Cafe Society

Reader: I Travel All Over, and Denver Is One of My Favorite Cities for Eating

Last week Mark Antonation served up Ten Things Visitors Should Know About the Denver Dining Scene, including the crucial fact that this city's culinary contributions go far beyond the Denver omelette. Not only does Denver have great craft beer and bison, he points out, but it also has good very good seafood for a landlocked town, an active, diverse ethnic scene -- and a booming business in homegrown, fast-casual chains. But that didn't satisfy one reader, who branded the Denver dining situation "atrocious." See also: Reader Hates to Break It to You, But Says Denver's Food Scene Is Atrocious

And that comment inspired many, many more, including this from Mary:

There you go again, Westword, being negative. Really, cutting into an industry that thrives in a city that for some unknown reason supports your sleazy reporting! This is shameful for the hard-working restaurant people who work extremely hard in Denver restaurants! Once again, shame on you Westword!!! You owe the restaurant community and the people in it an apology!!! I hope to read about it soon.
We clearly believe in Denver's restaurant industry, and post more than forty stories about it every week. Last week, one of those happened to include Darnell's comment -- and we're not going to apologize for sharing his opinion in the middle of dozens of stories celebrating the local food scene. Instead, we're going to share several interesting, enlightening responses to his "atrocious label," which all provide food for thought about the food scene.

Says Ken:

My girlfriend and I are from the NYC area but just moved here by way of Los Angeles two years ago. Denver is the best place we've ever lived. The people are awesome, the bars are great, the rent is relatively cheap. We love how we can run more than one errand in a day because there is barely any traffic. It's like living in the 90's in a lot of ways and we love it.

That said, the one thing we have been really struggling with is finding decent food. We've tried at least 40 restaurants here. Now, to be fair, most of these restaurants are $12 dollar entree type of places. There's the issue though. It seems very difficult to find anything that is "amazing" at that price whereas in Los Angeles or the NYC-area we could literally walk to at least 10 places where we enjoy an amazing meal for that price. It's just a given.

The other issue is there are no good vegetarian/vegan restaurants in Denver which is surprising considering all of the healthy people around here. We've tried watercourse and city o city (aka sh*tty o sh*tty) and it's really a shame. We love eating meat but our favorite restaurants have always been great vegan places. It's really surprising that nobody is capitalizing on this huge void in the market. If anyone opens up a place with great or semi-decent vegan food they would likely be very profitable.

An egg and cheese sandwich here typically means ONE egg on a huge piece of white bread. It's just a disgrace to people and chickens alike.

We've been to The Kitchen and the Andrew Weil place, True Foods, and it's still just okay. Not amazing.

The other irritating issues is that there's not much open after 2am. We work real late and it's tough to indulge late-night without regret.

Anyway, we'll keep trying. We love this city but when we do travel, the one thing that excites us is eating great/normal again.

Would be great to get recommendations on a good Chinese, pizza and Mexican place. Thanks!

Says Rgator:

Darnell sounds pretty clueless about food in general. I traveled all over the nation and Denver is one of my more favorite cities to eat in!

If you want good BBQ, then you either go to North Carolina or Florida, you certainly would never go to Texas (are you kidding me?!?!) Or St. Louis if you want authentic BBQ. Tex-Mex is crap and Denver actually has some great Mexican restaurant representing many different areas of Mexico.

No doubt Denver is one of the top US cities for all types of Vietnamese cuisine.

It is also one of this nation top cities for sushi, featuring one of the three best sushi restaurants in the USA, The Sushi Den.

And if you want something like bison or a special steak dinner, then The Fort is one of the best in the nation for that.

Many "honkies" (maybe Darnell) don't even have a clue what real Asian/Chinese food is. The way to find the very best is to go to those places where the honkies don't usually show up and you have a problem speaking their language to order. We have such wonderful places in Denver, they are those few "Hong Kong" style restaurants where you will find all types of Asians eating together as well as Hispanics and some white folks.

And then we have very unique places in Denver where I can take my friends from NYC, DC and San Fran to and them be impressed and they then say things like, "I wish we had something like this back home!"

Places like the Mercury Cafe, where for decades you can get a wonderful unique dinner or a weekend breakfast/lunch. Or how about a great hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant with some of the best seafood dishes in town. Serving over 80 seafood items on the menu, check out El Cameron Loco! Or go to JJ's Chinese Seafood restaurant at 11:00 PM any night and pick out live seafood to eat!

Lastly, you've got to wash it all down and then there's no where in the nation that compares to Denver. As a local, I can not even start to keep up will all the many micro brewing here and constantly more are opening up!

Yeah, this Darnell is pretty damned clueless on the food subject.

And then there's this from sballardo672:

Go home if you don't like it, go back to where you came from, you suck and higher rent is because of you, blah blah blah.

Look here, boys and girls, when a city is a good city (like Denver) people will flock to said city. If it wasn't a good city, people wouldn't come. Why wouldn't people come? Huge tech industry, top 5 places to find a job, mountains, adventure, legalized pot, year-round activities, etc.

That said, most major cities have their own first world issues. San Diego, my birthplace, is rife with out-of-towners that drove up housing prices due to perfect weather, the beach, low unemployment (c. 1998). SLC is rife with Mormon law. Chicago is windy and cold. Detroit...let's just move on.

Denver's drawback is the food. Sorry. You may love Chubby's, go crazy over Pho, and think the BBQ is straight from Jesus himself, but guess what, if you've traveled to a few (not just one) cities and tasted the food, you might come to realize that Denver, although wondrous in so many ways, is lagging when it comes to the cuisine. The best Italian I had was in New York, Chinese in San Francisco, Mexican in San Diego, and the food was good to. HA! In all honesty, what can you say is Denver's specialty? An omelet?

Or do you natives want to claim to have the best everything?

SO give it a rest and start acting like you live in a great big grown-up city.

You can read many more comments here, and feel free to post your own opinions on the Denver dining scene below.