Whether you’ve got your golden ticket to see Barack Obama or you’re hoping to pick one up for “top dollar” on Craig’s List, if you’re a foodie headed to Denver for the Democratic National Convention this month you’re probably looking for a few good recommendations on can’t-miss places to eat (and drink) in the Mile High City. Our search for the best that Denver has to offer led us to Chowhound, Westword, and even OpenTable before we came up with a rather obvious answer – ask local bloggers who write about the Denver dining scene the way we write about DC!
As it turns out, Denver isn’t quite the haven of food bloggers that DC is, but we found a great resource in the form of The Mile High Eater, Jonathan and Barbara W’s blog about their dining experiences in and around Denver. We reached out and they were more than willing to help, offering some great suggestions for fine dining, casual fare, and can’t-miss desserts that are sure to please your palate.
Check out their suggestions after the jump.
- Mizuna – Foodies with a passion for artistry that doesn’t overpower the quality of the food should make it a point to seek out Frank Bonanno’s award-winning restaurant (Zagat-rated #1 for food in Denver). Try their tasting menu for a real treat, or seek out Chef Bonanno’s famous lobster mac-and-cheese.
- Luca d’Italia – Luca is Chef Bonanno’s tribute to his Italian-American upbringing, and it is recognized as the top Italian restaurant in the western United States. Fans of Dino and other such authentic establishments in Washington will be right at home among their salumi, handmade pasta, and refined versions of traditional meat dishes.
- Fruition – If French cuisine is more your style, you may want to check out Chef Alex Seidel’s take on the genre at Fruition. Just over a year old, Fruition blends classic French dishes with a more modern approach. Seidel was previously Executive Chef at Mizuna, and The Mile High Eater promises that his cuisine “always leaves your tastebuds singing.”
Casual dining spots:
- Vesta Dipping Grill – Located in the popular LoDo (Lower Downtown) neighborhood, Vesta is named after the Roman goddess of fire and the hearth. The cuisine favors the carnivore, with a selection of meats served hot off the grill with three dipping sauces selected by the diner (it’s not just a clever name!). This is the only restaurant in Denver that I can actually speak about from experience, and I can say that the flavors were great and the atmosphere was a lot of fun. It’s definitely laid-back if you’re looking for a place to unwind with friends. One complaint: although the menu offers elk and lamb, two iconic Colorado meats, they are flown in from New Zealand instead of coming from local sources. Surprising and more than a little disappointing, though the elk WAS delicious.
- Marco’s Coal Fired Pizza – Worried about going through 2 Amys withdrawal while in Denver? Fear not – Marco’s has you covered. Like our local favorites, their pizzamakers are trained and certified by L’Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani, the governing body that protects the integrity of Neapolitan pizza around the world. Marco’s also offers New York-style pizzas with a variety of toppings, and those of you with a soft spot for sweets can revel in the glory that is a $9 Nutella pizza (for two).
Coffee and dessert:
- Dazbog Coffee – Though Republicans might be amused to point out the Soviet-style decor and Cyrillic writing that adorns the walls of this local coffee chain (and to compare Democrats to Communists), Dazbog is actually “the realization of the American Dream by two immigrants of the former Soviet Union.” Dazbog coffee is strong, dark and certified organic, and it can be found at coffee shops and retail locations throughout Denver. A great local alternative to the national chains.
- D Bar Desserts – Keegan Gerhard, host of the various Food Network Challenge competitions, has opened a restaurant that is primarily a pastry shop and dessert bar. Though they offer lunch and dinner (with a focus on “things we like to eat”), Gerhard’s decorated background as a pastry chef is what really makes this a destination worth visiting for foodies at the Convention. Open until 10 PM Monday through Thursday and until midnight on Friday and Saturday, D Bar can satisfy your late night sweet tooth.
Food worth traveling for:
- The Fort – Since 1963, this unique establishment has been serving a menu that personifies Colorado while still offering a delicious dinner. An authentic menu compliments the historic aspect of the restaurant, with a meat-heavy menu that runs the gamut from buffalo and game to steak and chicken. Located about twenty minutes outside of Denver in Morrison, The Fort is a destination unto itself. BONUS – Check out their website for a convention special coupon.
- Frasca Food & Wine – If you’re willing to travel to Boulder at some point during your stay in Denver, Frasca should be your reward. Home of 2008 James Beard Award-winning Chef Lacklan Mackinnon-Patterson, Frasca is a tribute to the eponymous gatheringplaces that traditionally existed throughout the Friuli region of northern Italy during harvest season. In that spirit, Frasca offers a menu of “rustic elegance” that relies heavily on local, seasonal ingredients.
We hope this list (and the accompanying Google Map that locates all of these destinations in relation to the convention sites) are helpful as food-lovers plan their visit to Denver this month. If you know of any other can’t-miss restaurants, bars, or food-focused destinations, please let us know!
Thanks again to Jonathan and Barbara of The Mile High Eater for the great suggestions and locals’ perspective!