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A Brief Denver Dining Guide: Part I

Denver is a beer city. There is no doubt about that. This city brews more beer than any other U.S. metropolitan area, and there are breweries galore.

So, in this hoppy city, I wondered if the culinary scene would hold its own. This is what I discovered …

Denver benefits from proximity to Boulder

While Denver is known for its breweries, its Front Range neighbor is a bonafide foodie destination. But, don’t simply take my word for it. Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Forbes Travel Guide blog, and the Wall Street Journal have all reported on Boulder’s foodie cred. And, those Boulder restauranteurs behind the Kitchen and Pizzeria Locale have expanded to Denver … and beyond.

Pizzeria Locale

Pizzeria Locale's Margherita pizza proves simple can be delicious. (Photo by Erin Klema)

Pizzeria Locale’s Margherita pizza proves simple can be delicious. (Photo by Erin Klema)

After a 2.5-hour flight and driving 35 minutes to Denver, I dined at this quick-service pizza parlor on the first night of my trip. The thin-crust Neapolitan pie was the perfect amount of food. Those little bags of pretzels or peanuts on the plane just don’t cut it for dinner.

I ordered the delicious Margherita pizza topped with mozzarella and basil. It was delivered to our table just as we were settling into our seats. Talk about quick service!

I love the concept of Pizzeria Locale. It’s fast food — pizzas are cooked to slightly-blistered perfection in two minutes — in a modern, open space with an outdoor patio. The prices are budget friendly, and it’s open relatively late — until 10 p.m. daily.

But, let’s be honest, none of that is as important as taste. And, Pizzeria Locale nailed it. The pizzas are made Napoli-style with a thin but soft crust. Toppings can be simple and fresh or meaty and abundant — or create your own pie with your choice of a red or white sauce. Even better? You can pair that with a red or white wine on tap. That’s what I call quick-service with class.

Pizzeria Locale | 550 Broadway, Denver, CO 80203 | 720-508-8828

Pizzeria Locale on Urbanspoon

Colorado’s biggest city attracts big chains

Walking along Downtown Denver’s 16th Street Mall, you’ll see restaurant names that look awfully familiar — like the Hard Rock Cafe and Cheesecake Factory. That’s bound to happen pretty much everywhere in America these days, and especially so in big cities like Denver.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know by now that I prefer to eat at local restaurants when I travel. But, my first full day of being a tourist in Denver, I ate lunch at a chain eatery. You know what? I liked it. It was convenient, tasty, moderately priced and had a great location for people-watching along the 16th Street Mall.

Yard House Denver

Lunch on the patio at Yard House Denver (Photo by Erin Klema)

Lunch on the patio at Yard House Denver (Photo by Erin Klema)

Like I said, Yard House had a convenience factor. It’s located right on the 16th Street Mall, which I happened to be walking along when I was hungry. It was a beautiful day — 81 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny. Naturally, I wanted to sit on the patio to soak up some sunshine.

The food menu has so many options — salads, soups, burgers, pizzas, tacos — it’s a tad overwhelming. When my waitress pointed out the lunch special — a choice of a half-sandwich or personal-size pizza paired with a salad or cup of soup — I was sold. By the way, this special is available from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

I opted for the organic tomato bisque, which was creamy in texture and had a delicious, fresh taste. My second item was the BBQ chicken pizza, which substitutes barbeque sauce for the base and is topped with mozzarella cheese, red onions, cilantro, smoked Gouda and chicken. My meal was very tasty and full of flavor. I’d eat here again without question, and that says a lot considering my preference for local restaurants.

For a beverage, I selected a Sauvignon Blanc, forgoing the 100+ beers on tap. Seriously, the taps around the bar are quite impressive.

Yard House Denver | 1555 Court Place, Denver, CO 80202 | 303-572-9273

Yard House on Urbanspoon

BBQ Chicken Pizza at Yard House Denver (Photo by Erin Klema)

BBQ Chicken Pizza at Yard House Denver (Photo by Erin Klema)

Landlocked Denver still dishes up fresh seafood

When visiting Colorado, I was expecting the culinary scene to be heavy on steak and potatoes. I mean, the Rocky Mountain State is known for its cattle ranches. And, without a coastline, I wasn’t expecting to be eating seafood like I do in Florida and Maryland.

Yet, I ended up going out for sushi in Denver and had one of my favorite rolls to date.

Sushi Den

The new salmon roll, far left, is delicious! (Photo by Erin Klema)

The new style salmon roll, far left, is delicious! (Photo by Erin Klema)

Two things stood out to me about my dining experience at Sushi Den: the inventiveness of the new style salmon roll and the overall freshness due to the high-quality fish being flown in daily from Japan and the American coasts.

As I explained in my previous post about visiting the Front Range, I lacked an appetite while in Colorado. Therefore, I only ordered one roll, but it was an excellent choice. Many sushi restaurants carry shrimp tempura, California, Philadelphia and spicy tuna rolls, so I try to order more unique rolls when I can find them. Sushi Den certainly delivered with the new style salmon roll topped with cilantro, red onions, cucumbers and bell peppers. It was extremely flavorful and different from any other sushi roll I’ve eaten.

In any city other than casual-goes-everywhere Denver, Sushi Den would be the sort of trendy restaurant you’d visit when you’re dressed up for a night on the town. It’s a hot spot on a Friday night, so reservations are definitely recommended. And, while Zagat reviewers said it’s great for business dining, if I were a local, it would be my date-night spot. The dim lighting sets a sort of romantic atmosphere, but the intimate setting with sake and sushi rolls to share also works for a group of friends. Though hopefully your friends don’t alarm the waitstaff by creating their own sake bombs and breaking glassware.

Sushi Den | 1487 S. Pearl St., Denver, CO 80210 | 303-777-0826

Sushi Den on Urbanspoon

You know I ate more than these three meals while visiting Denver, so stay tuned for A Brief Denver Dining Guide: Part II.

Wish you were here,

Erin

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One Comment Post a comment
  1. Cannot wait to read about the local eateries if these are the chain ones. Your meal selections pictured here are making me hungry and wishing we had such choices around Metro Detroit. Every item looks fresh and appealing for quick service fare.

    October 11, 2014

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