AAA Travel Tips / Denver, Culinarily Speaking

Denver, Culinarily Speaking

The Fort/Lois Ellen Frank
By AAA Travel Editor Frank Swanson
February 05, 2019
If you aren’t afraid to embrace a little culinary novelty, then the following local restaurants will not disappoint. Recalling the days when pioneers had to make do with what was available on the frontier, some top Denver chefs are preparing wonderful dishes focused on game meats like bison, elk, pheasant and others as well as the Colorado delicacy known as Rocky Mountain oysters—bull testicles breaded and deep fried. Try it. You just might like it.
Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs in downtown Denver, Colorado
AAA/Frank Swanson
Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs
2148 Larimer St.
AAA Inspector Rating
(720) 746-9355
Scarfing down something as common as hot dogs might seem like the opposite of adventurous things to do, but you won’t see wieners like the ones served at Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs at your neighbor’s backyard barbecue. Among this AAA One Diamond restaurant’s very uncommon meat choices are bison, elk, pheasant, reindeer, wild boar and even rattlesnake. Your options for toppings aren’t exactly garden variety either: harissa roasted cactus, Malaysian curry jam or wasabi aioli add an extra kick to what is guaranteed to be a hot dog experience you won’t forget.
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historic, bar, saloon, taxidermy, old west
AAA/Inspector 37
Buckhorn Exchange
1000 Osage St.
AAA Inspector Rating
(303) 534-9505
A culinary landmark packed to the rafters with Old West charm, Buckhorn Exchange is one of Denver’s most historic places to eat. The AAA Two Diamond restaurant opened in 1893, and over the decades it has served a colorful array of characters—not to mention five U.S. presidents. Buckhorn displays its long history on its walls, which nearly sag under the weight of historic items that include a gun collection and hundreds of mounted animals. Many dishes served today have been on the menu since the beginning. Start with rattlesnake or Rocky Mountain oysters for an appetizer and move on to elk or bison. If you’d prefer ostrich or yak, be sure to call ahead to see if those entrees are available.
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The Fort restaurant in Devner Colorado
The Fort/Lois Ellen Frank
The Fort
19192 Hwy 8
AAA Inspector Rating
(303) 697-4771
A foodie destination in the red rock foothills near Denver, The Fort has been celebrating Colorado history and cuisine since it opened in 1963. The adobe building housing the AAA Three Diamond restaurant—designed to look like an actual 1830s fort in southeastern Colorado—offers sweeping views of the countryside including Denver’s downtown skyscrapers. Menu items inspired by the area’s catch-as-catch-can frontier days include elk, musk ox, ostrich, pheasant, wild boar and yak. The Fort is particularly known for its various preparations of bison, and one of its most popular appetizers is the Rocky Mountain oysters.
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Vesta restaurant in Denver Colorado
Courtesy of Vesta
Vesta
1822 Blake St.
AAA Inspector Rating
(303) 296-1970
Grilled meats take center stage at AAA Three Diamond Vesta, a LoDo dining destination where you can choose from a list of a dozen dipping sauces ranging from sweet to savory. Beef, lamb, chicken, duck, pork and fish are, not surprisingly, on the menu, and vegetarians have options as well, but if you’re craving something a bit less conventional, try the pasta with elk sausage small plate or an entrée of grilled venison in a cherry port reduction.
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Dark beer and burger
iStockphoto.com/freeskyline
Wynkoop Brewing Company
1634 18th St.
AAA Inspector Rating
(303) 297-2700
Although you would never know it now, Denver’s LoDo area was once a seedy district most folks avoided after dark. That began to change in 1988 around the time Wynkoop Brewing Company, Colorado’s first brewpub, opened its doors in a historic, five-story brick commercial building across from Union Station. Today, the area is packed with bars, restaurants and other fun places to go, but AAA Two Diamond Wynkoop Brewing still enjoys the reputation as the destination for beer lovers, especially those looking for something a little out of the ordinary. (One beer is made with Rocky Mountain oysters.) Bison also appears on the menu, delicious as either meatloaf or in a burger.
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