Biker Jim’s cited, but Tenderbelly is best at home.
In a feature called “America’s Best Hot Dogs,” Food & Wine tagged Biker Jim’s — the usual suspect in Colorado for interesting sausages of all sorts. Of this Denver institution that started as a cart on the 16th Street Mall and now has two restaurants (including Coors Field) and five carts, the magazine noted:
Jim Pittenger emphasizes sourcing ingredients as close to home as possible, then veers as far as he can imagine from the ballpark frank: elk and jalapeño cheddar; wild boar; rattlesnake. The franks are spilt, grilled till charred and loaded with Coca-Cola–soaked grilled onions and a drizzle of cream cheese.
For the rest, most seem to have been selected for the amount of stuff piled onto the franks — perhaps to disguise the taste. Not necessary (or desirable) with Denver-born Tenderbelly pork frankfurters, which are so good that they ought to be minimally adorned.
Pan-Latin food and dynamite drinks earn LoHi eatery honors.
Whenever Zagat lists the best restaurants in select cities, Denver is always one of them. Here’s the shout-out in the site’s “Hottest Restaurants in 15 American Cities” post about Señor Bear, the site’s choice for the Mile High City. The “powerhouse team” referred to is headlined by Max McKissock, Blake Edmunds and Juan Padro and Katie O’Shea Padro. For McKissock, it’s a bit like old home week, since he was the chef at The Squeaky Bean, when it occupied the LoHi space.
Denver: Señor Bear
Built by the powerhouse team behind Bar Dough, this bright, breezy, instant destination in LoHi showcases the flavors of Latin America — from Peru to Puerto Rico — in both food and drink.
Must-order: Start with a pisco cocktail and any of the elegantly executed dishes comprising the mariscos section of the menu, including mofongo with shrimp and crab (pictured).
Insider tip: If you’re noise-sensitive, ask to sit on the patio — the small dining room can get extra-festive.
There seems to be no end to the “best of” and “top” lists. When a national publication or organization does the listing, I’m pleased when Colorado gets a nod.
The latest is Bon Appétit’s selection of the nation’s 50 best new restaurants. The magazine must have a thing for food halls, because it selected Annette in the Stanley Marketplace in Aurora (restaurants and so much more) and the entire Central Market in RiNo. Click here for my post on Annette, and here for my post about the then-anticipated opening of the Central Market in RiNo.
Another “best” list has appeared on the cyber-scene. Well Done is a new daily newsletter from the editors of Food & Wine, Real Simple, Cooking Light, MyRecipes and other publications from the Time Inc. Network. Bacon critic Scott Gold started off with a sampling of bacon from all across the country to crown the Best Bacon in the United States. He cited Tender Belly, which makes thick-cut and delicious bacon in several flavors. 5149 Race Court, Denver, 800-975-6806.
Tender Belly was highly recommended by one of my food writer friends in Denver as their great local bacon. It has a lovely, dark lean to it that you’ll only find in quality pork, and good striations of fat without being overly unctuous. It also boasts an excellent thickness quotient, right there in my favorite “Goldilocks” zone. Most distinctively, though, is that Tender Belly opts for cherrywood in smoking their signature bacon, and while you can hardly taste the apples in applewood-smoked bacon, you can actually taste the cherry here. It might not be for everyone, and it’s certainly unique among the bacons I’ve sampled, but I enjoyed the bold decision to go with such a heavily flavored fruitwood for
The Daily Meal, a site that posts about the food scene in key American cities (including Denver), occasionally does a beverage round-up too. It just listed “America’s Coolest Beer Gardens,” one of which is the ginormous one at Lowry, Here’s the word about the Lowry Beer Garden:
This is a great place to park it for day drinking. Adjacent to the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, Lowry has over 4,500 square feet of outdoor garden and open-air space, with communal tables to share brats and other sausages. Their beer selection focuses on Colorado brews, with a rotating tap and cask selection from Grimm Brothers, Great Divide, and many more.
Smokin’ Dave’s and GQ Championship BBQ on national list.
Adrian Miller, Denver-based lapsed lawyer, author of the James Beard Award-winning Soul Food: The Surprising Story of American Cuisine and The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our Fed Our First Families from the Washingtons to the Obamas, is also a certified barbecue judge. He just posted news that two Colorado restaurants (four locations total) have been named on the list of “Best of the Best Barbecue Restaurants in America” by National Barbecue News. Just 29 restaurants nationwide made the list.
In winter, when it’s not crowded, we have sometimes managed to score a table at Smokin’ Dave’s in Estes Park but usually end up stopping in Lyons on the way home. The meats, the chicken, the sauces, the even the sides (especially the sweet potato fries, slaw and the beans) are great. The funky automotive décor is run too. I don’t post every time we stop there, but occasional do, particularly the Lyons location après la deluge of 2013. We’ve never been to GQ Championship BBQ in Westminster, but it’s now on our to-try list.
Thrillist.com cites LoHi-based ice cream shop as “the best.”
I don’t envy “the decider” about which dipping store to crown “Denver’s Best Ice Cream”on Thrillist.com, because there are so many good ones. But the site did name Little Man Ice Cream, whose flagship is in the vibrant LoHi ‘hood. Here’s what one Andy Kryza wrote for the round-up of “The Best Ice Cream in Every State“:
Denver – Little Man Ice Cream
Look, we’re suckers for anything served out of a giant version of its core ingredient, but it’s not just the fact that Little Man’s housed in a gigantic old milk bottle that has us excited. It’s also not the fact that the Scoop for Scoop program matches each order with its equivalent in rice in beans for those in need around the world, though that’s also great! But this place could serve scoops out of an outhouse and we’d still be stoked about flavors like Fluffernutter, Creamsicle, and Banana Pudding, plus ample gelato and sorbet options. Maybe not as stoked, but still pretty stoked. Given the typical lines, Coloradans seem to be stoked as well.
Claire Walter's Colorado-oriented but not Colorado-exclusive blog about restaurants, food and wine events, recipes and related news. For address of any restaurant, click on the Zomato icon at the end of the post.