Food & Drink

Your Last Denver Meal: 16 Things You Have to Eat Before You Die

Published On 06/30/2015 Published On 06/30/2015

Suppose you had 24 hours left in Denver, what would you eat before leaving? With all the great things to eat in Denver, deciding on a last meal is almost impossible, unless, of course, you work for a certain site that rhymes with “illest”: behold our picks for a 16-course farewell feast you’ll remember long after you’re gone. Also, a feast so big that if you actually ate it you’d give “gone” a whole new meaning...

Bread: Fresh bagels, pita, and pretzel rolls

Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen (address and info), Phoenician Kabob (address and info), Old Major (address and info
Various locations
Imagine a basket overflowing with Rosenberg’s everything bagels, the puffed-up pita rounds that start a meal at Phoenician Kabob, and Old Major’s soft, salt-dusted pretzel knots -- all warm and straight from the oven. Then add ramekins of the scallion cream cheese, Lebanese garlic dip, and spicy mustard butter you’d get, respectively, with each.

Lower 48 Kitchen

Amuse-bouches: A selection of “Each”

Lower48 Kitchen (address and info)
Actually, one of Denver’s most startlingly original dining destinations no longer groups its smallest plates -- a couple of bites for a couple of bucks -- under the heading of “Each.” But these palate-pleasers (to use the literal translation of “amuse-bouches”) are still integral to the menu; in fact, chef-partner Alex Figura is a master of miniatures, be they tiny hash browns dabbed with potato salad and comeback sauce, baby twice-baked potatoes, or elegant shooters of chilled romaine-green tomato soup.

Scottie Davison

Appetizer #1: Escargot potstickers

Bones (address and info
Capitol Hill
Ever think, “I bet Burgundy’s classic dish of snails in garlic-herb butter would be even better if you stuffed them into half-moon dumplings drenched in more butter spiked with Korean red pepper?” No? Good thing Frank Bonanno and the crew at his modern noodle bar Bones have done your thinking for you.

Bonus appetizer: Kaya toast

ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro (address and info
Combining buttered and toasted white bread, poached eggs, and coconut jam, Lon Symensma’s take on a Singaporean street snack is literally the greatest thing since sliced bread. All other things need not apply.

Ruth Tobias/Thrillist

Salad: Eggplant salad

Thai Flavor (address and info)
Chunks of velvety-soft roasted eggplant, glistening strips of pan-fried omelet, and plump chilled shrimp tossed with cabbage, red onion, and basil in a tangy-sweet, chili-laced dressing: this exhilarating mixture reminds you that the transliteration of the Thai word for salad, “yum,” is funny because it’s true.

Ruth Tobias/Thrillist

Soup: Xiao long bao

Lao Wang Noodle House (address and info)
Southwest Denver
No one said your soup had to come in a bowl, did they? The soup-filled purses of steamed dough at this beloved Taiwanese shop are so glorious they also made our Denver bucket list, which means you can kill two birds with one spoon by eating them before flying the coop.

Lo Stella Ristorante

Pasta: Pansoti in salsa di noci

Lo Stella (address and info)
Golden Triangle
Run by a Ligurian native, the Mile High City’s own little slice of the Italian Riviera doesn’t make a pasta that isn’t goodbye dinner-worthy -- or chow that isn’t ciao-worthy?! -- but this herbed ravioli with rich, creamy walnut sauce in particular will knock your boxers right off. (Which is fitting, because Europeans prefer briefs anyway.)

Ruth Tobias/Thrillist

Seafood: Build-Your-Own Smorgasbord

Trillium (address and info)
From sushi bars to chowder shops, Denver’s proof that, in the age of flash-freezing and overnight shipping, great seafood is as easy to come by in a mountain town as a coastal one. What’s special about Trillium, though, is its mix of modern Scandinavian and quaint Great Lakes influences, which chef-owner Ryan Leinonen smartly brings together on the Light Bites section of his constantly changing menu. In addition to standards like caviar and aqvavit-cured salmon, you may at any given time score pickled herring or perch, cherrywood-smoked whitefish, and -- best of all -- cornmeal-fried smelt with lemon-vodka tartar sauce. You could only get luckier if you wound up in Finland and Michigan at the same time.  

The Plimoth

Poultry: Cracklin’ chicken

The Plimoth (address and info)
Park Hill
Regulars at this sparkling little neighborhood bistro love it for chef-owner Peter Ryan’s creative restlessness, not his constancy. But he’s no diva; if his crisp-skinned, juicy-fleshed skillet chicken is to him as, say, “Creep” is to Thom Yorke, he doesn’t let on, insofar as it rarely disappears from the menu. And that’s a good thing, because we could eat it a lot more often than we could listen to Radiohead without getting bored.

Marc Piscotty

Pork: Fresh bacon

Rioja (address and info)
If there’s one dish that prompted this town’s transformation into a sprawling meth lab for pig addicts, it has got to be Jennifer Jasinski’s cardamom-brined and roasted pork belly over curried green-garbanzo puree. She dubs it “fresh bacon,” but you might prefer “meat candy,” seeing as how it resembles a petit-four in all its cubic layers of fat and caramelized sugar... and how you’ll crave a second order for dessert.

