The Broncos vs. the Seahawks. It has all the makings of a great football game: Peyton Manning trying to cement his legacy by winning the big game one more time; the Seahawks' secondary trying to prove to the world that they can shut down any offense, no matter how good it is (and the Broncos offense is mighty good, putting up 400 yard total offense games like they're an every-week occurrence). But we're going to put all those mini-melodramas aside for the moment and focus on the food of the respective cities these teams hail from. At first glance, it looks like a blowout. Seattle's food scene has absolutely exploded in the last 20 years, led by chef Tom Douglas, who happens to be built like a Seahawk himself. (His speed might be an issue, though.) But in recent years, Denver has been coming on food-wise, so without further adieu let the food game begin!
The first quarter is all about pizza. Seattle has come a long way, pizza-wise, in the last decade: Serious Pie, Delancey, Via Tribunale, and Veraci all make pies I would be thrilled to be eating any time of the day or night. But in the last couple of years, Denver and Boulder, which I am blending to even up this battle, have come on strong pizza-wise: there's Pizzeria Locale, Pizzeria Basta, and Marco's Coal-Fired Pizza, among a few other serious pizzerias utilizing wood or charcoal-fired fired ovens and skilled pizzaiolos. But those two Colorado cities still are not ready to go pie to pie with the pie men and women from Seattle. Score at the end of the first quarter: Seattle 10, Denver 7.
Second quarter is devoted to sandwiches, including breakfast sandwiches, burgers, and hot dogs. Here's what Denver brings to the table: Smashburger, a 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. Then there's Biker Jim's hot dogs. These tubesteaks are made made with reindeer, elk, wild boar, buffalo, pheasant, rattlesnake, and/or veal, and there's a variety of rotating brat specials such as Boudin and Linguisa. And of course Chipotle started in Denver — who amongst us hasn't eaten at a Chipotle in the last month? It's perfected the good-for-the-world, good-for-the-taste-buds positioning in the fast-casual space.
Seattle also brings it between-the-bread-wise. For breakfast sandwiches, there's Seatown Seabar, there's Monster Dogs for classic Seattle hot dogs, topped by cream cheese and sweet onions. Hamburgers range from the cheffy-but-simple burger at Palace Kitchen to the classic Dick's Drive-In, where the thin griddled burgers and fries both rock. Lunch sandwich standouts include the offerings at Salumi Artisan Cured Meats (the prosciutto, goat cheese, and fig sandwich is a must), and Paseo, where the garlicky roast pork sandwich is a must. Second quarter score: Seattle 14, Denver 10
Third quarter is devoted to beer: Both teams hail from craft beer championship series. Washington state has over 160 breweries, including Serious Eats favorites like Fremont Brewing, Two Beers Brewing, Reuben's Brews, Boundary Bay, Elysian, and many more. Seattle gets good beer points, for sure, especially if you can go there and drink what's local and never leaves the state. The city's cocktail scene might be even better, with destinations like Canon, Zig Zag, Essex, Radiator Whiskey, Liberty, and Vessel, just to name a few. Washington's huge cider culture and wine industry scores them a few more points, too.
But we can't think of the Super Bowl without mostly thinking of beer, and Colorado is heaven when it comes to brewing. There's stellar Great Divide right in Denver, plus a number of newer breweries, and the state is full of favorites, including Odell, Crooked Stave, Avery, Funkwerks, New Belgium, Oskar Blues, Dry Dock, and so many more. Denver is also the home of the Great American Beer Festival, which is pretty much the beer event to end all beer events, so we have to hand this one to the Broncos. Third quarter scoring: Denver 21, Seattle 14
Fourth quarter is devoted to dessert and sweets. Seattle has the Daily Dozen Doughnut Company, Old-School Frozen Custard, Cupcake Royale, Dahlia Bakery, Macrina Bakery, and Fran's Chocolates and Theo Chocolates. Denver and Boulder counter primarily with ice cream shops like Ice Cream Alchemy and Sweet Cow, and of course the seriously buttery and delicious Enstrom's Toffee. I'm afraid Seattle takes this quarter rather soundly. Fourth quarter: Seattle 14, Denver 3
Final Score: Seattle 52, Denver 41 in a high-scoring slugfest. I'm afraid there's no defense for serious deliciousness.
About the author: Ed Levine is the founder of Serious Eats.