Best of Denver

The Ten Best Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches in Denver

Taste of Philly's classic cheesesteak.
Taste of Philly's classic cheesesteak. Ken Holloway
Ordinarily there would be no reason on earth to take a perfectly good steak and fiddle with it. But there’s one happy exception: the Philly cheesesteak. Said to have been created around 1916, this sandwich is an East Coast hit that has slowly spread from its urban Philadelphia origins. The popularity of the sandwich could not be contained, and it now pops up on way too many menus all over the country — way too many because most cheesesteaks are a big disappointment. It’s just too easy to cut corners on the ingredients, the technique or both. After investigating the cheesesteak situation in Denver, we've uncovered ten places turning out totally righteous cheesesteaks.

A great cheesesteak sandwich must have three elements: grilled steak (not roast beef) sliced thin; hot and fresh bread that’s crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside; and lots of gooey melted cheese. It needs to be made in a certain way that all the elements come together just right. After that, it’s a matter of personal taste — onions, peppers and mushrooms being fair game. While not every version on our list meets the rigorous regulations of authenticity, they're all great sandwiches — so if you're willing to set aside preconceived notions, here are the ten best Philly cheesesteaks right here in the Mile High City of Brotherly Love.

click to enlarge The Bindery's tribute to the East Coast. - KEN HOLLOWAY
The Bindery's tribute to the East Coast.
Ken Holloway
The Bindery
1817 Central Street
303- 993-2364

Denver has a treasure in chef/owner Linda Hampsten Fox, and the recently opened eatery/market/gathering spot in LoHi called the Bindery. Based on Fox’s extensive world travels, her menu reads like a Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory of all things epicurean. With all the other European-inspired specialties, a Philly cheesesteak is a little unexpected, but it’s an homage to the chef's New Jersey roots as well as a hearty and satisfying meal fit for a working woman or man. The cheesesteak at the Bindery begins with a golden house-baked roll and a New York steak. Caramelized onions, sautéed peppers, sharp provolone and a dash of secret Philly spice blend are added — along some mad knife skills to carve up the steak just right. This scrumptious Philly is served with dressed greens and a housemade pickle spear. You can take the girl out of New Jersey, but you can’t take New Jersey out of the girl. The chef says the Philly cheesesteak was her dad’s favorite sandwich — and I’m sure he’d be proud of this one.

click to enlarge Block & Larder's cheesesteak. - KEN HOLLOWAY
Block & Larder's cheesesteak.
Ken Holloway
Block & Larder
4000 Tennyson Street

The steak sandwich at Block & Larder may be too sophisticated to be called a Philly cheesesteak, but it has all the requisite ingredients: thin-sliced steak, gooey melted provolone and hot and chewy bread, along with extra goodies like citrus aioli and a medley of fresh mushrooms and caramelized onions. This sandwich was not created overnight, however. It started as a clever way to use some of the trimmings from the restaurant's high-quality steaks, but the Forgy brothers (Aaron, Lucas and Jason), who run the place, soon realized they were on to a great idea, and the sandwich was refined and added to the menu. In a word, this cheesesteak is bold. It's bursting with umami, yet balanced with citrus notes and accompanied by housemade dill pickles, pickled red onion and a side of fries. Bar manager/co-owner Aaron Forgy recommends the Ska Euphoria Winter Pale Ale as a perfect pairing. While the word "Philly" doesn't appear on the menu, there's enough brotherly love from the three owners to make any Philadelphian happy.

Bout Time
3392 West 38th Avenue

This West Highland sports bar serves up a tempting version of a Philly cheesesteak made with fresh (never frozen) beef and a locally baked hoagie roll. The sandwich comes standard with melted provolone, sautéed peppers and onions — but the kitchen will make it any way you want it. There’s a lot to like about this version, but the grilled roll puts it over the top. Along with pickle chips, this cheesesteak is served with a generous helping of fresh-cut fries and fry sauce for dipping (a nod to 'Bout Time's Utah roots).

click to enlarge The cheesesteak sandwich at the Doghouse Tavern. - KEN HOLLOWAY
The cheesesteak sandwich at the Doghouse Tavern.
Ken Holloway
Doghouse Tavern
3100 South Sheridan Boulevard

The Doghouse Tavern, a proud member of the Little Pub Company, puts out a hearty and rustic cheesesteak. The entire menu is just a notch above basic pub grub, and this sandwich is no exception, with Black Angus rib-eye steak, lots of melted Swiss cheese, sautéed peppers and onions piled high on a toasted hoagie roll.The clang of dueling spatulas coming from the kitchen elicits a Pavlov's response long before the aroma of sizzling steak hits the dining room. The cheesesteak comes with a hot pepper and your choice of fries or chips — and it comes out piping hot, so pair it with a cold ale from the Doghouse's list of local suds.

click to enlarge Large Marge's makes a mean sandwich. - KEN HOLLOWAY
Large Marge's makes a mean sandwich.
Ken Holloway
Large Marge’s Philly Cheesesteaks
3890 Kipling Street, Wheat Ridge

The word is out. Philly cheesesteak fans from all over the Front Range trek to Large Marge’s for their Philly fix. This could be because Large Marge’s is the home of the original Poo sauce, along with other faves like spicy ketchup and spicy ranch dipping sauces. And it could be because people love the way co-owners Brett Carson and Tyler Johnson roll out their cheesesteaks on Amoroso’s rolls (straight from Philadelphia) loaded with traditional rib-eye steak. According to Johnson, the number-one seller is the Original, with steak, onions and American cheese — can’t go wrong with that. If you like chiles and bell peppers, go for the Philly Phanatic (pictured). Many of the regulars also enjoy the array of fries, rings, tots and salads on the side. And for homesick East Coasters, Large Marge’s also carries Tastykakes.

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Ken Holloway discovered his passion for food writing in 2010 when he began touring the country for restaurants showcased on the top food television shows. His travels have taken him to all 50 states and more than 300 eateries. He is an avid home cook who enjoys reading and collecting cookbooks and is a hopeful cookbook author working on a compendium of the best American comfort food recipes.