The Mile-High city is known for its beautiful nature trails and great ski runs, but it is quickly becoming known for the creations being invented regularly in the city’s many kitchens.
Just be glad that there are plenty of outdoor activities to burn off the calories so you can enjoy a guilt-free culinary adventure.
Resident foodie Courtney Crowder shares her top dining picks for a three-day excursion to Denver, Colorado.
Like an In-N-Out Burger in the mountains, Smashburger is a small chain with a cult following. Unlike its larger competitors, Smashburger serves dine-in orders on a plate and prides itself on being the place for true burger lovers.
Order the classic Smashburger, served with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, onion, pickle, and “smash sauce” on an egg bun, or go creative and get the spicy Baja burger with Pepper Jack cheese, guacamole, chipotle mayonnaise, and fresh jalapeños on a chipotle bun. The chain also offers a Smashchicken, which is grilled chicken instead of beef. Or forsake the entire sandwich and get the Smashdog, Smashalad or Smashsides (you get the idea) like haystack onions or veggie frites, which are flash-fried asparagus spears, carrot sticks and green beans. http://Smashburger.com
Owned by famous Denver Bronco’s quarterback John Elway, Elway’s has two locations, downtown Denver and Cherry Creek. The menu is always changing to stay seasonally fresh, but is notable for its beautiful cuts of steak. The city has other steakhouses to offer—namely, Morton’s and Del Frisco’s—but this has the backing of a local legend.
The restaurant has an extensive wine menu including 250 wines by the bottle and more than 30 by the glass. The chef prepares great appetizers, but save the room for extra sides with the main meal. Guests can order almost any cut of steak they desire including rib eye, porterhouse, filet or New York strip.
The menu also has several grilled fish options such as ahi tuna, Elway’s salmon, seared sea scallops, and Australian lobster tail. The seafood is good, but there is a reason Elway’s is known for steak. Any of the side items are delicious, but recommended are the creamed corn, roasted cauliflower, macaroni and cheese, or au gratin potatoes. No need to save room for dessert: if you’re still hungry (unlikely), order another side or try a different glass of wine. 303-312-3107, www.Elways.com.
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If you think land-locked Denver isn’t the place for sushi, think again. Sushi Den has been thrilling diners for more than 24 years. The décor is marked by sleek lines, clean steel and tiled floors and reflects the often geometrical presentation of the dishes served up by master chef Toshi.
Vegetarians will be pleasantly surprised by the number of options on the sushi menu, including an entire vegetarian sushi platter, tofu steak, and many salad options. Start out with an appetizer like the diver scallops served over white truffle whipped potatoes or the shumai dumplings paired with a tangy Chinese hot mustard. The restaurant many notable cooked entrees including soba and udon noodles and plenty of different grilled meat options.
But really, diners come here for the sushi. It can be ordered a la carte or as a platter, which come with a variety of sashimi, rolls or fresh sushi. This is definitely not a restaurant to worry about dessert … just go back and order more sushi. 303-777-0826, www.Sushiden.net
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Local coffee shop Bump & Grind has recently become a popular hotspot for Denver residents across the city. The dishware looks as if it was collected from The Salvation Army—but in a fun way. The weekend waitresses are drag queens and often over-the-top, so think twice before bringing kids or your conservative grandmother.
The menu is delivered glued to the back of 12-inch vinyl records and each menu item has a, well, inventive name. Case in point: the Mexican Benedict Arnold, two poached eggs on top of cornbread, covered with a spicy sauce and paired with perfectly salty and tangy roadside potatoes. Then there’s the more “traditional” Green Eggs and Ham, a basil egg salad with Polish sausage wrapped in a burrito. Another favorite is the Eric Eggs Estrada, which is a deliciously cheesy open-faced egg, cheese and sausage sandwich on sourdough. Just so your guests aren’t surprised, this establishment doesn’t serve liquor. 303-861-4841
Ever wondered about a Colorado vacation but don’t like skiing? Get great ideas in What If You Don’t Ski?
The storefront doesn’t do its food justice. El Coyotito is frequented by locals and has a bright interior decorated by fun antique bottles and themed photos. The food is marked by the restaurant’s belief in CHEESE. Almost every item is topped with a healthy portion of the good stuff.
The salsa is always fresh with large chunks of avocado, and every plate is huge and served with refried beans and rice. Order the bean burrito, which comes smothered in green chili that is perfectly flavored, but also spicy. The quesadillas are made with fresh tortillas and come with cheese to spare and chunks of avocado. Lastly, one of the best sellers is the chile rellenos, which is like most other things on the menu … quite spicy. The restaurant has a plethora of Mexican sodas to choose from and a selection of wine and beer, but sadly, no margaritas. 303-333-1970
At White Fence Farm guests can enjoy not just a meal, but also an experience. Before dinner stroll along the Waterside Walk and enjoy the gorgeous greens of Colorado’s landscapes. Then stop by the somewhat kitschy old-time gift shop to be tempted by fresh farm jams and candies.
