Denver Dining, A Week's Worth (long)
I spent a week in Denver recently and thought I’d report on the various places I dined (only some of which I chose).
Pince Taqueria—my third visit here. These delicious, interesting tacos still thrill me. Two of us tried the lengua, pollo a la crema, carnitas, rajas con crema, hongas (my favorite), and a side of guacamole for good measure. Pre-tax and tip, check was just under $30.
Shells and Sauce—a noisy, casual, reasonably-priced neighborhood Italian restaurant featuring the usual menu suspects, with a few twists. Mixed results for a table of eight: We all shared and really enjoyed the apps—fried calamari and crab cakes. Crab cakes were indeed crabby, not all bread; the calamari, rings and tentacles, nicely fried. The beet salad (goat cheese, nuts, orange vinaigrette) was excellent. Others enjoyed their Caesars. For a main, I had pasta with clams and buffalo sausage, a very generous serving with lots of fresh clams; I was pretty happy with this, but thought the sausage, though very good, overwhelmed the dish; I was in it for the clams. I had a taste of the lasagna, which two folks at the table ordered. For me it was “meh,” but I’m not a fan of ricotta cheese—and this was mile-high with ricotta. (“Mediocre” and “too cheesy” was someone else’s assessment.) Two others had pasta Bolognese, a dish they both said they preferred at another local Italian place. Spaghetti and meatballs got a thumbs up. Another person ordered the steak special, and he said the meat was cooked perfectly (looked excellent as did the sides), and another ordered scallops, which she said were fabulous.
Edge (in the Four Seasons)—I had a couple of overpriced breakfasts here, but one of the surprise dining hits of my stay in Denver was an unplanned lunch, taken quickly here. I ordered one of their “15” salads (served in 15 minutes, $15 and under): Lobster and Lump Crab Cobb—what a steal! This was no mere nod to shellfish, but an arugula salad, served with a delicious ranch dressing, heavy with lumps of blue crab and chunks of Maine lobster, sliced egg, and avocado, which managed to be both filling and light--the best of this type of salad I've ever had. I was so delighted with it that I broke my "no drinking at lunch" rule and ordered a glass of prosecco. My dining companion was equally thrilled by a charred ahi tuna salad from the same list.
A Four Seasons-catered dinner one night, for a very large group (entrée choices: scallops or short ribs) was delicious.
Tamayo—another large group dinner, on the open-air upper level (great views) of this upscale “contemporary” Mexican restaurant. Appetizers—guacamole, salsas, calamari—were good. I loved my tamarind margarita and also really enjoyed my huitlacoche and wild mushroom enchiladas (which the server called a “small plate,” but with three full-size enchiladas, it was decidedly not.) The only other things I tasted were the brisket tacos (good) and the seafood-and-gouda stuffed chili relleno (just didn’t work for me).
Kassai Sushi—if I lived in Denver, I’d be at this unassuming, out-of-the-way (Quebec St) strip mall sushi joint all the time: Happy hour sushi ($1/pop) from 4-10 pm every day—all the usual choices (yellow tail, salmon, eel, etc). Wow. While we could have easily made a very cheap meal of only that, two of us also shared a tempura lobster roll and seaweed salad—and still got out for a song.
Pizzeria Locale—we had great pizza at the Boulder location last year. We weren’t expecting the fast-food concept at the Broadway location (should have done some research) so were a little disappointed upon arriving as we were looking for a relaxing spot for dinner. But the pizza (and the check!) didn’t disappoint. We enjoyed the Bianca (mozzarella / sausage / broccolini / garlic / chili) and the Maiale (red sauce / mozzarella / prosciutto / arugula) and the Pizzaiolo salad, despite the brightly-lit cafeteria ambiance. But I doubt any cafeteria anywhere can boast an oven like theirs: that thing is a work of art, mitigating somewhat the sterility of the environment.
Parallel 17—I’d read good reviews so I tried this place solo. Based on my choice—the vermicelli salad w/grilled pork ($11) and crispy spring rolls ($2)—I’d rate it ok. (I spent a subsequent afternoon on South Federal, visiting various markets, and knew I should have hit up one of the Vietnamese restaurants there; I did pick up a delicious banh mi from one of the bakeries, but I failed to notice its name.)
Corner Bakery—when there was one Corner Bakery, on an actual corner in Chicago, I did love it. Now that it’s a chain, it’s not the same, but I still stop in occasionally, and I had two breakfasts here--“power paninis,” I think—basically egg sandwiches on whole grain toast. Reliable; reasonable. My husband (inexplicably) adores the French toast.
Maggiano’s—I’ve had many Maggiano meals in many cities; it is what it is: a decent chain serving affordable Italian-American, family-style. At a group dinner with a planned menu (lots of choices), I enjoyed the food—chicken parmigiano, pasta with sausage, salmon, fresh salads—more than I ever have. The stuffed mushroom appetizer was especially good.
ChoLon—I love this place and made a third visit though I knew I should have been exploring different Denver restaurants. First thing I ordered was their refreshing Citrus Blossom cocktail, which I’ve tried, with limited success, to duplicate at home. Two of us ordered too much food (but leftovers made for another light meal): pot stickers, banh mi (OK, but I preferred the one bought on S. Federal), Brussels sprouts stir-fried with ground pork and mint (I dream about this fantastic dish), and the incredibly wonderful steamed buns w/pork belly (someone referred to these as David Chang knock-offs—who cares? I could eat them every day). The sprouts and buns would have been an exquisite, satisfying, and inexpensive lunch for two.
This was one of the most budget-friendly weeks of eating I’ve had in a long time. The delicious and affordable choices in Denver continue to multiply.
Well, I've only eaten sushi in Denver twice (the other was a fancier, pricier place, on an earlier trip), so I'm no great judge of Denver sushi, but my main point about Kassai was the Happy Hour (that's on so much of the time!)--it's for that reason I'd frequent Kassai if I lived there. I love sushi, but it's rarely a bargain (and good).