Biker Jim gave Anthony Bourdain a taste of a changing Denver in 2009.
Biker Jim gave Anthony Bourdain a taste of a changing Denver in 2009.
Lori Midson

Reader: Bourdain Looked for What Made a Place Special, Including Denver

As fans of Anthony Bourdain have been mourning his death, they've been revisiting his television shows (CNN will run a special "Remembering Anthony Bourdain" Parts Unknown retrospective tonight, June 10) and rereading his works. Those include his observations on a few visits to Denver, including Bourdain's first trip to the Mile High City in 2002, after which he said he'd never return, since he'd found nothing worth eating.

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Denver dining, Denver restaurants, Biker Jim, Jim Pettinger, Anthony Bourdain

That got readers reminiscing on our Facebook post not just about Bourdain and his "love/hate/love" relationship with this city, but the Denver food scene itself over the years.

Says Carol:

He should have been here in 1977 when the Chinese restaurant on Colfax served my egg roll with mustard and Ketchup. We had just moved here. I was speechless.

Replies Leon: 

I don't know why he ever returned a second time because honestly, Denver's food and culture scene are deplorable at best.

John responds: 

You need to get out more. Explore Colorado. Denver Highlands, Old Town Arvada and Main Street Louisville are places I recommend. But reading your opinion, I'm sure your favorite thing to eat are sour grapes....Great food everywhere if you look with your eyes instead of your mouth. The mouth is used for tasting.

Adds Paul: 

The last time he came and spoke in Denver, he revised his view of the Denver scene. He said the restaurants here were great. But if you're trying to become a top renowned chef, you still have to go to places like NYC or other cities.

Says Jason: 

 Any city can boast an $18 salad in an artisan coffee shop. Bourdain was right. Don’t overthink it.

Notes Mo: 

Not sure where everyone on this thread claiming Denver doesn't have any good food is eating, but there are a ton of great places in Denver now. The food halls alone are worth checking out for starters: Stanley Marketplace, Zeppelin Station, the Denver Central Market, The Source Hotel and Market Hall, Denver Milk Market, Avanti F&B, a collective eatery. Even Death & Co from New York just opened an outpost in the new Ramble Hotel. If you're eating at bad places, you aren't looking hard enough.

Then there's this from Bret:

 Seriously, what’s up with the Food Network fan boys spouting off as if they are some sort of well-traveled culinary aficionados. I’ve read several quotes claiming Denver metro's cuisine terrible, worst they’ve had in a metropolitan city or, my favorite, "deplorable at best."

I’m sorry to break it to you, but being a line cook at Buffalo Wild Wings after moving to Denver from some suburban corner of North Carolina doesn’t scream credibility. Instead, you sound like a millennial who severely overestimates the value of your opinion.

I’d bet dollars to doughnuts half of these self-described foodies couldn’t tell the difference between braunschweiger and foie gras if they were put on a plate in front them.

One of the great things about Bourdain is he was just as comfortable sitting at a hawker in Geylang eating a plate of char kway teow with a Tiger beer as he was conversing with a Michelin Star chef.

Get out go to the Buckhorn Exchange; or the Sunburst Restaurant in Aurora and get a plate of Kare Kare or Sisig; or Aloy Thai in Denver and Boulder. I’m a huge fan of Cajun, and Bayou Bob's reminds me of my university days in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Needless to say so few people get out of their comfort zone to know what a refined palette really is.

Says Bobbi: 

Well, Anthony Bourdain gave bad raps to lots of places. The truth be told in 2002, the restaurant scene was developing and my feeling is if he had a copy of Westword's Best of Denver back then, he would have been encouraged to find the hole-in-the-wall foodies paradise....

Time to say goodbye to an iconic, sometimes critical, man who was always looking for what makes a town/village/city special. His legacy will be at least he came here and we got under his skin by becoming an outstanding restaurant scene.

And Monica concludes:

 And he will be greatly missed.

Jim Pettinger saw Anthony Bourdain last year.
Jim Pettinger saw Anthony Bourdain last year.
Courtesy Biker Jim

In a 2010 episode of No Reservations, Bourdain said this about the Mile High City: "I had a checkered, even tortured relationship with Denver before I came this last time. Even though Denver's always been great to me, in 2002 I came through here on my book tour and found myself hungry, wandering around the city center looking for good food. What I saw was not inspiring — and I said so, repeatedly, frankly insulting the city long after the world had moved on and things had changed."

But in 2009, when he was wandering those same city streets, Bourdain found Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs, then nothing more than a street cart on the 16th Street Mall serving outlandish game sausages grilled up by founder Jim Pettinger. In the episode, Bourdain tells Pettinger, "Thank you for all your good work in making Denver a wonderful place to be."

And Pettinger, who saw Bourdain just last year, and other local restaurateurs continue to make Denver a wonderful place to be for diners, as well as outdoor lovers.

What do you think of Denver's current food scene? How will you remember Anthony Bourdain? Post a comment or email cafe@westword.com.

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