so ....if you were moving to Denver
What foods or hard to find ingredients would you bring with you? what can't you find there?
conversely - what places should you visit first to get to know the food scene? (markets, dining spots, groups, underground dining?)
bonchocolat - I read some of the replies from your earlier "coming to Denver" thread so I'll try to make some suggestions that would help you out in your decision/research. . .
Having grown up in Denver, moved away and recently returned, I'd definitely agree that Denver isn't the foodie dream that you find in at some other cities in the US. However, it's much improved from 8 years ago when I moved away and continues to grow/improve. I do have my occasional "down" days when I miss variety, quality, accessibility, etc. but there are some interesting joints, etc. that you can check out for a feel of the Denver scene.
As many have mentioned before, Boulder's become a pretty hoppin’ place for good quality eats. Sadly, I haven't spent that much time up there since I'm still getting used to having to hop in the car for 20-30 minutes to get good food and the drinking/driving home part makes it a challenge for me (living in Denver). I do have to second Frasca (having eaten there a couple times over the years when I was in town for the holidays).
A couple places/locations that I've enjoyed or that are near-and-dear to my heart:
- Federal Blvd. (Vietnamese, Chinese & Latino) & Highlands neighborhood
- The Market
- Il Posto
- Queen of Sheba (Ethiopian)
- Jack-and-Grill (I might get nixed here but I just think it's got a Denver “feel”)
- recently had good meals at Twelve Restaurant, Panzano, Fruition and Beatrice & Woodsley
- I do like the ambiance and idea behind Tag Raw Bar
- Asian supermarkets on Federal & H-Mart in Aurora
To answer the 1st part of your posting, I think you can find most ingredients in stores or on-line but here’s where I personally see gaps in the Denver dining scene (not to sound picky):
- Good Indian
- Great Thai
- Walk-in/walk-out pizza slice joint
- Falafel joint with “buffet” toppings
- Great Tapas bar
- Ramen without the fancy restaurant
Beatrice & Woodsley
38 S. Broadway, Denver, CO 80209
2011 E. 17th St, Denver, CO 80206
909 17th St., Denver, CO 80202
I'll step and be the guy that can't stand Jack 'n Grill. Denver feel? The owner is from Abq, New Mexico and it's only been opened for what, ten years? Totally uninspired food that's shoveled out of the back of a Sysco truck. There are so many great places in Denver that actually have roots in the city. Even Casa Bonita can claim deeper roots and more of a 'Denver Feel' than Jack n Grill. Sorry for the rant - I'll acknowledge that it's just my opinion...
6715 W Colfax Ave, Lakewood, CO 80214
This is why I've never managed to try Jack n' Grill. Every time I think it might be worth it, someone comes along and says it's horrible and overrated. There are enough people that absolutely loathe it to give me pause, when there are so many other great places around here.
Same problem for Efrain's too - for every person that says it's the best Mexican around, someone else says it's mediocre and overpriced with a long line. I can't seem to bring myself to make the effort towards generating my own opinion, when there are so many other places that I've heard almost universal praise for.
I have only eaten at jack n Grill twice, and both were years ago, but IME it was the most authentic New Mexican green chili I have had in the area, and I loved it for that, but other than that it was nothing amazing. Not worth making a pilgrimage, but if in the area and hankering for something smothered in green chili, then it is a good choice.
Similarly, Efrains is nothing amazing, but it is pretty good compared to the rest of Boulder's mexican fare (which, I realize, isn't saying much), and will do a decent job of satisfying a hankering for "traditional," affordable, mexican. Worth waiting for an hour, or driving a long ways? No. But worth a visit if that is what you're in the mood for.
Strangewine, I knew there were some of the detractors for JnG - so I imagine you're not alone in your opinion. I just think that JnG has a feel of Denver b/c you go there and you feel like the ambiance is Denver - a mixture of working class meets low-key mountain modern (this probably makes no sense but it's a feel that I get for Denver that makes it more unique vs. other places in our general region like Salt Lake City, OK City, Cheyenne, etc.).
I don't think you can say that restaurants need to have owners and 11+ years to be a true "representative" of a city. If that was the case, then could you detract from Chez Panisse in Berkley, CA since Alice Waters is from NJ? Or would you say that Frasca isn't part of the Boulder landscape now since it's only been open for 8 years? (Not trying to compare either of these 2 places with JnG, though). ;)
I'm not saying that I eat there regularly or consistently but it's a place I recommend for first-timers & visitors just to show them the that view of low-key Denver with food that is based on the region. Also, I think "shoveling" is a bit of a strong term for the food quality; granted, given the price, they're probably not going to the local farmer's market, sourcing locally, etc. but it's still MUCH better than Casa Bonita (as I did go to CB a couple weeks ago for a visiting niece).
I realize it's your opinion and thought I'd just justify my opinion on JnG.
6715 W Colfax Ave, Lakewood, CO 80214
@ ivandwu - nice post, and I won't disagree. JnG must have some kind of following to be able to stay in business and I'm sure they appreciate your patronage. We can agree to disagree. I will continue to spend my time and money at places I think are unique, interesting and different. Buen provecho!
Go to Aurora for decent Indian and plenty of Indian markets.
Wild Ginger has some of the better Thai in town. Ask for Thai hot if you dare.
Bring frozen pies from Lou Malnati's. ;) We have an Uno's out in BFE, but it's a long drive.
399 W Littleton Blvd, Littleton, CO 80120
I just realized I didn't include anything on ethnic markets.
Ethnic markets exist but are a bit hard to find. Parker Rd in Aurora for Indian, Middle Eastern and some African markets. You'll also find H Mart out there which is a great Asian market. Downtown is Pacific Mercantile for Japanese/Hawaiian things. There are also some markets on Federal and Alameda-ish for more Vietnamese items. For Latino, Rancho Liborio with mulitple locations throughout the city. Since my wife's Brazilian, I also know of a Brasilian store on Federal, just North of 36.
Amazing what's available for those who venture beyond the big supermarkets and chain resaurants. For pan-Asian, multi-Asian, there's Ocean Pacific Intl Market. Original is on Alameda, just east of Federal. It is/was in an old strip mall with mostly Asian businesses that was supposed to be demolished to make way for a Home Depot. The newer OP in Broomield (Main & 120th St) is closer, so I haven't been to the original in several years and don't even know whether it is still intact. When redevelopment was in the offing, many smaller stores moved elsehwere .