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eternal

Denver Dining 2011

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The Denver thread has gone stale. Are there any recommendations for the city? Looking for local food, casual, bistro-type. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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Funny you should mention this today: on my to-do list is to find a few places for dinner when I'm in town in August. Reading past reviews of the area is pretty depressing: I can't really justify driving the 45-60 minutes to Boulder for one almost-memorable meal.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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It's been a couple of years, but we had dinner at Rioja and were favorably impressed. We got a tasting menu that seemed to consist of pretty much everything on the menu -- some real standouts, everything very solid.

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If you are going to be downtown most of the best restaurants are pretty convenient. Beyond Rioja I would endorse Fruition, Mizuna, Luca D'Italia, Osteria Marco (the last three are all run by one guy), Panzano, and Vesta. I don't know where you are staying but even the furthest shouldn't be a bad cab ride.

For lunch or more casual meal the best locations are Biker Jim's (they have a restaurant and a fews carts all easily accessible downtown), the Cherry Cricket (best burgers I've ever had, but they are just a little further away from downtown, not unreasonable though), and The Rackhouse (Gastropubish place in a whiskey distillery. Great food, deals, and an awesome beer/liquor selection. It would be a cab ride but not a bad one).

As for the original poster; Fruition which I mentioned above has it's own farm where they grow all their produce so that's a good spot for local food. Most of the food in Denver is casual except for the big steak houses, but as far as bistros go I recall enjoying Indulge in the Highlands a year or so ago.

I hope this helps.

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I was just in downtown Denver for a conference and heartily recommend Rioja and Panzano as mentioned. Of the two, I preferred Rioja - and definitely make a reservation as my three-person party had to wait an hour without one. The same team that created Rioja also runs Bistro Vendome and the Euclid Hall Bar and Kitchen; I don't know what those are like. I stayed at the Grand Hyatt Denver...Rioja was a mightly hike, but made easier by the 16th Street Pedestrian Mall transportation. Panzano was only a few blocks away. Also on the pedestrian mall, if you're looking for something lighter I'd recommend MAD Greens - a local custom-salad place: pick from one of theirs or build your own. It's definitely not gourmet by any shot but really refreshed me after a day of travel. I wrote more fully about dining at all three restaurants in a recent blog post...

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Our flight was late last night - we ended up landing minutes before they closed the airport for a thunderstorm - and so we drove around and ended up at Euclid. The beer selection was great and while we waited for our meal, we flipped through "The Perfect Bite", the cookbook from the chef of Rioja. Man, it is one of the better cookbooks I've seen in awhile so I think we will try to stop by there on the way out of town on Sunday.

Euclid's wurst was good but nothing we had (Schnitzel, roast veggies, wild mushroom poutine) was anything to write home about but it was good and also wasn't very expensive. It is a nice change for bar food.

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Stopped by Rioja on the way home and WOW, what a great meal. One of the best we've had in a long time. As good or better than Beast in Portland which is also awesome. We sat in the bar and had the goat cheese biscuits and lavender sourdough with our appetizer course of the signature artichoke tortalleni (sp) which was light, delicate and delicious. We followed that with the kurabota pork chop with some sort of bacon vinaigrette sauce and cheesy tater-tot things along with the English Pea Risotto with smoked duck leg confit.

I don't normally get risotto because I can make it at home but this was really a lesson in how it can be done right. My risotto always comes out gummy but this one was creamy and a wonderful complement to the smoked duck leg confit. HIghly recommended dish. The pork chop was great two but the others were standout dishes.

Eat there.

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BigDan seems to share my tastes.

Fruition is easily my favorite restaurant in the area. I try to find random excuses just to go there. They change their menu seasonally and I usually try to hit each one 2-3 times to try a good selection of the dishes. It's hands down the first I would recommend.

Biker Jim's is also highly recommended. He started with a street cart serving interesting 'dogs. Some of his best are a duck, rattlesnake/phesant, reindeer and a elk jalapeno cheddar. On the street cart he slices them down the middle for the grill and then adds cream cheese and carmelized onions. It's amazing. So much so that his street cart is still the best reviewed 'restaurant' on Yelp for Denver.

