No. 87 Kimchi and sausage torta at City O' City 206 East 13th Avenue 303-831-6443
A fact about vegetarians: Most of them didn't quit eating meat because they didn't like the taste. While some plant-eaters eschew mock meat on principle, as many or more relish those guilt-free alternatives.
Rather than striving to be exact simulacra of what they're replacing (impossible, and also pointless for long-term herbivores who can't really recall what animals taste like anyway), the best veggie meats hit the same gustatory notes as the real stuff without resorting to imitation: smoky, savory, chewy. This is a lesson that executive chef Kurt Eichenberger and the rest of the kitchen staff at City O' City have learned well.
See also: 100 Favorite Dishes of 2014
City O' City's kimchi and sausage torta starts with a fig, barley and apricot patty that captures the chewy, porky mouthfeel of good sausage without any of the sticky sweetness that its ingredients would suggest. The housemade kimchi layered on top (another treat for vegetarians -- most store-bought versions include shrimp) is spicy and fresh, with just a hint of fermented funk. A dollop of relish and a smear of creamy mayonnaise, all packed into a toasted roll, help balance out the final product. The torta pairs perfectly with a side of garlic-kissed sauteed kale, which cuts through the richness of the sandwich with ease.
Just as impressive is the way that City O' manages to take the experience of eating a torta -- the heft of the thing, the dangerous satisfaction of wolfing down a pile of meat and carbs in one sitting -- and fits it all into a modestly sized, lunch-appropriate sandwich that won't put diners in an afternoon-long food coma. For vegetarians who are used to having good behavior forced on them in the form of dinner salads and garden burgers, it's a a welcome change of pace.
In advance of the Best of Denver 2015, we're already loading our plates with contenders for the best dishes in the city. And over the next nine months, we'll be sharing many of them with you, counting down (in no particular order) one hundred of our favorite dishes before the the Best of Denver 2015 hits the streets on March 26. In the meantime, if there's a dish you think we need to try, tell us about it in the comments section below, or shoot us an e-mail at email@example.com.
Hungry for more? All the dishes in our 2014 countdown are linked below.
No. 100: Chile Relleno at La Fiesta No. 99: Gurage Kitfo at Megenagna Ethiopian Restaurant No. 98: Cochinita Pibil at Work & Class No. 97: The Greggers Tongue Sandwich at Olive & Finch No 96: Baum Cakes at Glaze by Sasa No. 95: Goat hot pot from Viet's No 94: Head cheese from Beast + Bottle No. 93: Kettle Chips from Amerigo Delicatus No. 92: Pork Belly Confit at Solera Restaurant and Wine Bar No. 91: Tacos Campechanos from La Calle Taqueria No. 90: Biscuits from Denver Biscuit Co. No. 89: Clams and Chorizo at Gozo No. 88: Aburi Sushi at Sushi Den and Izakaya Den
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.