The Best Denver Bar Food and Where to Find It

The money shot: cheese curds at Wally's.
The money shot: cheese curds at Wally's. Mark Antonation

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Mexican Hamburgers
The Mexican hamburger was invented in Denver and appears on menus all over town; you don't need a patent to figure out how to stick a hamburger patty and refried beans in a flour tortilla and top the package with green chile and possibly lettuce, tomato, cheese, sour cream, guacamole — or all of the above, depending on the chef's preference. Different versions can be found all over the metro area: Charlie Brown's Bar and Grill in Capitol Hill, the Lakewood Grill, Fat Boy's Bar and Grill in Aurora, Sweetwater Bar and Grill in Westminster, the Satire Lounge on East Colfax, and Shelby's Bar and Grill downtown, to name just a few. If you want to try the Shelby's version, you'd better do it soon: The property where this longtime bar stands has been sold.

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Cheese curds are one of Denver's favorite Wisconsin imports. The ones at the Kentucky Inn in Wash Park are always a good idea.
Sarah McGill
Fried Cheese Curds
You don't have to travel to Wisconsin to try cheese curds. Countless Wisconsin natives have moved here, bringing their fondness for Packers and Badgers and cheese to our neighborhood bar scene. One of the best features of this Wisconsin invasion is the decadent fried cheese curd — basically a superior version of a mozzarella stick, with better-quality (cheddar) cheese and a crisper batter. Lots of Denver spots have them, such as Sportsbook Bar and Grill and the Kentucky Inn. This snack is also obligatory and cooked to perfection at Wisconsin-centric bars such as Roo Bar, Swanky's and Wally's Wisconsin Tavern.

Chicago Dogs
Another Midwestern influence that can be found at many Colorado neighborhood bars comes from Illinois, specifically Chicago. A number of spots here serve a Chicago dog, defined as a beef hot dog topped with onions, yellow mustard, tomatoes, tiny pickled peppers called "sport peppers," hot green relish, celery salt and a pickle spear for good measure. You'll find them at such unlikely spots as the Horseshoe Lounge, Wrigley's in Golden, Challengers in Aurora and, for an upscale, power-lunch version, Chopper's Sports Grill in Cherry Creek.

Snacks From a Vending Machine
When you're drinking and suddenly find yourself craving junk food, a pack of peanuts, some hot Cheetos or a candy bar can really fill the bill. That's where bar vending machines come in, and Denver has some fine ones. Tooey's Off Colfax in Capitol Hill, the Frontier Club in Aurora, and Badger's Pub in Baker all offer your basic sweet and salty snacks on the cheap. The legendary vending machine at Don's Club Tavern gets extra credit for stocking not just frozen cheeseburgers, burritos, ice cream sandwiches and chips, but a hodgepodge of random and useful items such as condoms, underwear and cigarettes. No matter what you're looking for, this magic machine comes up a winner.
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Sarah McGill is a contributor to Westword's Food & Drink section and can be found exploring Denver's neighborhood bars. She is also a ghost story and karaoke enthusiast. Despite not being from Colorado, Sarah and Denver have been in a long-term relationship, and it seems like this one might be for real.