Updated: Aug 10
This week's food guide is from special guest writer Nick Ossello. Nick is from Colorado and spent many years as a pro lacrosse player with the Denver Outlaws in the MLL and Redwoods in the PLL. As a result, he has been over served in multiple establishments in the Denver area, and has a unique knowledge, albeit through Coors Light colored haze, of great spots to hit. Here is, clearly unedited as you can tell from the opening, Nick's guide to food and drink in Denver.
I am not from Denver and I wake up and thank god that is the case. I am from a lovely little suburb called WHEAT RIDGE COLORADO which is best described as the piece of land between Denver and the Mountains. It was the best of both worlds- the mountains right there and the city right there so you could do a little bit of either. My good friend Dan Arestia asked me to write a little food review of places to hit and, no shocker here, he asked me to do it on the tail end of a funeral I attended in Long Island earlier this week. Shockingly bad timing but wouldn't expect it from anyone else, he didn't even offer his condolences he just said “get to work!” It might be because he is a grade A scumbag or it might be because I didn’t tell him about it. Either way Dan=Bad. Lets begin.
Overall Denver Food Scene:
Denver is an interesting place because in the last 5 years it’s “shit hole meter” has drastically risen. The housing prices have skyrocketed, what Fox News says about San Francisco has skyrocketed, and the fact that 700,000 people per year who are all looking to explore the mountains somewhere and “get away” decided to wind up in the same place has some pros and has some cons. The cons are that I now deem it a shitty place to live. The pros is that the food scene has improved the last few years in a significant way. Though the improvement is there, Denver is constantly trying to play with the big bois and repeatedly failing. The most packed restaurants are often time gimmicks (if you go to Happy Camper you are a loser those are the facts) and while some places hit, many places can still charge high prices and capitalize off the population boom from California/New York dipshits while not inherently offering fantastic food. Let’s wade through some of this BS.
Fancy Dick Occassion:
If you are looking to take your lady on a date night and pay $150 here is a way to make that OK and not wind up pissed.
Citizen Rail: Most people will tell you about Tavernetta. They will rave about the “homemade pasta” and how they roll it out right there (wow!) and how it’s one of the best Italian spots in Denver. These people are babies and sleep with a rotating crib toy above their bed. Tavernetta is OK but Citizen Rail is literally right next door and a step above. Very cool bar, the menu changes constantly depending on what is in season and was one of the few truly delicious staples. Go here, order a cocktail at the bar, then get a table for dinner. But Denver sucks now so you probably have to make a reservation 5 months in advance. Good luck
El Five: This place is worth it for the views alone, but they also offer some pretty damn good food. One of 3 places in Denver I trust the Paella. Go there, order some goat cheese Croquettes, something else that looks tasty, and “wow” your date by spending $200 but actually being able to look at a nice view when your personality falls short and the conversation stalls. You cant put a price on “what a view” when your charisma fails you
When did everything become a market?
One thing about Denver- if something works expect it to get copied about 10 times before the end of the year. This has happened with those places that have a big bar and then 10ish small restaurants. Here is a power ranking of those marketplaces:
Avanti. Avanti is the OG, has great views of Downtown Denver, and good food options. Get there before the rush and get a spot with stadium seating to watch the sunset
Denver Central Market. DCM has one of the better bars in town with fantastic cocktails, the food options are limited but all high quality. Go there for lunch and have a brown liquor cocktail. Then argue with your wife.
Denver Milk Market. Milk market tries its best but fails. Its a little bit of a shit show and confusing
Dickhead 23 Year Old Looking To Get Drunk:
Oh wow you and your boys got an AirBnb and are going to play beer dice and are then going to cruise for a sick spot to go strike out with every girl at the bar? Sick man. Here’s actually what you should do
The Rooftop at Coors Field: The Rockies suck so they decided to put an awesome rooftop bar in at Coors Field to attract any sort of crowd. This is truly one of the better bars in all of Denver. Incredible views of the mountain from the backside, you could probably use some fresh air, the tickets into the game are like $5 (granted this was a few years ago they are probably more expensive now), and enjoy every second. Follow this up by hitting McGregor square.
Hayters: This is the only place I will recommend based on Nostalgia. When I was on The Outlaws (you weren’t a pro lacrosse player, I was) this place was our number 1 spot to go to. As Jeremy Sieverts would say, “Win the game Win the post game” and the post game was always won here. Go there and keep the dream alive for all of us, even if you didnt win 2 rings.
Other than that, Blake Street is copy+paste the same loud crowded bar over and over again. There is no discernible difference other than what you’ll be able to distinguish from the outside. Cowboy Club will be bachelorette parties wearing cowgirl hats and blowing out your eardrums with their Ric Flair woos, Mile High Spirits will be 22 year old sweaty men dancing to the worst EDM remix you’ve heard today, and everywhere else you get the idea. Jacksons was my escape when I would want to leave and get a beer at an OK sports bar, I hope it’s still around.
Wheat Ridge Hidden Gems:
Now here are 2 things that can compete with anyone in the country. The 2 biggest hidden gems in Colorado.
Hickory Baked Ham: Go to hickory baked hams, get their ham sandwich, warm, French bread, mayo/mustard, and it will be impossible to not enjoy the rest of your day.
Apple Ridge Cafe Breakfast Burrito: Go to this diner on a Sunday morning and you’ll see an all time church crowd. The average age will be 87, but oh my god their green Chile (a staple of Colorado food) is some of the best in the state. Get their breakfast burrito but substitute sausage as the meat.
I’ve gotten to know them over the years and like many restaurants, the back end kitchen staff is of questionable legal status and not from America originally. It was one of the first distinct memories I had as a child where I KNEW- That is the right way to act. After a football game, my dad left a tip for the Waitress but also took a $5 or $10 whatever it was, and walked it behind the counter to give right to the chef who immediately responded with a surprised “gracias.” That chefs son now works as a busboy there and they are a staple of the community. I hope everyone at Apple Ridge Cafe is doing well because they deserve it