Denver International Airport turns twenty years old on Saturday, and with it many of the food concessions and restaurants that have been serving up coffee, sandwiches and cocktails to travelers since 1995. In recent years, though, some of Denver's top eateries have expanded into DIA, earning the airport national recognition as one of the top hubs in the nation for healthy and delicious food. For the past two years, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has named DIA the top airport in the country for healthy food choices (so don't tell them about the $17 chicken-fried steak burrito at Elways!).
The rate of new contracts has increased over the last several years, allowing more new places to open up. Airport spokesman Heath Montgomery explains that many of the concession leases were due to expire in 2001, but after the economic turmoil and uncertainty surrounding the terrorist attacks of September 11, those leases were extended into the next decade. Elway's, Udi's — now Etai's Bakery Cafe — and Root Down all touched down at DIA in mid-2013; more recent arrivals include Steve's Snappin' Dogs and Modmarket, which opened in Concourse B in January, with a second slot scheduled to open in Concourse C in the spring.
Craft breweries have also descended on DIA, with tap houses from Boulder Beer, Rock Bottom and New Belgium offering Colorado beers to the airport's arrivals and departures. Wine lovers will also find more options,with Cru Food and Wine Bar, Vino Volo and Lounge 5280 Wine Bar.
Montgomery shared some of the food statistics from February 28,1995, as well as a list of the original eateries and concessions. Supplies on hand for opening day at several of the restaurants included 1,500 pretzels at Auntie Anne's, 700 pounds of sandwich meat at the Colorado Sports Bar and Deli, 1,000 pounds of chicken at Panda Express, and 180 pounds of coffee beans — enough for 9,000 cups of espresso — at the The Coffee Pub.
Here's the original roster of food and drink establishments on the day the first flights landed at Denver International Airport and travelers first streamed from the gates and train cars connecting the concourses. While many are gone, a few are still among our favorites for grabbing a bite before our flight:
Aviator’s Club (Smoking Lounge)
Ben & Jerry’s Ice cream
Brew Mountain Expresso
The Candy Shoppe
The Coffee Beanery
Colorado Sports Bar and Deli
Columbine Candy Company
Colombo Yogurt/Sara Lee
Colombo Yogurt/Pizza Hut Express
Itza Wrap! Itza Bowl!
Lefty’s Colorado Trails Bar and Grille
Lefty’s Front Range Grille
Lefty’s Mile High Grille
Pour La France
Que Bueno Mexican Grill
Red Rocks Bar
Rocky Mountain Café
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
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For a complete list of current restaurants, coffee shops, chocolatiers and other concessions, see DIA's list of dining options.