Ruth Tobias/Thrillist

Beef: Sugar steak

Bastien’s Restaurant (address and info)
City Park
Not to slaughter a whole herd of sacred cattle at once, but most of Denver’s dining landmarks are worth visiting only to say you’ve been. The top stop in our ranking of old-school chophouses is an exception to the rule, however, for the steaks it famously seasons with a blend of brown and white sugar and sears just until the interior is medium-rare, no further. Now that’s some holy cow!

Ruth Tobias/Thrillist

Lamb: Nose to tail 

Colt & Gray (address and info)
Speaking of, uh, slaughter: in their onsite meat-cutting and -curing facility, Nelson Perkins and his merry band of butchers find a way to turn every part of Colorado’s patron protein, from the loin and the shank to the tongue and kidneys, into tartare, charcuterie, toasts, roasts, and other goodies even Clarice Starling might devour with a side of fava beans.

Ruth Tobias/Thrillist

Casserole: Ddeokbokki

Funny Plus (address and info)
Okay, there’s no such thing as a casserole course -- but there’s no such thing as this entire meal, either, so why start insisting on realism now? Besides, as we noted in our roundup of Denver’s best fried chicken, missing this Korean strip-mall shack’s rice-cake casserole would be a serious minus (heh). A mess of pork dumplings, ramen noodles, hard-cooked eggs, sliced fish cake, cabbage, and carrots as well as chewy, mildly sweet rice-flour tubes, it’s served simmering with scallions and sesame seeds in a bath of gochujang sauce too fiery to remain that way for long, because you’ll totally dilute it with your sweat and tears of pain and pleasure.

Jennifer Olson

Side dish: Peppers five ways

Work & Class (address and info)
Hey, it’s your last meal here. May as well throw in a few more chiles for sentiment’s sake, right? The beauty of this dish is that, well, a) it’s beautiful, and b) it’s basically a game of roulette you play with your taste buds. Since heat levels can vary wildly from peck to peck of peppers, you never know which ones might blow your tongue to smithereens: the bacon-wrapped jalapeños or the grilled shishitos, the Fresno poppers or the mixed pickles, or even the chile jam chef-partner Dana Rodriguez pairs with grilled bread. And by the time you find out, you’ll be too blissed out to care.


Dessert: Baum cake

Glaze (address and info)
Congress Park
If you’re thinking, “I can have cake anywhere,” think again. Glaze founder Heather Alcott owns the first rotisserie oven in the United States specifically built for baking the German-Japanese sensation called baumkuchen -- and while she does ship the irresistibly sticky, concentrically layered confections out of state, seasonal flavors like orange-fennel or ginger-clove are available right here and here only. Too bad for you in your terrible new hometown.

Ruth Tobias/Thrillist

Late-night snack: One last elk, reindeer, or pheasant link

Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs (address and info)
Ballpark, Highlands Ranch
Come on, did you really think we’d forget Denver’s own sausage king?

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1. Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen 725 E 26th Ave, Denver, CO 80205

Imagine baskets overflowing with everything bagels and ramekins stuffed with scallion cream cheese. What you are now imagining: Rosenberg's.

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2. Phoenician Kabob 5709 E Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80220 (Park Hill)

Just the puffed-up pita rounds alone are worth a visit to Phoenician Kabob. And the Lebanese garlic dip? Icing on the cake.

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3. Old Major 3316 Tejon St, Denver, CO 80211 (Highland)

Located in a rustic, farmhouse-style space, Old Major -- named after the advising pig in George Orwell's Animal Farm -- is "dedicated to seafood, swine, and wine." Restaurateur Justin Brunson's Highland Park eatery sources sustainable seafood (read: not the farmed stuff from China), has in-house butchery and charcuterie programs, and an extensive wine list (note: every bottle is half-off on Sundays). The menu often changes, but one dish reigns throughout: the Nose to Tail. Let's just say it's a heaping pile of pork (of varying cuts, cures, and preparations) on a plate, and it's not to be missed.

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4. Lower48 Kitchen 2020 Lawrence St Unit A, Denver, CO 80205 (Northwest)

At Lower48, two Frasca alums dish up a menu that changes daily, with cuisine inspired by regional ingredients and culinary traditions from all over America.

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5. Bones 701 Grant St, Denver, CO 80203 (Capitol Hill)

Two words: lobster ramen. (Well, also "escargot potstickers," but that’s another story.) The first restaurateur in town to see the Momofuku train coming, Frank Bonanno opened his chic noodle bar back in 2008, when that miso-fortified, beurre blanc-slicked, edamame-studded, clawmeat-topped creation became an instant smash hit. Since then, Chef John DePierro has added his own signature -- a Southwest-style bowl with green chiles, braised pork shoulder, hominy, jalapeños, and queso fresco -- to the menu while keeping seasonal tricks such as spinach-chipotle ramen up his sleeve.

