The Mile High City is going nowhere but up! Tourism is Colorado’s second-largest employer, and hundreds of thousands of people try out visiting Denver every year.
One reason why Denver tourism is so big is Denver foods. Denver may not jump out as a food capital at first glance. But if you study what to eat in Denver, you’ll be surprised by how versatile and beautiful the Denver food scene is.
What are Denver’s best meats? What cuisines have left their mark on Denver restaurants? How do chefs experiment with different dishes?
Answer these questions and you can enjoy incredible foods you can’t get elsewhere. Here is your quick guide.
Denver is home to two separate bison herds. This gives Denver restaurants meat for burgers, steaks, and tartare, amongst other dishes.
Bison meat is red meat, similar to beef or pork. But it is extremely low in fat and rich in protein and other nutrients, making it a healthy choice when you want to eat meat.
Due to how lean the meat is, you should order a bison steak rare or medium rare. You may also want to season your steak with garlic butter and salt.
Colorado is also home to a massive population of sheep. The sheep feed on local grasses that are sweet, and the sweetness of the grass integrates into their meat.
You can enjoy many cuts of lamb, including steaks and roasts. The rib and loin chops can be very expensive, but they are delicious when roasted and paired with side dishes like baked potatoes.
If you prefer a smokier dish, you can try lamb ribs. Many chefs roast or grill the ribs with smoked paprika, lemon zest, and garlic, creating a flavorful and rich dish. You can also experiment with lamb ragu and other pasta dishes.
Rocky Mountain Oysters
Ask someone about the most infamous foods in Denver, and they’ll probably talk about Rocky Mountain oysters. They are deep-fried bull testicles. They may seem a little gross, but they are a good way of using every part of the animal for meals.
Chefs remove the testicles from their outer membrane, which prevents the testicles from being too tough. Some chefs use cornmeal instead of flour to bread the testicles, which can add a little sweetness to them.
You can dip your oysters in cocktail sauce, ketchup, or mayonnaise. If you want to turn them into a full meal, you can eat them with fries and drink a craft beer.
Many foods in Colorado have Mexican or Tex-Mex influences, similar to many Austin, Texas foods. The first Europeans to settle in Colorado were Spanish conquistadors, and they brought ingredients and dishes with them.
The most popular Mexican dish in Colorado is green chili, which is distinct from Texas-style or bean-based chili. As the name suggests, green chili contains significant amounts of green chile peppers. They are not as spicy as red peppers, but they still contain a spicy kick and smoky notes.
Many chefs prepare their chili by dipping chiles, tomatoes, and tomatillos in flour. They cook them so they release their excess water and have more concentrated flavors. They then add pieces of pork and chicken stock.
You can eat a bowl of green chili by itself or with tortilla chips. You can also have a burger or burrito with green chile sauce in it.
Chilaquiles are another popular Mexican dish. They are pieces of corn tortillas that are fried in a pan and cooked in salsa.
You can eat them with shredded cheese, fried eggs, and beans. If you want a little more protein, you can add ground beef or chopped chorizo.
They are a good breakfast dish, and you can find them in various cafes around Denver. Some chefs like to add green chile sauce or fresh chile peppers to their chilaquiles, but you can find non-spicy versions as well.
Mountain pizza is Denver’s version of pizza. The crust is very thick, making it more similar to breadsticks than anything else. The middle is very thin but filled with cheese, sauce, and your favorite pizza toppings.
Many locals like to break the crust into small pieces and dip them in tomato sauce. A few even dip the crust into honey.
Some restaurants sell their pizza in pounds, not slices or inches. A one-pound pizza pie is usually enough for one person.
Olathe is a small town in southwestern Colorado that is famous for its sweet corn. The kernels are very sweet and succulent, and you can eat them raw.
Some of the best Denver foods and dishes have sweet corn in them. Elotes are pieces of grilled sweet corn served with cotija cheese, chili powder, and lime juice. They are a good snack, appetizer, or side dish, especially when paired with other Mexican dishes.
Many chefs make variants of Olathe corn soup or chowder. They remove the kernels off of a few ears of corn and cook them with cream, broth, or water. They then add garlic, chile peppers, and other ingredients to create a filling dish.
What to Eat in Denver
Learning about what to eat in Denver means learning about everything in food. Bison and sheep frolic in Denver fields and offer steaks, roasted chops, and other delicious dishes. You can even sample Rocky Mountain oysters if you’re feeling adventurous.
Mexican cuisine has deep roots in Denver foods, and you can find Mexican restaurants everywhere. Try out dishes with green chiles and Olathe sweet corn, including soups and elotes.
Dive from Denver into other food scenes. What To Eat In provides great guides on what to eat in the world’s best cities. Read our guide to Chicago food today.