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Denver - what to eat at Rioja, and lunch near Convention Center

Hi Denver hounds,
I'm from Boston and will be in your city on Sunday. We have reservations at Rioja. Any recommendations for a can't miss dish?

Also, though I'll be hard at work at the Convention center until Wednesday, I might be able to sneak away for lunch a few times. (But not for long!) Any recommendations for really good, quick food near the center? Maybe Vietnamese or Mexican?

And finally, should a salesperson wish to take me to lunch near the center, where should I suggest?

Thanks! Looking forward to hanging in your city!

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Rioja
1431 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80202

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  1. Hi EIW (from a former Bostonian). Rioja's can't miss, period, so you're not going to go wrong with anything you order. The menu's best-loved signatures, though, are probably the pork belly with fresh garbanzos and the artichoke tortelloni.

    The best Vietnamese and Mexican in town are not downtown, IMO (though there is high-end Tamayo at Larimer & 14th)—seriously, if you want good and quick, you might consider hitting some of the food carts like Biker Jim's (he does stuff like rattlesnake brats and pheasant sausages), the Thai Food Cart, or Gastrocart at 18th and Curtis.

    Neither Viet nor Mex, but I doubt there's a wait for lunch at Osteria Marco on Larimer, which is very good.

    As for business lunches, if you're implying you'd like some swank, I'd consider Ellyngton's at the Brown Palace just for the experience (or even tea in the lobby). Panzano, which is upscale but not super-fancy, excellent food, would be another good choice.

    http://www.denveater.com

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    Osteria Marco
    1453 Larimer, Denver, CO 80202

    Rioja
    1431 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80202

    Tamayo Restaurant
    1400 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80202

    Panzano
    909 17th St., Denver, CO 80202

    3 Replies
    1. re: tatamagouche

      Thanks, tatamagouche! I got the Rioja rec from your blog - the links from MC Slim JB's blog are very handy. I thought the pork belly looked like a good bet, so glad to hear that confirmed.. :) I'll find the carts - that's perfect.

      Yes, swank for lunches when others are on their expense accounts, and like to have a couple of ideas in my back pocket. Otherwise it's invariably a steak house (which in Denver is probably not so bad, but there are already a couple of those on the agenda outside of my control.)

      One of the small joys of business travel (which I truly hate otherwise) is the chance to check out the local resto scene, and I've never been to Denver. Thanks for the advice! I'll post back after the trip.
      EiW

      1. re: Eatin in Woostah

        Enjoy! If you want to see something you won't see at home stop in for a drink at Mario's Double Daughter's Salotto.

        http://www.doubledaughters.com/

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        Double Daughter's Salotto
        1632 Market St, Denver, CO

        1. re: tatamagouche

          Thanks! Looks very cool. I'll do my best to steer the crowd in that direction (or at least grab a buddy to go.) Will write more of a recap when I get home, but Rioja last night was fantastic. Everyone in the group of 8 was blown away by the deliciousness. (Especially the korobuta pork belly..mmmmm.....)

    2. Back home from a very, very busy trip to Denver. T'gouche, thanks for the advice! The food went down this way:

      Sunday night - Rioja. Started out with a lovely amuse from the kitchen with goat cheese and jam on a crisp bread. Nice. We ordered a couple of pitchers of sangria - pricey but very good, and chose from the giant bread basket. (Sadly the breads were not warm, but they were still good.) For apps we shared the charcuterie (mole cured sausage was outstanding), the pork belly on fresh garbanzos (out of this world!), tuna sashimi (I did not taste) and bruschetta with lardo...mmm....lardo.... Our waitress called it bacon spread - I think she was concerned with calling it lardo.

      I had the above-mentioned artichoke tortelloni. (After the abundance of pork fat in the apps I was happy for the lighter main.) It was completely delicous, with the lovely scent of truffle. I wanted to drink the broth. My DC to my right had the duo of lamb. I had one bite that was like filet mignon, only with yummy lamb-y flavor. DC to my left had the Alaskan halibut, also very, very good. (But I knew mine was the most delicious...) Though I was coveting the asparagus/morel salad that came with the halibut. We had no room at all for dessert. Wish we could pick this place up and drop it down in Cambridge, MA.

      Another highlight - quick lunch at Mad Green's on 16th. Great concept, excellent execution. Wish I had this place near our office - I'd be there for lunch all the time.

      Lowlights were not planned by me - Denver Chop House (had a NY Strip as big as my forearm, and about as tender), and Dave and Busters. Oh well.

      But AFTER Dave and Busters, I was able to drag a large contingent to Double Daughter's. So cool! It was almost empty on a Tuesday night, but we had a great time anyway. The drinks were superb. I had a Dead Parrot and Pirate Socks which was tasty but a bit too sweet for me, then switched to a Stranahan's Old Fashioned (recommended by the bartender) which was really excellent. I'm normally a Manhattan drinker, so this was right in my wheelhouse. We also ordered a sausage pizza (because the Dave and Busters meal was so unsatisfying) and really enjoyed. Not the thin crust we're used to, but it hit the "late-night drinking" spot.

      Didn't go to any food trucks for the ridiculous reason that I had no cash on me. I kept forgetting my ATM card. Silly, I know.

      Anyway, thank you for the recs, especially Double Daughters. Very fun night - we closed the place.
      EiW

      -----
      Rioja
      1431 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80202

      Dave and Busters
      10667 Westminster Blvd Unit 100, Westminster, CO 80020

      1 Reply
      1. re: Eatin in Woostah

        I'm so glad! Glad you got a shot of Stranahan's too, good stuff made right here in Denver.

      2. Saw you made it, but for next time... 8 Rivers is solid caribean food with a really nice interior. A. Cloth napkin joint. They have a rum selection that would impress in any city. For casual lunch try the Larimer Market. Both are striking distance from the cc on the mall ride. Though you didn't ask for a drink recommendation I'll make one anyway. The Cruise Room in the Oxford Hotel is supposedly an old speak easy. The interior certainly is dark enough. The walls are covered with really cool old cork reliefs.

        3 Replies
        1. re: mmmcqueen

          Hmmm...the official story is that it was the first bar in town to open the day after Prohibition...where'd you hear that?

          1. re: tatamagouche

            Not sure, though your story sounds better. I left it deliberately vague because of the unknown etiology. Either way, fun place to grab a drink.

            1. re: mmmcqueen

              True that.