a lot of the taco trucks are pretty good. East Colfax is where I find most of my favorites, out past Quebec they start getting thick. I have trouble picking a favorite. Almost more fun to try a different one and a different meat each time!

            We do brew beer really well. Vine Street Pub (serving Mountain Sun Brewery beers, and some day to be a brewery itself) and Falling Rock Tap House for a selection of local stuff.

            Lola's brunch is pretty unique.

            Thats all I have right now. This is one of those questions that can be answered 100 ways depending on what pops in your mind. Have a good trip

            2 Replies
            1. re: nateco

              Lola is very good for brunch, I agree. I've not tried the chicken & blue corn waffles with chorizo gravy and guajillo chili-cherry syrup, but I mean to.

              Since hot dogs have come up, Biker Jim's stand on the 16th St Mall is repeatedly praised highly. I've never been, but he does lots of game sausages like elk & reindeer.

              1. re: nateco

                Novo coffee is incredible! I usually get it up in Eagle and Summit Counties as they have easily accessible places brewing it up there and it tastes like heaven every time. I really wish they had more shops brewing it here in Denver.

              2. I lived in NYC for a while and I would definitely skip Italian, Japanese, and seafood here in Denver. The items I consider unique would be green chile and Mexican, and microbrews (more per capita than any state).

                Do a search for mexican and you will get lots of recs. For microbrews, Vine St. Pub on 17th Street has some great stuff, or you can find New Belgium, O'Dell's, Flying Dog, Breckenridge and others around town.

                I would also recommend Snooze for a very solid brunch (it does get very busy as previous poster mentioned but not so different from NY, expect to wait an hour on the weekends).

                1. Olivea, which opened a few days ago, has been getting rave reviews -- online, in print and in person. It's at 719 17th Ave. I haven't been there, but haven't heard/read any negatives yet.

                  1. I second the vote for Biker Jim's and I doubt you can get native american frybread in NYC so my recommendation is for Tocabe. It is truly a place I eat at least once a week and a place I have never seen mentioned on these boards.

                    http://www.westword.com/2009-04-16/di...

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: tdjacks

                      I ate at Tocabe last night for the first time. Not fine dining of course, but for what it was (a native alternative to Chipotle) it was quite good.

                      1. re: LurkerDan

                        Why did I think it had already closed? Glad to hear it hasn't; thanks for the rec.

                    2. As a tranplanted San Franciscan, here are my favs...
                      Buffalo Doughboy in Wash Park - amazing pastries, Clark the chef is truly gifted
                      India's Pearl on Pearl St. in Denver - Great Atmosphere and the tandoori quail is not to be missed
                      Cherry Cricket - divey and great burgers,
                      Lincolns Road House (don't let the bikers scare you off they are really tame). Really good po boys and beer
                      Imperial Palace - closest I can come to being back in SF/NY for Chinese food, if you get a craving
                      Chey They in Boulder - really good Thai Food
                      The Kitchen and Frasca in Boulder - more upscale
                      Tomayo for drinks and good chips and guacamole - go upstairs for the rooftop bar with a view of the mountains - there's not place in NYC with a view like this

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: celeanor

                        India's Pearl is superb, agreed—but it's not special in the sense that you'd seek it out above all else when coming from NY, which has great Indian food, IMO.

                        After my first trip there recently I too adore Lincoln's Road House...the food is Louisiana-inflected bar grub, great in context. Whether it'd be great out of context—not so sure. But as I've said Denver does dives right and this is one of 'em.

                        Buffalo Doughboy—never been, though I drive by it lots; the pastries are really baked in house?

                        (Here are a couple of India's Pearl posts plus a Lincoln's post for what they're worth.

                        http://www.denveater.com/denveater/20...
                        http://denveater.typepad.com/denveate...
                        )http://www.denveater.com/denveater/20...

                      2. I defnitely recommend making the drive to eat at Frasca in Boulder. I think The Kitchen is now overrated. L'Atelier used to be quite good, but I haven't eaten there in awhile. As someone from NY, you could appreciate the chef's retro aesthetic. Chez Thuy is rumored to use MSG in some of their dishes, as much as they'd like to deny it. The food's alright nonetheless, but no better than New Saigon in Denver. But those are all in Boulder.

                        Jack and Grill can be hit or miss, but they tend to have the best New Mexico style chile you'll find in town, and they're a far sight better than any chile you'd see in NY. Unfortunately, it's not peak chile season. Mexican restaurants are a dime a dozen. Las Delicias is a local favorite. There's a new place called Tarasco's on Federal just south of Alameda. I've only eaten there twice, but they have chilaquiles and Tamales Oaxaquena that rival what I've eaten in L.A. Although Denver's not known for its Asian food, Domo is worth a visit. The food is good, and most of the servers are senior students from the Aikido school attached to it. I never knew that setting down a glass of water could be an art form before eating there. I spent the last several months in L.A., so I've yet to try the food at Root Down, but I know the chef and he has very high standards for his ingredients. He used to be Chef de Cuisine at the Kitchen in Boulder, and the food there went sharply downhill after his departure, in my opinion.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: minormist

                          Thanks for the tip re Tarasco's! Root Down I didn't like one bit, but when you speak of the chef—you don't mean the guy that left just a week or two ago, do you?

                          Quick question, though: "As someone from NY, you could appreciate the chef's retro aesthetic." Huh? I don't get the connection.