Foodstalkers visited Denver a couple of weeks ago on business…party business. The occasion? A young, to-be lawyer, henceforth called “Chester,” was interning with a government agency I will not name, and several of his friends from back home took it upon themselves to visit for a double-header birthday weekend. The memories are countless, but the review in unison is “This was a Top 5 Best Weekend.” Along the way we had some pretty standout meals.
First meal (1:45am, street corner in LoDo): hotdogs (and a burrito for someone)—this meal should not go unmentioned because at the time I was convinced it was one of the best street dogs ever. Very meaty, and a variety of do-it-yourself toppings, including hot sauce. I may or may not have gotten mustard down the front of my dress. But a meal’s not good unless you make a mess.
Following an extensive walking tour around the Capitol, museum district and LoDo (Denverspeak for Lower Downtown), we stopped for our first Colorado brew or margarita at Wazee Lounge Supper Club.
I went with local brewing company Wynkoop’s Railyard Ale, and found it to be a refreshing mid-morning type of beer. The interior of this place is worth mentioning—open windows, so no AC; a loft with a dumbwaiter down to the lower level bar; stained glass windows; art deco bar and large meeting hall wooden benches. Wazee is renowned in town for their pizza, and though the aroma and looks of it on our neighbors’ tables were enticing, we made a quick exit to meet Chester for lunch at Wahoo’s Fish Taco.
Wahoo’s is a cute, order-at-the-counter kind of Tex Mex place (tacos, nachos, enchiladas, burritos, etc.), but with the added bonus of fish, shrimp, tofu and major veggies on the menu. It’s ideal for lunch as it’s affordable, healthy and offers variety. I ordered the Wahoo Bowl—concurrently learning that the wahoo is a kind of fish—teriyaki style (other options were blackened of flame grilled—I have yet to learn the difference) with white rice and spicy Cajun white beans. Plus chips and salsa. Yum! This served as good fuel for our trek through Confluence Park before dodging an afternoon thunderstorm while taking refuge at My Brother’s Bar, the oldest operating bar in Denver.
Later that evening we decked out in our finest Denver gear and sipped on mojitos at Samba Room while gearing up for a Moroccan feast at Marrakesh. That’s right, we passed on going to Casa Bonita, the Mexican buffet/amusement show featuring “cliff divers, escaping gorillas, cowboy shootouts, lost caves and caverns, amusement arcade and more.” I got the Marrakesh recommendation via a twitter contact who had eaten there. I’d say everyone was surprised by the serious array of flavors and spices, and the tasty Moroccan red wine.
We were served bread with a sweet, buttery herb dip—maybe butter, maybe yogurt? Don’t know, but it was light and creamy. I followed it up with a tomato/cucumber salad.
Most of us ordered an entrée tagine …and this word did provide endless entertainment. These cone shaped pots are used to cook stews. I ordered a lamb tagine with artichokes, peas and olives. The sauce was mild on the spicy scale, but full of earthy, rustic flavors from simmering with the tender bits of lamb. Some extra pepper saucers were provided to up the heat.
The food was fabulous, but the highlight of this meal was experiencing just a taste of a different culture. We propped up on pillows and drew out the meal over good conversation, many courses and fine wine.
I failed on foodstalking the next night, which is a shame because it was a great dinner pick by Chester. We went to Vesta Dipping Grill—a kind of concept restaurant that pairs foods from around the world with various dipping sauces, like jazzy curries, salsas, yogurt, chutney, bbq, aioli, soy and so on. I love this idea because I would characterize myself as a sauce person. For instance, a gyro is all about the tzatziki. Or chicken tenders: lay on the honey mustard please. And sushi: lots of soy and wasabi. After splitting a lot of appeteasers, I had a tuna roll for dinner (weak), but there were some fine entrees ordered around the table: Brown Sugar Grilled Pork Chop, Grilled Colorado Lamb Loin and a salad topped with Madras Grilled Venison. Holla!
We ended up the Capitol Hill area around dinner time the next night following the Pride Parade!, and coincidentally went to Vesta Grill’s brother restaurant—Steuben’s.
Upon walking in my words were, “Oh my gosh. This place is so [beeping] cute, I could rip my hair out.” And it was that cute. The restaurant business is cruel and scary, but if I were ever to open a restaurant, I would want it to look like this, and serve food like this. And drinks. Amazing cocktail menu of classic 50s-60s era drinks. I have to thank Ashton for the gorgeous food photography she took with her nice camera while we were there. Props!
We sat outside on the patio. It was nice out, cool Denver air. And it was happy hour. Gin is hands-down my favorite for cocktails, so I sidled up with a pink lady: that’s Plymouth Gin, Cointreau, fresh squeezed lemon and a dash of grenadine. Fantastico!
Steuben’s menu features favorite American homestyle dishes, but with simple upgrades in ingredients. First up: habanero honey fried corn on the cob. On the side, that’s pepper-honey butter, and the cobs are dusted in a spicy rub and topped with a crumbly goat cheese.
So I love carne, but I don’t usually order steak and cheese sandwiches…I generally don’t like liquid orange cheese. It wracks my nerves. This is one of my very few food issues. But a guy at the table next to us had ordered the steak and cheese and I was ogling it. I took this picture…it’s blurry (unlike Ashton’s). This sandwich was incredibly good. Good meat-to-cheese ratio and not too dry with the bread.
Prior to dinner we had stopped in at the most incredible neighborhood gourmet market—Marczyk Fine Foods. These folks specialize in naturally raised meats, cheeses from around the world, an unbelievable selection of pantry items (all top of the line ingredients), fresh produce, and a to-go lunch and picnic selection to make you drool. They also stock wines, beer and liquor. Sadly, I have the dream, but lack the capital to start this venture. Any charming investors are welcome to support me :) LG, I don’t know how this place compares to Central Market in Houston, but you would definitely be in love here, too. In fact, Cooking Light called this market Denver’s “Best Food Find” in June ’07. And yet again, everything comes back to Southern Progress.
On our final day in Denver, we went out with a bang, visiting a couple of parks—Cheesman Park, where we relaxed in a fountain and watched some dogs playing, and another park, where we rented deuce coupes. Exhausted, we trecked back via Vine Street Pub, a margarita place with a patio and finally back to Prime Bar for snacks and a final adieu to Chester with a glass of Scotch.
We ordered a couple of sushi rolls, hummus and calamari. And a cherry tart, with matches substituting for b’day candles.
All in all, an incredible weekend of fun, friends, and of course, food. Thanks for the memories, Chester!