More than 16 million people visit Denver each year, and it's fair to assume that many of them come — at least in part — for the food. According to Becky Creighton, owner of Culinary Connectors, a Denver-based interactive culinary tour group, Denver has become a food mecca, with approximately 300 new restaurants opening each year.
The Foodie Experience
The tagline for Creighton's tour business is "At the heart of everything we do, food connects us." To hear her tell it, there's no city quite like Denver when it comes to bringing food lovers together. "Denver is definitely a food city, probably one of the top in the West," Creighton says.
She knows the Denver food scene inside and out, and she says that for most people, a great dining experience is not based on the number of stars awarded to a restaurant. It's based on three factors: great product, great atmosphere, and great service. "We have many restaurants that hit all three of those," she says.
Civic Center EATS
Denver is home to a thriving food truck scene. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, from May to October each year, Civic Center EATS on Colfax Avenue invites 50 of the best Denver-area food trucks to gather at the Civic Center Conservancy for what can best be described as a gourmet's dream. Visitors sit in the open air and enjoy all types of food while taking in gorgeous views and listening to incredible music.
Can't Miss Eateries
Root Down, located on West 33rd Avenue is a converted old gas station with retro chic decor and an unbeatable view of the Denver skyline. It's famous for its "field to fork" philosophy. Like many Denver restaurants, Root Down uses organic, natural, local foods to create dishes like roasted Kashmiri chicken. One of Creighton's favorite things about Root Down is that it offers gluten-free and vegan options for nearly every dish on the menu. It also has a raw food night once a month.
To the Wind Bistro is located on East Colfax Avenue. Rooted in French cuisine, this tiny bistro offers an atmosphere that is reminiscent of a Paris cafe. Chef Royce Oliveira, along with his wife, pastry chef Leanne Adamson, adjusts the menu daily based on two things: what sold well the night before and which fresh ingredients are available at the neighborhood Sprouts. The couple serves up dishes such as monkfish and braised veal with oyster mushrooms. With an area of only 628 square feet, To the Wind offers an intimate dining experience.
Tucked away on unassuming Welton Street is Dunbar Kitchen & Tap House. Among the dishes patrons brag about most are the brussel sprouts tossed with bacon, parmesan cheese, and mustard seeds. There’s also a happy hour that lasts four (yes, four) hours, an above-and-beyond waitstaff, and dog-friendly patio area. Dunbar Kitchen & Tap House is the kind of place where everyone is welcome, from parents with kids in tow to friends stopping by for a libation and burger.
El Taco de Mexico on Santa Fe Drive is a bare bones restaurant that makes Creighton's foodie heart flutter. The small, canary yellow building looks like something you might see across the border, and once you're inside, all you will find is a menu written predominantly in Spanish hung above the counter and a few booths and bar stools. "When you walk up and order, you see them pound the meat with a cleaver, and then ask for your money," Creighton says with a laugh. "It's so authentic."
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