Take a Bite Out of Denver’s Foodie Scene
Photo via Twitter/acorn_Denver
Taking a bite out of Denver’s foodie scene is a bit of a mile-high order.
In 2014, the city added around 300 restaurants to its gastronomic roster, more than any other metropolis in the country. In other words, you can dine in a new venue almost every day of the year: a daily culinary Christmas of sorts.
In the beautiful Beaux Arts-style Denver Union Station — which got a $300 million renovation last year — there are 13 eateries under one beautiful roof. They include the casual Mercantile Dining & Provision by the talented Alex Seidel, who sources everything from his own Fruition Farms; Jennifer Jasinski’s seafood restaurant Stoic & Genuine, whose tagline is “Fish, oysters and happiness are flown in daily;” the airy perch of Cooper Lounge from where you can take in all the railway station action; the basic breakfast chain Snooze and Pigtrain Coffee, named for the trains that carry truck trailers on flatbed rail cars; it’s the perfect place to grab a cup of coffee to go.
A city mainstay is Acorn, a restaurant that was named one of the top 50 eateries in the country by “Bon Appetit” in 2014. Acorn is housed in a Victorian-era exposed brick building called The Source in the trendy RiNo (North of River) district.
True to its name, it grows on you, like a giant oak, with graffiti walls and a cool industrial-building vibe. Owned by Chef Steven Redzikowski, Acorn is as much known for its bar scene as its food scene. Give the “Central Slope” a try. It is a sour beer cocktail with Avery IPA, plus a potent but flavorful blend of Breckenridge Bourbon, Leopold’s Three Pins Liqueur, honey, lemon, and Fee Brother’s aromatic bitters. The result is a sweet and sour aquarium of flavors.
One place to visit if you have the time is Jasinski’s Rioja, which is a local legend, located in one of Denver’s oldest blocks and renovated by historian and visionary Dana Crawford. Her truffle tortoloni dish — wildly popular in the restaurant — has a delicious butter broth and contains artichokes, artichoke chips, artichoke mousse, queso de mano, chervil and is heartier than any fortified spirit you could need on a winter day.
Denver’s craft beer scene sets the pace for other cities to follow, and has the third largest in craft breweries per capita. From straw-colored Pilsners bursting with hops the size of clouds to fudge-colored Stouts, you can take the pick perfect for your palate. Breweries run the gamut from the popular Great Divide brewery, which produces 250,000 barrels of beer a year to the Denver Beer Co.
Thanks to innovators like Justin Cucci, (whose fourth restaurant is slated to open in the next few years) the city’s restaurant scene is anything but boring. Cucci’s concepts can be wildly entertaining. Take, for instance, Ophelia’s, an “Electric Soapbox” and “gastrobrothel, culinary emporium and musical haberdashery” — an expert label by the owner.
You can nosh on scallops, green chile goat cheese cornbread, wagyu beef sliders and arepas while taking in weekly burlesque shows. The cheeky name, Ophelia, is Cucci’s playful irreverence to Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” heroine, who was the one of the most wholesome, innocent characters ever written — as far a departure from a burlesque dancer as it comes.
Cucci also owns Linger, a former mortuary (!) that has removed the creep factor and is now an excellent place to get items like dosas, a South Indian dish that I grew up on, and another testament to the cultural melting pot that is Denver.
Perhaps the most interesting newcomer to the city is The Inventing Room, run by Ian Kleinman, whose sleight of hand is using liquid nitrogen to make everything from popcorn to peanut butter mousse. In the spirit of innovation, he pipes the mousse into a nitrogen frozen mold. “It has taken me a few weeks and a lot of nitrogen burns to get used to it,” he said. But it is a bit of a marvel to behold a custard base, a cooked ice cream of milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla all made from liquid nitrogen.
His workshop too, is a marriage of Willy Wonka meets “Breaking Bad,” with tools salvaged from his grandfather’s carpentry shop.
Culinary predictability is out; Denver is so in.
More by Charu Suri
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