He took that into a brick and mortar location with some interesting additions. You can see the menu on his site. He has some interesting (and delicious) elements such as wasabi aioli, avacado foam and bacon/tomato powder. If you are a baseball fan and plan on catching a game at Coors Field his place is just a few blocks from there.

If you are looking for a place between those two, Steubens is pretty good.

For burgers Cherry Cricket is really popular but I'm never as impressed with them as I feel I should be. Overall they aren't bad but they could do a better job with the burger meat itself. My typical burger joint is H-Burger CO (The liquid nitrogen milkshakes are awesome).

There's a lot of other places worth a visit as well (The Fort, Wynkoop (if you like beer), etc). If you like whiskey you should for sure check out the Stranahans tour and then hit up the Rackhouse Pub after.

If there's a certain type of cuisine/experience people are looking for I can provide some other suggestions as well.


Edited by Phaz (log)

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I could use a low- to mid-range recommendation for dinner one night, if you've got any suggestions. Must have a veg-ish option (e.g. Biker Jim's sounds like it's out).

ETA: And I know it's contradictory with my low/mid desires, but reservations are a big plus.


Edited by Chris Hennes (log)

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I could use a low- to mid-range recommendation for dinner one night, if you've got any suggestions. Must have a veg-ish option (e.g. Biker Jim's sounds like it's out).

ETA: And I know it's contradictory with my low/mid desires, but reservations are a big plus.

I believe Biker Jim's does have some kind of veggie option on the menu (like some kind of veggie brat or burger, I'm going there sometime this week so will check with the new menu and get back to you). Otherwise Steuben's might be a good choice. If you really wanted veggie there is a place called Watercourse that is all vegetarian that is really well liked. Non-vegetarians can certainly find options there, but vegetarians will love it.

I also know it's not low to mid range but Fruition always has an (almost daily-changing) vegetarian option for $22 that includes 2 courses (app + main). That at least makes it reasonable for the person getting that option. I go there frequently with a friend who's vegetarian and he always loves it. I've had several bites from his plates and found it pretty amazing as well.


Edited by Phaz (log)

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I just got back from Biker Jim's. I tried the vegan brat to give some feedback here for anyone who's interested (I also got the pheasant and wild boar, the vegan one was to take home).

They have two, a mild herby one and a spicier one. The guy there said that the spicy one was more popular so I got that. It's actually really tasty. Lots of strong flavor and just enough spice. I had a couple guys in the office try it and they all agreed it wasn't a substitute for meat, but a really nice stand alone flavor. The texture is like what I think a lot of vegan/veggie things have. Think of really finely grounded beef (like in a proper Coney Island from Michigan) that is compacted (it holds together decently well).

I think vegetarians will like it. Especially with the choice of toppings. I think those are all vegetarian and you can choose from everything from his classic caramelized onions with cream cheese, to roasted cactus to wasabi aioli (and others). I really think that vegetarians can go there and order something they are happy with and not just feel like they are taking the one vegetarian dish off the menu in a restaurant for meat eaters.

His fries and chips are pretty good, as is the fried mac 'n cheese. Any MC owner will probably be a little disappointed in the mac 'n cheese itself (but I honestly believe that now happens with any non MC mac 'n cheese) but being deep fried adds a nice dimension.

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I just returned from Denver: I ate dinner at Rioja, Fruition, and Biker Jim's (lunch was at Smashburger two days and Good Times once). Overall, I thought Rioja was OK: worth eating at, but not worth going out of your way for. On the plus side, if you are staying downtown the location is very convenient. Fruition was very good: some stuff that was only OK, but mostly the food was very good to excellent. In particular the tomato salad they have on the menu right now was a standout, and the steak portion of the Steak au Poivre was good (the fries were flavorful but soggy and the sweetbreads inedibly salty, unfortunately). I also enjoyed the celery bisque, and whatever it was my wife ordered for dessert (cheesecake?). Biker Jim's was hit-and-miss: I tried about a half dozen of the dogs between the group of us at the table. I think that their baseline beef dog was the standout winner: juicy, salty, and flavorful, really excellent with cream cheese and onions. The other dogs were fine, but nothing to write home about unless you want to brag to your friends about eating Rattlesnake, or Donner and Blitzen (one guy at the table ordered the Reindeer dog on the basis of his hatred of Christmas...). Oh, and stay the heck away from Good Times' burgers, they were awful.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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