Unique Food Trends: Denver, Colorado

There's more to Denver food culture than the Denver omelet. The city is home to some of the country's best Mexican food, microbreweries galore, and a handful of fast-casual chains (cough, Chipotle) got their start here. While Denverites have jumped on board many of the popular national trends like gastropubs, noodle bars, and using more locally sourced ingredients, they've also held onto some uniquely Denver foodisms.

Fast-Casual

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Chipotle. [Flickr: LinksmanJD]

Denver is kind of the motherland of fast-casual food concepts. Chipotle started here, and the burrito chain continues to expand and challenge the idea of "fast-food," installing solar panels and sourcing sustainably-raised beef and vegetables from farmers.

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Bacon cheeseburger with barbecue sauce from Smashburger. [Flickr: paulswansen]

Smashburger is another Colorado chain that has spread its wings to Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, and beyond. Following the Chipotle-style business model, it's a roll-right-up and sit-yourself-down place minus the fluorescent heat lamps and frozen patties. The burgers are made fresh from 100% Angus beef and are smashed between "artisan" buns (egg, chipotle, or multi-grain). The signature Smashfries are spiked with rosemary and garlic. Noodles & Company is another chain and now has over a hundred outlets. Surprise, surprise, they sell noodles—linguine, elbows, and other forms of squiggly pasta, with multiple sauce options.

Microbreweries

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Great Divide beers on tap. [Photographs: SchultzLabs]

Denver is known as the Napa Valley of beer to the local beer nerds (obviously the whole Coors Brewing Company of Golden, Colorado, had something to do with it). There are a good handful of breweries in and around Denver brewing up a bunch of wild flavors. Great Divide does an Espresso Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout infused with espresso from local roastery Pablo's Coffee. (So that's double the Denver pride). Breckenridge Brewery is another popular one. What started as a 3,000-barrel-a-year brewpub in Breckinridge, Colorado, now churns out 30,000 barrels a year and has a bottling facility in Denver. People love their Avalanche Amber Ale.

Other notable Colorado beer-makers: Dillon Dam Brewery, Tommyknocker Brewery, Steamworks Brewing Company, and tons (as in, hundreds) more.

Green Chile

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Half-green chile and half-red burrito. At Jack n' Grill, they call this "Christmas." [Flickr: negatendo]

You'll see green chile-filled dishes on countless menus all over Denver. Shoot, even some Wal-Marts roast the chiles right there in the parking lot. According to Denver Westword, the real-deal is at Jack-n-Grill, where they roast green chiles on site and throw them into chili (the hearty stew-soup with pork) as well as tacos, breakfast burritos, and cups of roasted cheesy corn.

Another popular way to eat the chile is on a cheeseburger—especially the one from Steuben's. The New Mexican tradition involves green chile bits smothered with melty cheese on a meat patty with shredded lettuce on a soft bun.

Honey Pizza Crusts

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"The Mountain Pie" with honey crust from Beau Jo's. [Photograph: Daniel Zemans]

Since when is it a good idea to combine pizza and honey? Well, apparently Denver is on board. At Beau Jo's, they makes their pizzas with honey-flavored crusts: honey white (the standard) and honey whole-wheat. They even stock the tables with honey squeeze bottles for dipping purposes. The crusts are huger than average, maximizing surface area for the honey-dunking ritual, a built-in dessert after the meal.

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