No. 65 : Chicken Salad at Poppies
The first time I had the chicken salad-stuffed avocado at Poppies in South Denver, I was about 12-years old and lunching with my mom and grandmother, something we did often. Little did I know at the time the dish would haunt me through the years and inspire some of my own cooking staples. Decades passed, a move to New York City happened, my son was born and I returned to Denver to raise my family. Yet, while I had changed over the years Poppies remained a staple, and that chicken salad? Exactly how I remembered it.
But why, of all the exciting things to eat should a simple chicken salad stand out? After all, usually this dish is a blase attempt to use up old bits of food or appeal to the dull-downed palates of the unimaginative diner. Yet, there is something about this heaping scoop of not-too-mayonnaise-y mixture that hits all the right buttons. Perhaps it's the subtle crunch of chopped pecans, a brush of herbal freshness and the way each piece of chicken is cubed just so. The success could also be due to the impeccably perfect avocado half, a tender and rich fruit that acts as the vessel holding this delectable salad. The rest of the dish; comprised of crisp romain, slices of cucumber and a few cherry tomatoes for color; you could do away with, or dip into a tumbler of blue cheese for a little extra lunch time luxury.
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With one step inside the 30-year-old Poppies it's easy to see why people keep coming back. Despite being in an unromantic shopping center off of Colorado Boulevard, the venue maintains a luxury and old-school vibe, a style that sadly has slowly been slipping away as the city makes way for trendy eateries, speakeasies and fast-casual spots. Your table will sport a white table cloth, no matter if you come for lunch or dinner; the bar most likely will have an elderly gentleman or lady seated at it sipping a giant glass of wine; and the light will be low and booths dark, even in the middle of the day. This is the time to go, when they serve the chicken salad. Pair it with a dry martini and join the disappearing clan of ladies who lunch in places that started the whole thing.
Hungry for more? All the dishes in our 2016 countdown are linked below.
No. 100: Masala Beef at Biju's Little Curry Shop
No. 99: Bacon Shrimp and Grits at Bacon Social House
No. 98: Porchetta and Kimchi Sandwich at Brider
No. 97: Squab-and-Sunchoke Tortellini at Abejas
No. 96: Housemade Burrata at Viand
No. 95: Schweinshaxe at Rhein Haus
No. 94 Kimchi Jeon at Seoul BBQ
No. 93: Zuppa Pomodoro at Parisi Italian Market & Deli
No. 92: The Ocean Salad at Sushi-Rama
No. 91: The Signature Bowl from Churn & Burn
No. 90: Green Chorizo at Los Compadres
No. 89: The Diavola Calzone at Pino's Neighborhood Pizzeria
No. 88: Biscuits and Green Chile at the Noshery
No. 87: Chirashi at Izu Sushi
No. 86: Brisket and Ribs at GQue Championship BBQ
No. 85: The Tornado at the Chowder Room
No. 84: Korean Fried Chicken Wings at Yong Gung
No. 83: A Meatball Hero at Lil' Ricci's New York Pizzeria
No. 82: Shakshuka at Stowaway Coffee + Kitchen
No. 81: Late-Night Ramen at Brazen
No. 80: Potato Tacos at El Tejado
No. 79: Corned Beef Heart at theWay Back
No. 78: The Fried Bologna Sandwich at Snarfburger
No. 77: Sweet Corn Mezzaluna at Bar Dough
No. 76: Duck Confit at Table 6
No. 75: Croque Monsieur at Fire
No. 74: Tahini Cookies at the Preservery
No. 73: The Alferd Packer Salad at MAD Greens
No. 72: The Tuna Poke Bowl at Ohana Island Kitchen
No. 71: Mini Chile Rellenos at La Loma
No. 70: The Combination Banh Mi at Vinh Xuong Bakery
No. 69: The Falafel Waffle at Moxie Eatery
No. 68: Korean Fried Duck Wings at Chow Urban Grill
No. 67: Spaghetti Alla Carbonara at Spatola
No. 66: The Classic Burger from Skirted Heifer