Three trends that were the taco the town in Denver in 2013
Good things come in small packages at Comida Cantina.
In place of a review this week, I'm giving a shout-out to a dozen of the year's most memorable dishes. By themselves, they'll make you hungry. Taken together, they point to larger changes afoot on Denver's restaurant scene. Here's a taste of three of those changes, with more to come later....
3. Bye-Bye, Burgers A year ago, Denver was still in the midst of burger mania, with folks flocking to the likes of Park Burger and TAG Burger Bar for craft burgers and the boozy milkshakes that go along with them. For a while, pizza -- Neapolitan, deep-dish, even St. Louis-style -- diverted our attention. But now tacos are hot, with corn tortillas at the likes of Los Chingones, Uno Mas and Comida Cantina (which I reviewed here) being thrown down and filled faster than you can say ole. 2. Good Things Come In Small Packages It's not just tacos. Small plates have been in for years, and 2013 saw no end to the trend, with restaurants from Acorn to The Populist sticking with the format. While small plates have their detractors -- some say they're overpriced for what you get or so small they're hard to share -- I remain a fan. After all, they've released us from the well-worn (worn-out?) formula of protein, starch and vegetable, giving us the ability to craft the meal we want from start to finish. They also give chefs a chance to be at their most creative.
1. Fast or Fine? There used to be a clear line of demarcation between fine dining and casual, with differences in everything from atmosphere to quality of ingredients to the chef's level of experience. No more. This was the year that the Frasca braintrust launched Pizzeria Locale in Denver (with an assist from Chipotle Mexican Grill, it turns out) and chefs such as Jensen Cummings (formerly of Row 14) and Clay Markwell (of TAG) moveed to their own fast-casuals (Slotted Spoon and Scratch Burrito, respectively), bringing with them the same attention to sourcing, skills and flair for flavor you'd expect from more upscale kitchens.
Watch for more when my Best Dishes of 2013 are posted on westword.com tomorrow.