Second Helpings

The Brothel Burger Is Reason to Go Back for More Yak at Ophelia's

Even in a town like Denver where exotic meats are popular, there’s one that’s hard to come by: yak, a shaggy-haired, short-legged mammal first domesticated in Tibet. So when I saw the brothel burger with a yak patty on the menu at Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, which I review this week, I knew I had to try it. The server assured us that the meat wasn’t gamey, telling us that if we didn’t know what we were eating, we’d probably think it was beef.

She was right, to a degree. The burger was leaner than one made with the typical chuck, similar to bison but even sweeter. Beyond that, it was hard to taste the difference, given the miso-candied bacon, Korean barbecue, ponzu onions and pickled vegetables deliciously piled on the Ophelia's pretzel bun.

Smitten with yak (though not with its name), I set out to find more places in town where you can try it. The Buckhorn Exchange used to serve yak New York strips and yak tenderloins, but problems with the supplier forced executive chef Cesar Garcia to take it off the menu a few months ago. Even with all the restaurant’s other exotic meats, he says the restaurant still fields calls from customers eager for more.

Tony’s Market didn’t have yak in stock, but a butcher at Marczyk Fine Foods said I could order it with a few days’ notice. However, its hefty price — $14.99 per pound for ground yak, with a five-pound minimum – made me think I’d be better off returning to Ophelia’s for another $16 brothel burger, enjoyed with cocktails in that playful environment.

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Gretchen Kurtz has worked as a writer for 25 years; during that time she's stomped grapes in Napa, eaten b'stilla in Fez, and baked with Buddy Valastro, aka the Cake Boss. Her work has appeared in publications including Boulevard (Paris), Diversion, the New York Times and Westword. Our restaurant critic since 2012, she loves helping you decide where to eat and drink tonight.
Contact: Gretchen Kurtz