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Denver Food Scene

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Hi - I am in the process of moving/changing my life - selling the house I raised my kids in, getting out of Chicago bleak and brutal winters and starting fresh.
I have offers in Denver and New Orleans - and my daughter is in Boulder and keeps telling me I will love Denver. But I am concerned - it didn't seem like a very strong foodie scene when I visited - lots of chains but where are the cute little local groceries or the ethnic grocery store/cafes you find in Chicago? The neighborhood wine shops with their own followings? Food trucks?

Its not like I am picking a place based on food but when I saw Colorado -let alone Denver - doesn't have its own board, made me wonder. Whats the take from others who have moved from hot food scenes to Denver?

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  1. Look beyond the chains and you will see plenty of variety here. My favorite food town is still SF, but my favorite restaurant in the country, Frasca Food and Wine, is in Boulder and my "rotation list" of favorite places in Denver/Boulder is so large now I couldn't possibly be a regular at all of them.

    This is a great recent article from Sunset (make sure to click through all 20 slides) about Denver and Boulder. http://www.sunset.com/travel/wests-be...

    Here's the "America's Foodiest Town" article about Boulder:
    http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/20...

    As mentioned in the Sunset article, we have great local food writers including the staff at Westword's Cafe Society blog with daily postings at http://blogs.westword.com/cafesociety and CH regular tatamagouche who blogs at http://www.ruthtobias.com/denveater/ and moved here from Boston.

    5 Replies
    1. re: rlm

      Interesting. I am going to Boulder/Nederland this weekend (last minute trip!) and beginning my research. Can you get a table at Fracsa, or is that a hopeless type thing?
      Do you have any coffee or chocolate recommendations? I am a huge Blue Bottle fan.

      1. re: NWLarry

        Frasca has the same seating policy as the French Laundry - 2 months to the day. It is a pain - shoot for a weekday night - that's how I finally got in. You will have much more luck at The Kitchen or Black Cat Bistro - both delish!

        -----
        Black Cat
        1964 13th Street, Boulder, CO 80302

        1. re: JolieLaide

          AFAIK, Frasca keeps a certain amount of tables each night for walk-ins, so if you really want to go there, it's worth a shot.

          1. re: LurkerDan

            LurkerDan is correct. I've walked up on a Tuesday night without a reservation, and been seated at a table for two within 15 minutes. Definitely worth a try. If you can't get in, Pizzeria Locale is right next door, is owned by Frasca, and has some of the best neopolitan pizza anywhere, and they reserve 80% of their tables for walk-ins.

            1. re: monopod

              HOLY COW - I had no idea! Where were you guys when I was pulling my hair out a year ago?! I will definitely remember this info - thanks!

    2. It's hard to say what you'll think of it. It's NOT Chicago, it's not NY or SF either. So it may never meet your standards. Not every neighborhood is loaded with cute little groceries and wine shops, and some neighborhoods just have mexican for ethnic food. That said, there are some fantastic food options here. And lots of them. And great beer. And food trucks. And weather. And mountains. I can't think of a place I'd rather be.

      1. Just because Denver doesn't have it's own board doesn't really mean anything. If you read the Mountain board on a regular basis you will find that the majority of posts involve Denver. Denver is really coming into it's own food & drink wise.

        There are some amazing local chefs who not only grow their own produce & raise thier own meat but they also volunteer thier time & skill to benefit many charities. There is couple of underground dining scenes going on. Some of the local restaurants make thier own salumi & cheese, hot dogs & their "mixologists" definitely don't use shelf mixes in their drinks.

        As for food trucks, whoa!!! Denver is in the middle of a food truck blitz! They meet weekly at Civic Center Eats & band together for food truck parties featuring local dj's, wines, & beer.

        You may want to search this board for a few recs but I would defintely follow Westword's Cafe Society blog & you could even check out the Denver Post's Wednesday food edition.

        Denver is not New York, Chicago, or San Francisco, but it's really grown up from being a "cow town" into a food destination of it's own & deserves a chance.

        2 Replies
        1. re: jcattles

          thanks to everyone - this helps. I am not looking for over the top showcase spots but exactly what was offered: local chefs using local food, food trucks, and I am very interested in the pop-ups and underground dining scene - I have really enjoyed that here in Chicago. Any suggestions?

          I did see there is an active Slow Food Chapter, which I am a member of here.
          I admit, I am spoiled by ethnic - you can trip over thai here - about one every block and most good to great. Devon avenue offers East Indian of both north and south styles, Ethiopian as well. Maybe I will just have to start an ethnic cooking club.

          1. re: bonchocolat

            How do I eat well in Denver? Let me count the ways... I am from here and for me, seeing this town grow up and come more and more into its own has been nothing short of a revelation. Lest you think me nothing but a home-town hick, let me assure you that I travel often to New York (Corton, anyone?) and have eaten my way all over Paris and other points abroad. While we certainly don't have as many fine dining options as the larger cities, we do indeed have very good food - seriously I could go on for quite a while here. Frasca Food and Wine and The Kitchen in Boulder. Anything owned by Frank Bonnano in Denver ( and that's 5 restaurants and one very cool speakeasy), The pastry chef at Duo was up for a James Beard in 2009, Fruition, Table 6... and I could keep going!