Make sure to check in at the Americana Barn to get a number, which will be your ticket into one of the eight dining rooms, each decorated with its own theme. The cuisine is what is known as Southern, but it is also the food that was often eaten by the gold rushers who found themselves in Colorado. All dinners are served family-style with hot corn fritters, pickled red beets, coleslaw, kidney bean salad, and cottage cheese, which are bottomless.
Diners choose their main dish including options like fried chicken, steak, roasted turkey, and fried shrimp. This is a locale where dessert is a must: White Fence offers different types of sundaes, including a brandy sundae (only for those 21 and older), fruit cobblers with ice cream and freshly baked lemon meringue or chocolate silk pie. This meal will definitely transport you back to homemade family Sunday dinners. 303-935-5945, www.Whitefencefarm-co.com
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Table 6 serves modern American food always using seasonal ingredients with an eye for local Colorado fare. The chef’s creations are also complemented by a large wine list with grapes from all over the world, chosen by restaurant owner and sommelier Aaron Forman. Start out with the fried Brussels sprouts, which are a fun take on every 6-year-old’s least-favorite vegetable, or try the pork belly, which is perfectly prepared with ham bone broth and arugula.
For your main dish, try the big-eye tuna served over cauliflower risotto and a delicious black truffle and jalapeño jardinière. The more adventurous may want to try the clams and pig entrée, featuring clams served with fresh bacon ravioli in a white wine and garlic oregano sauce. Make sure to ask your server for wine pairings, as the list can be daunting. Don’t fill up before the dessert menu is delivered. All of the options are worthwhile, but some fun options are the chocolate frosty and fries or the beignets. 303-831-8800, www.Table6denver.com
Delectable Egg prides itself on using locally grown products whenever possible. The restaurant exudes a homey feel with exposed brick walls featuring the work from local artists, which is rotated often. This locale has dishes that will please lovers of both savory and sweet. Any of the omelets or skillets is a good choice, and half orders are available for those who don’t want to fill up before noon. Another great choice is the blueberry pancakes, which come three to a stack with blueberries in the batter and on top. Or try the French Toast Royale, made with the Egg’s special batter and apples served with two eggs and your choice of ham, bacon or sausage. 303-892-5720, www.Delectableegg.com.
The Cherry Cricket is a bar and restaurant that actually cares about the kind of food it puts out. Order from the huge selection of beers on tap, particularly local craft beers. But most important, when eating here, order the burger.
The meat is often on the rare side so make sure to ask for one more level of cooked then you would normally. Burgers are served with fresh vegetable toppings (unlike the golden arches) and a perfectly fluffy sesame bun. Diners can order a regular Cricket burger or create their own. Every burger comes with French fries or extra-crispy onion rings. If you are feeling extra hungry try the wings, which range widely in spiciness. 303-322-7666, www.Cherrycricket.com
The gorgeous interior Jax Fish House features exposed brick, brightly colored artwork and multiple fish tanks that set the tone for this truly oceanic meal. Shelia Lucero is the executive chef and is constantly updating Jax’s menu to reflect new culinary trends.
Start off with anything from the raw bar, which serves the freshest oysters, clams, Alaskan king crab, and Maine lobsters. Recommended are the oyster mignonettes, which come with flavorings like purple sweet potato vinegar, nuoc clam gelee, or fresh sawa wasabi. If raw isn’t for you, then try the crab cakes or the fried calamari.
The types of fish change regularly due to seasonality, but some current favorites are the Colorado striped bass with red beet risotto, Gorgonzola and pistachios, and the grilled steelhead served with the crispy poached egg, bacon and vanilla cured roe. Jax is also know for its non-fish options like the grilled Berkshire pork chop with cream-mashed potatoes or the Jax Lobster BLT, made with cider brined bacon and citrus aioli. After dinner hours the bar gets quite busy as the restaurant is home to great martinis made by mixologist Tim Harris. For dessert, try the gingerbread with slow baked apples and apple brandy ice cream or the chocolate budini with caramel ice cream and caramelized white chocolate sauce. 303-292-5767, www.Jaxfishhousedenver.com
Consistently voted one of the best locales to get dessert in the mountain region, Devil’s Food serves up sweets that are just plain sinful. The café is only open until 4 p.m., so make sure to stop by earlier to pick up some dessert for later. Try the cream puffs filled with vanilla bean custard and glazed with chocolate ganache or the strudel filled with fresh fruit, poppy seeds or sweet cheese. Then there are the cookies—chocolate chip, white chocolate macadamia nut, peanut butter and shortbread –which will bring you straight back to childhood. For a fruit-flavored treat, the homemade tarts in Key lime, grapefruit or lemon curd are a must. Devil’s food also boasts a classic afternoon tea that includes petit fours, finger sandwiches, scones and, of course, a pot of tea. 303-733-7448, www.Devilsfoodbakery.com
By Courtney Crowder for PeterGreenberg.com.
More from our Culinary Travel series, Three Days, Nine Meals:
- Three Days, Nine Meals: Las Vegas, Nevada
- Thee Days, Nine Meals: Miami, Florida
- Three Days, Nine Meals: New York City
- Three Days, Nine Meals: Chicago, Illinois
- Three Days, Nine Meals: Los Angeles, California
- Three Days, Nine Meals: San Francisco, California