Restaurant Chains We Want to See In Denver in 2019

Hopes for a Denver In-N-Out are a mile high.
Hopes for a Denver In-N-Out are a mile high. Peter F. at Flickr
Now that Denver has a pair of Shake Shacks and a Giordano’s, and In-N-Out Burger is actually, really, we’re-not-kidding coming to Colorado (though not until 2020, and the first outlet — supposedly of many — will be down in the Springs), fast-food fans are hungry for more. There are too many terribly delicious (and terrible for you, but whatever) national and regional chains that could add links in Denver — a reminder of home for transplants, and an introduction to the temptations of afar for those few Denver natives who’ve had to subsist on Quiznos, Noodles & Company, Smashburger and the traitorous Chipotle, among other options born right here.

Where do we yearn to drive-thru or dine-in, as we recall doing fondly in other parts of this great country? Here are ten fast-foodie suggestions.

click to enlarge Also, their cups are super-polite. - TEAGUE BOHLEN
Also, their cups are super-polite.
Teague Bohlen
This Texas-based burger place becomes a standby everywhere it lands — so far almost exclusively in the south and southwest states. Whataburger is known for having great (and huge) hamburgers and sandwiches of all types, relatively low prices when compared to those of similar chains, and an availability at most locations 24 hours a day. Whataburger, whatta opportunity. 

click to enlarge Eegee's: inspiring slushy and slavish worshipfulness since 1971. - GRANT SHOEMAKER
Eegee's: inspiring slushy and slavish worshipfulness since 1971.
Grant Shoemaker
Eegee's isn’t a huge chain — it’s almost exclusive to Tucson, though it’s making slow-but-sure forays into other Arizona cities. But the sheer emotional devotion that it's inspired can’t be denied. Sure, it’s a sandwich shop, and it’s a good one. And it’s a rare and blessed exception to the apparent unwritten rule that sandwich shops can’t serve fries as a side dish. Eegee’s offers cheese fries, ranch fries, cheesy bacon fries, buffalo ranch fries…you get the idea. But its main draws are the real-fruit slushes — pina colada, lemon or strawberry, with a flavor of the month to keep you coming back. Given that the 48-year-old company just got bought out by a NYC-based restaurant investment firm, the chances of Denver getting a taste of Eegee are better than ever before.

click to enlarge As a friend of mine once told me: Don't look at it, just eat it. - ARNOLD GATILAO AT FLICKR
As a friend of mine once told me: Don't look at it, just eat it.
Arnold Gatilao at Flickr
White Castle
If you haven’t experienced the White Castle slider (mainly available in the Midwest and Northeast…and no, the ones stocked in the frozen section at your local grocery store don’t count), then nothing anyone can say in mere words can come close to replicating its sublime awesomeness. Because honestly, describing it sounds sort of gross: These sliders are small, square patties of meat pressed out with holes perforated through them so they cook quick and juicy. They’re not grilled, but steamed over a layer of raw onion, and then served on a soft, sweet roll that soaks up the brown-burger au jus. The result might not be pretty, but pretty ain’t the point. Down it in a couple of bites, and reach for another.

click to enlarge Clearly needs more mustard, but you do you. - WAGNER TAMANAHA AT FLICKR
Clearly needs more mustard, but you do you.
Wagner Tamanaha at Flickr
This Chicago-style chain of hot dogs and Italian beef is a phenomenon in the Midwest, where it’s been expanding at a precipitous rate in the last few years (and also in California, Arizona and Florida). But specifying that Portillo's is just about frankfurters and sandwiches is a little misleading — it does many more things, and does them well, everything from ribs to pastas to salads to Chicago tamales, which should not be compared to Mexican tamales in any way, but are delicacies in their own right. Portillo's would be a brilliant addition to the area around Coors Field, where hot dogs are already important and necessary. It’s a decision that Denverites would (I’m sorry for this) relish.

click to enlarge Moe's burritos don't look all that different, but fans crave them. - INAKAZIRA AT FLICKR
Moe's burritos don't look all that different, but fans crave them.
inakazira at Flickr
Moe’s Southwest Grill
Why there are no Moe’s outposts in Denver is something of a mystery — it seems like a chain ready-made for the Colorado lifestyle (healthy, quick, spicy if you want it that way). It’s in forty other states, and Colorado has only two, tucked into the mountains (one in Glenwood Springs, the other up in Eagle County — neither of which is a drive you would make for a burrito). While yes, Denver has Chipotle and Qdoba and Illegal Pete’s, etc., there's still room for Moe’s Tex-Mex angle in the mile high market.

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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen