10 Things You Should Know...
1. Burger-centric. Denver has played an important role in the evolution of the hamburger: the cheeseburger was officially invented here in 1935, when burger-joint entrepreneur Louis Ballast trademarked the term for his Humpty Dumpty Drive-In. Today a bevy of restaurants carry the burger torch: The Cherry Cricket elevates a staple into an epiphany, albeit a messy one. Park Burger offers a vegetarian burger that’s a persuasive argument for swearing off flesh, and Larkburger’s sushi-grade tuna burger has diverted many a fish lover to its doors.
2. When “hot” describes more than food. Certain chefs have become as popular for their looks as their cuisine. That goes for the recently opened ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro’s chef/owner Lon Symensma, who in the not-so-distant past was a formidable contender for Eater NY’s Hottest Chef in New York award.
3. Delicious meals for all. It’s not a pipe dream, but an actual pay-what-you-can restaurant called SAME (So All May Eat) Cafe. Founded by Brad and Libby Birky in 2006 with the intention to provide organic, high-quality food to whoever enters, diners pay—or volunteer—according to their means.
4. Taking it to the streets. The mobile movement has hit Denver with a vengeance: from cupcakes to caviar, serving food through a truck window has gained serious cred. Track down Pinche Tacos for irresistible taco urges, Brava Pizzeria Della Strada for recurring pizza visions, or the Biscuit Bus when the winds of nostalgia blow.
A new green standard. That’s the mission of Eat Greener Denver, a collaboration of independent Denver restaurants committed to reducing their collective and individual impact on the environment. The green dream team—14 restaurants and counting—targets a different aspect of wastefulness each month (September’s focus is on sustainable take-out containers).
Rocky Mountain Suds. Denver brews more beer than any other US city. Between the Great American Beer Festival and Oktoberfest, September is the perfect month to wet your whistle. The Ale House at Amato’s, one of the more recent brewpubs to tap the keg, has a rooftop patio perfect for sampling their 42 beers on tap, 36 of which are brewed in Colorado.
Casual without compromise. A spate of upscale restaurants is introducing more humble scions. Chef Frank Bonanno rounded out his more formal ventures with two casual spots, Marco and Bones, where succulence comes speedy and unadorned.
State liquor license number one is held by Denver’s oldest restaurant, The Buckhorn Exchange, established in 1893. Feeling especially ravenous? Opt for The Big Steak, designed for peeps who abhor going home hungry.
Savor the savings (discreetly). Ask Miss Manners: it’s one thing to brandish your Groupon, another to have 30 percent inconspicuously taken off your bill. The website savored.com, which just hung its virtual shingle in Denver, does exactly that, charging a $10 reservation fee, but then awarding a 30 percent discount on everything you order at participating restaurants, including cocktails. The EatDenver Deck of gift cards is no slouch in the bargain department either: for $52, it includes 52 $10 cards that can be redeemed at participating locally-owned restaurants.
For extreme locavores. Farm-to-table cuisine means chefs are growing the vegetables, raising the animals, even milking the cows themselves at the restaurant farm. It may sound like “The Farmer in the Dell,” but this is highly sophisticated food: cutting out the middleman makes for ultimate freshness and puts a premium on letting the ingredients speak for themselves. Potager in Denver produces its herbs directly on the premises, and Fruition serves up produce and cheese from its own ten-acre farm in Larkspur.
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