            -----
            Table 6
            609 Corona St., Denver, CO 80218

        2. Comparing the food in Denver and New Orleans is like comparing a Chevette and a Corvette.

          1. I agree with others who have already posted that if you're looking for local, interesting, creative food, there's tons of it in Boulder and Denver, but it tends to be expensive and given a "high-end" presentation. What's lacking are the grimy corner groceries and no-sign restaurants that you have to be told about to find, and that have insanely delicious food made by immigrant families in the tradition of their home countries. Denver has great Vietnamese (pho and banh mi, especially), good dim sum, and there's good Mexican to be had (though it can be tough to find it among all the crappy places). But there isn't the breadth of cultures represented here, at least not yet. So it'll be different, but I think you'll find that once you scratch the surface there are a lot of great options.

            3 Replies
            1. re: monopod

              There are also a lot of very very very good places in strip malls all around denver. Just keep asking around. A lot fo good Asian on Federal in Denver. Star Market, The Empress. Other parts of town- Thai Basil on ALameda and near 18th, Thai pot cafe on Colo Blvd, a few good Indian places downtown (one on Blake and 16th), Parallel 17. In Highlands - (o =- what is that Giant Milk Can ice cream place?) Lola, Vita, more . . . Random places on Browadway -EL Diablo, the Living Room, Deluxe, Delight, Fat Greek Cafe . . .

              -----
              Parallel 17
              1600 E 17th Ave, Denver, CO 80218

              1. re: blythe

                Other fine dining spots (food & service): Restaurant Kevin Taylor, Panzano, Bistro Vendome, Palace Arms, Rioja, TAG -- all in downtown Denver. The Highland neighborhood in NW Denver has some excellent small restaurants (Duo, Root Down, others). In Boulder, Frasca (as mentioned), The Kitchen and the new Kitchen [Next Door], Arugula, The Pinyon, Q's at the Boulderado, L'Atelier and the iconic Flagstaff House. In Littleton, Opus. Cheese shops: The Truffle, St. Kilian's (both Denver) and Cured (a new cheese, salumi shop about to open or just opened in Boulder). Hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurants are concentrated along Federal Blvd in Denver and also Aurora. Also ethnic grocery stores in those areas. Once upon a time, there was a guidebook to these grocery stores, but it's now out of date and out of print.

                -----
                L'Atelier
                1739 Pearl St, Boulder, CO 80302

                Rioja
                1431 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80202

                Bistro Vendome
                1420 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80202

                Restaurant Kevin Taylor
                1106 Fourteenth Street, Denver, CO 80202

                Flagstaff House Restaurant
                1138 Flagstaff Dr, Boulder, CO 80302

                Panzano
                909 17th St., Denver, CO 80202

                Root Down
                1600 W. 33rd Avenue, Denver, CO 80211

                1. re: ClaireWalter

                  " Once upon a time, there was a guidebook to these grocery stores, but it's now out of date and out of print."

                  Sounds like you've got your work cut out for you... I'd buy a few copies!

            2. While Denver has some amazing homegrown chefs, it has recently drawn some very talented people from NY and elsewhere who want to be a part of the blossoming Denver food scene. Check out ChoLon and Root Down or Linger for example. I'm loving what's happening here! Come join us. I promise you won't be disappointed.
              Same goes for great ethnic restaurants and food trucks. You just need to know where to find them.

              -----
              Root Down
              1600 W. 33rd Avenue, Denver, CO 80211

              1. Thanks to all - my decision has been made and I will be in Denver starting in August. Looking forward to trying all these great suggestions - especially the more out of the way and unique spots.

                1 Reply
                1. re: bonchocolat

                  For Korean and Vietnamese, head to Aurora, for a great Hawaiian/Japanese market, go to Sakura Square, for Vietnamese and Chinese head to Federal and Alameda, go North on Federal for good Mexican. Greek and more Mexican are on East Colfax. There are a number of Indian, Middle Eastern and African restaurants and markets in Aurora as well.

                  Z Cuisine, Frasca, The Kitchen, Rioja, Duo, Fruition, TAG, Table 6, Root Down and ChoLon are all top-end restaurants, many with farm to table, local ingredients. (Fruition's chef actually has his own farm outside of town)

                  Oh, and there are a couple good Chicago style hot dog joints too. ;)

                  -----
                  Table 6
                  609 Corona St., Denver, CO 80218

                  Rioja
                  1431 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80202

                  Sakura
                  7555 E Arapahoe Rd Ste 5, Englewood, CO 80112

                  Root Down
                  1600 W. 33rd Avenue, Denver, CO 80211