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6. ChoLon Bistro 1555 Blake St, Denver, CO 80202 (Lodo)

The lauded "modern Asian bistro"'s name stands for "big market", which is perfect, because the amount of delicious food they're serving up would lead you to believe that you are choosing from an actual Vietnamese market. It's everything you know and love about Asian food, with a modern-day flare.

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7. Thai Flavor 1014 S Peoria St, Aurora, CO 80012

Thai Flavor's Eggplant Salad is one of the best salads in the Denver area. Chunks of velvety-soft roasted eggplant, strips of pan-fried omelet, and plump chilled shrimp all tossed with cabbage, red onion, and basil in a tangy-sweet, chili-laced dressing. Delicious.

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8. Lao Wang Noodle House 945 S Federal Blvd, Denver, CO 80219 (Southwest)

If you have never had the pleasure of slurping the hot broth out of a Xiao Long Bao you need to get yourself to Lao Wang Noodle House right now. The soup-filled purses of steamed dough are glorious and you, my friend, have been missing out.

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9. Lo Stella Ristorante 1135 Bannock St, Denver, CO 80204 (Golden Triangle)

Don’t go to this Italian spot asking for fettuccine alfredo or spaghetti & meatballs. First of all, the answer’s no, and second, even if it were yes, you’d be doing yourself a grave disservice not to sample the Ligurian specialties of owner Alessandro Polo (who hails from Portofino, where his family has been in the restaurant business for generations). We’re talking exquisite focaccia al formaggio, luscious trenette al pesto or pansoti in salsa di noci (ravioli in walnut sauce), and all the sparkling seafood you’d expect from a coastal region.

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10. Trillium 2134 Larimer St, Denver, CO 80205 (Five Points)

Trillium is an American restaurant with serious culinary Scandinavian roots housed in the Five Points neighborhood. Fancying a layout that favors a relaxing, comforting atmosphere, a menu featuring interesting combinations of seafood and meat (sometimes on the same plate), and seasonal brews, you may find yourself staying a while.

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11. The Plimoth 2335 E 28th Ave, Denver, CO 80205 (City Park)

The Plimoth offers European-inspired plates locally raised proteins and herbs that come from the restaurant's patio garden. Choose something you like from their extensive wine list, or let them do the work -- each menu item comes with a suggested pairing.

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12. Rioja 1431 Larimer St, Denver, CO 80202 (Lodo)

Brought to you by Top Chef Master Jennifer Jasinski, Rioja serves up inventive Mediterranean cuisine to LoDo patrons all day long. Take a walk on the wild side and try the Spanish Octopus Farfalle, or appeal to your inner kid with Eric's House Made Donuts for brunch.

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13. Bastien's Restaurant 3503 E Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80206 (City Park)

This isn’t just a slice of the jazzy, snazzy mid-century lush life — it’s the whole pie, from the snug mirrored bar to the split-level dining room lined with the black-and-white mugs of (who else?) Marilyn and Frank. You’ve got your goofy martinis, wine glasses filled to the brim, and soft, warm breadsticks. Your throwback snacks; your myriad chops; and finally, speaking of pie — could be banana cream or skillet-baked apple à la mode, depending on the evening.

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14. Colt & Gray 1553 Platte St, Denver, CO 80202 (Highland)

Colt & Gray is a New American resto and bar, serving grub with high quality regional ingredients and specializing in nose-to-tail utilization. They also pour some terrific craft cocktails.

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15. Funny Plus 2779 S Parker Rd, Aurora, CO 80014

Funny Plus means serious business poultry-wise. Stick with the plain chicken, so you can add chili sauce as you go. Oh, and order the "rice cake simmered in chili sauce," too.

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16. Work & Class 2500 Larimer St, Denver, CO 80205 (Five Points)

Work & Class keeps it simple: a choose-a-meat-and-side menu with delicious options like Stout-Braised Short Ribs and two types of Rotisserie Chicken, a respectably large beer, wine, and spirits menu, and a no-nonsense attitude all make this spot an easy pick for an after-work hangout.

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17. Glaze 1160 Madison St, Denver, CO 80206 (Congress Park)

Glaze is first & foremost a bakery, serving mostly baum cakes: a multi-layer cake that evolved from baumkuchen , a German spit cake. It's cooked in an oven Glaze imported from Japan and topped with almost whatever you'd like. They even have a matcha green tea cake. If you're not into sweets, they also serve Japanese bao buns, tasting plates like fried tofu or scallops, and do brunch.

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18. Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs 2148 Larimer St, Denver, CO 80205 (Cbd)

Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs, settled in Denver's Central Business District, started as founder Jim Pettinger's mobile stainless steel slinging machine of one-of-a-kind hotdogs. Now a brick-and-mortar establishment, you can sit down comfortably and enjoy coca-cola sautéed onions and cream cheese atop an elk frank.



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