Cafe Society

Ready for takeoff? Try these four choice eateries at DIA.

I usually time my arrival at Denver International Airport so that I can check in, get through security, grab a snack — and then get right on the plane. But during the holiday season, when the gates of airport hell open, all that careful planning goes right out the window. Every time I fly, I'm either sprinting to my gate or suddenly find I have two hours to kill. When it's the latter, I hit one of these establishments for the best eating in the airport:

Terminal: Boulder Beer Tap House

In order to fortify myself for the ordeal ahead, I often stop at the Boulder Beer Tap House and order a burger, either buffalo or juicy beef, served on a puffy Kaiser roll with thick pub fries. More important, though, is a glass (or three) of the Tap's handcrafted ale, as I steel myself for the security lines with a Sweaty Betty Blonde or hoppy Hazed & Infused.

Concourse A: The ChopHouse

This homegrown chain (part of Rock Bottom Restaurants, which just merged with Gordon Biersch) opened an airport outpost in 2009, bringing the full line of meaty entrees, salads and sandwiches to travelers passing through concourse A. I like to post up at the often-full bar, sipping one of the handcrafted beers on tap while taking down crispy onion rings and a smoky Stout BBQ bacon burger. When I can't nab a spot there, I settle for one of the linen-clothed tables. And when I've got both a leisurely schedule and an expense account, I might even order up a strip: thick, tender and medium-rare.

Concourse B: New Belgium

The wing of DIA dedicated to United has an ample array of grab-and-go options, but when I've got time, I head to the gate B80-95 area and the bright spot that is New Belgium. In this cool, industrial-looking open space decorated with bicycle parts, I'll order a seasonal offering from the Fort Collins brewery and eat a plump, juicy bratwurst, loaded with tart sauerkraut and caramelized onions and peppers. And feel right at home.

Concourse C: Rock Bottom Brewery

On the airport's smallest concourse, your best bet for food is the Rock Bottom Brewery. The burgers here are nothing to sneeze at: thick, meaty patties topped with pepper Jack and creamy guacamole or hickory-smoked bacon. But I'm partial to the massive platter of nachos, piled high with savory black beans, melted cheddar, fresh tomatoes and plenty of jalapeños (I usually add marinated, shredded chicken, too), and I wash it all down with Rock Bottom's handcrafted pale ale. — Shunk

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk