The Westword 2014 Food and Drink Bucket List: #5-1
Since the start of the new year, we've been filling our four blogs -- Show and Tell, Backbeat, Cafe Society and the Latest Word -- with a Colorado bucket list of the 100 things to do before you kick it. The final five Food and Drink contributions follow.
5. Order a Mexican hamburger at the original Chubby's at 2 a.m. What is Denver's greatest culinary contribution to the world? It may well be the Mexican hamburger, a concept that got its start on Santa Fe Drive in the late '60s -- about the time that Stella Cordova (above) was purchasing the Chubby Burger Drive Inn on West 38th Avenue. She quickly bolstered the menu with a Mexican hamburger and some of her other recipes, including another incredible Colorado creation, the gravy-like green chile that's thicker, hotter and tastier than the New Mexican variety. Although Stella passed away a few years ago at the age of 100, her dishes live on -- and there's no better way to fend off a potential hangover than stopping by Chubby's at two in the morning for a Mexican hamburger buried in green. Accept no substitutes: This is the only original Chubby's.
4. Watch the sun rise over Sloan's Lake from the Lakeview Lounge. Denver's best dive bars are slowly disappearing, victims of this rapidly gentrifying city. And at the Lakeview Lounge, from a perch on a barstool -- the floor is so worn that there are holes in the linoleum where the stools have stood for decades -- you can see some of that change: The St. Anthony's development south of Sloan's Lake is about to explode. But the real view is directly east across Sheridan, across the lake -- where, on the last day of Daylight Savings Time, you can watch the sun rise shortly after 7 a.m. (and the bar's opening), sipping a Bloody Mary and toasting a time-honored tradition. keep reading for more of our bucket list.
3. Make a pilgrimage to the first Chipotle. Students love fast, cheap food -- but in July 1993, they got more than they bargained for when a stylish, fast-casual Mexican joint opened near the University of Denver, at 1644 East Evans Avenue. Inspired by the big Mission burritos he found in San Francisco, Steve Ells decided to raise money for that fine-dining restaurant he planned to open one day by first opening Chipotle Mexican Grill, which would serve big burritos stuffed with quality ingredients. That was twenty years ago, and Ells never did open that fine-dining restaurant. Instead, he's opened more than 1,000 Chipotles around the world, feeding a cult of fans and inspiring endless knockoffs.
2. Drink gunpowder whiskey and eat Rocky Mountain oysters at the Fort. Waugh! When Sam Arnold moved west, he became fascinated with the history of the region. So he set out to build an authentic, if slightly shrunken, version of Bent's Old Fort in the foothills above Denver, and turned it into a legendary restaurant: The Fort. The setting -- with a stunning view of Denver -- isn't the only draw here; Arnold also resurrected many recipes from the Old West, including whiskey flavored with gunpowder (less for the bang than to blot out the flavor of trading-post rotgut). It's just the thing to wash down that staple of state fairs and rodeos throughout the West: Rocky Mountain oysters. For the timid tenderfoot, the Fort serves its fried bull's balls with plenty of sauces to hide the taste...and texture. Keep reading for the top item on our Food and Drink bucket list
1. Somehow, some way, get a ticket to the Great American Beer Festival. The metro area has been dubbed the Napa Valley of craft beer, and a river of brews runs through it every fall, when the Great American Beer Festival returns to downtown Denver, bringing tens of thousands of bearded, pretzel-draped, soused beer fans to town. The festival, founded in 1982 -- six years before Denver got its first brewpub -- has grown into a major international event, one that has to be seen to be believed. But good luck: Tickets sell out in a matter of minutes. Fortunately, festivities spill over into bars, brewpubs and tap rooms all along the Front Range.