The NSSTA Fall Conference begins next week! We have invited Anne Marie Panoringan, a freelance food writer out of Orange County, California, to share her tips for making the most of our time in Denver. She regularly contributes to OC Weekly’s food and drink blog, and has written for Westways, South Coast Plaza’s TASTE, Where OC and Foodbeast. Follow her on Instagram as brekkiefan.
First off, we can’t ignore the obvious: Beer
The Great American Beer Festival (GABF) wrapped up earlier this month, reminding us that Denver is most definitely a brew town. Now while you can easily order a Coors, take in some of the local taps. Hometown heroes include Great Divide and Falling Rock. Along the craft lines, visiting breweries such as Crooked Stave and Prost will give you street cred.
Place to unwind: Union Station
A complete renovation of this train depot resulted in a grand place any time of day. From an oyster bar to bookshop, hotel to modern diner, this place does it all with class. Or take a comfortable seat in the main hall to just people watch. An upstairs cocktail bar is a peaceful retreat from the bustle, but head to street level for a bite from Mercantile or pint from selections at Terminal Bar.
Our favorite meal: Brekkie (breakfast)
If you love eggs and pork products as much as I do, then this is your section. Breakfast at Denver Biscuit Company (three locations) guarantees the greatest of food comas with a cup of self-serve Joe. For something a little quicker, Port Side has both legit coffee and avocado toast for the Instagram set. Temple Bakery is a handful of blocks away, serving morning pastries out of a converted synagogue. Our favorite, though, was Stowaway. This is not your typical breakfast spot, incorporating multicultural influences in the best possible way.
Splurge meal: Depends—Do you have a car?
If you are staying in the city and want a power lunch/dinner, then Guard & Grace is a solid spot. New American cuisine is executed with sophistication; ideal for expense account meals. With a rental, go the distance and visit the city of Boulder for Frasca Food and Wine. Your custom tasting menu awaits at this neighborhood Italian. Be sure to select from one of Denver’s best wine lists, thanks to Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey. Advance reservations for both are recommended.
Only in Denver: Red Rocks and DAM!
Whether it’s exploring the venue by day or catching a concert at night, a visit to this breathtaking outdoor space reminds us how spectacular nature is. Visit the on-site museum or get some cardio in with those stairs, it’ll be time well-spent at Red Rocks. If the weather is inclement, head downtown to the Denver Art Museum (DAM, for short) for their sprawling indoor exhibits. On select days, you may even catch a fleet of food trucks parked across the street (in front of city hall). It’s a great way to sample what the city has to offer.
Shiny and new: Departure and SOL
The Cherry Creek neighborhood is where you’ll discover some of Denver’s trendiest occupants. Top Chef fans should visit Gregory Gourdet’s Departure concept, located inside the new Halcyon Hotel. His take on elevated cuisine is only rivaled by the sleek ambiance. And be sure to order dessert. Down the street, SOL’s corner spot is a sight to see and be seen. Chef Deb Schneider’s take on Mexican fare will spice up your palate. Bonus: both are within walking distance.
And how about those food halls . . . .
The idea of grouping multiple tasty concepts under one roof has reached Colorado. While a few of these halls have started popping up, the best is the original known as The Source. This industrial space not only has its own parking structure attached (a rarity), but its own butcher, bodega, brewery and highly regarded restaurants like Acorn. This was the only place we visited twice during our visit. If you haven’t experienced a food hall before, consider The Source your gateway to the Denver dining scene.