Category Archives: Dining
So before I headed out-of-town last week, I was fortunate enough to enjoy a few meals with good friends and family to catch up and wish me well. One of the places we went to, at my suggestion, was Shells & Sauce. Located off of 12th Street and Elizabeth Street in Denver, Shells & Sauce has become my go-to place for delicious Italian. Each time I go there I’ve tried something new off their ever-changing menu, and have never been let down. The house lasagna, their pasta arribiatta, the veal, you name it! The restaurant itself is comfortably cozy and always fills up their dining and bar space on the first floor (so I recommend getting a reservation). But, in the summer or a mild winter night you can venture up to the more secluded patio and bar area for a quiet, low-key evening. I hadn’t been to the second floor before, but I was pleasantly surprised by the change in ambience and the wait staffs extra attention to customers up there.
For dinner, my friend and I enjoyed gracious complimentary serving of freshly baked house bread with Shells & Sauce signature dipping oils. My oh my, this was good enough to make the meal! The bread was warm, soft and fluffy in the interior, perfect for dipping into oil and vinegar, which was blended just right. For the main course I ordered the 6 cheese pasta pouch, a tasty assortment of stuffed pasta, paired with the classic Peroni beer while my friend enjoyed the veal, accompanied by New Belgium’s Sunshine Wheat. The lightness of the Peroni was well met by the mixed medley of fresh vegetables that accompanied the parmesan cream sauce which really made the meal. The pasta itself was cooked right to perfection, not too al-dente and by no means soggy. My friend’s veal was by all accounts delicious, her and waiter both raving about it for the rest of the night. All in all, Shells & Sauce is that neighborhood place to catch up with old friends, enjoy a superbly made meal, and all without breaking the bank. For the level of service and culinary talent this restaurant is a complete steal and always worth considering for the next “Date Night” outing.
That being said the other restaurant I recently visited is no stranger to Downtown living. Marlowe’s is a well-known staple to urban Denverites, located across from the 16th Street Mall on the corner of Glenarm and 16th Street. This upscale meat and potatoes restaurant also features a traditional bar area that is frequented by all sorts of 9 – 5ers ending their busy work days. That being said they also make a wonderful meal, with a menu that can do no wrong. My father and I settled in for a late night dinner after visiting the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Expo, taking place just a few blocks over at the Colorado Convention Center. Both of us starved, we immediately ordered something filling and warm for such a chilly long day.
My father ordered the steak and potatoes entrée, complete with a caesar salad and Big Nose Brewing Wheat beer. What amounts to a simple order could be anything from it when his dinner arrived. A tasty plate of seasoned and seared potatoes dribbled with house steak sauces and marinades was topped off by what looked like the ideally cooked medium-rare flank steak. I myself ordered the Bison Burger, complete with New Belgium’s 1554 and a house salad served with their Blue Cheese vinaigrette dressing. The salad was to die for! The medley mixture of vegetables was more or less commonplace, but the inclusion of moist yellow raisins, pine nuts, and the decadent vinaigrette dressing really took this “house” salad above and beyond. My burger was just what the doctor ordered before a trip to the Far East: meaty. Though it wasn’t beef, this treat packed just as much of a that hard to describe taste and feel, well complemented by the boursin and white balsamic shallots and toasted bun it was served with. The side of seasoned steak fries are better than any set of string or waffle fries and left me feeling full and satisfied; the ideal meal before a day of travel. So next time you’re walking around Downtown Denver without a clue as to a great place for beers, beef, salads or potatoes, give Marlowe’s a try.
So the other day my friend and I enjoyed a long and lazy lunch downtown stopping by the Rialto Cafe and Tilted Kilt, both located along the 16th Street Mall in the heart of Downtown Denver. I had high hopes for Rialto, I had walked by several times in the past and looked over their menu and seemed delicious. Between their happy hour, late night deals, and their infamous brunch I had heard good things. So with excited anticipation I gladly met my friend there for lunch.
Now aesthetically, the Rialto Cafe is a gorgeous restaurant. Its dining area is open from front to back, but segmented into different sections based on table type, such as hightop tables, booths, traditional tables, and their full service bar. This layout provides a great balance for enjoying your lunch in a social setting, but not having to talk over your neighbors or feel like your stuck in a corner. (Great for people watching too). The decor is fairly modern, with sleek booths and a gorgeous full service bar area on the righthand side as you enter. Looking over the menu, which is quite varied, I couldn’t seem to decide on what I wanted. There was a great selection of traditional sandwiches with subtle twists, like their BLT or Reuben. They also had a good selection of burgers, including ones made of Kobe beef or buffalo meat.
However, it was the Cuban Pork that caught my eye; slow roasted pork with shaved ham, provolone cheese, sliced pickles, and spicy mustard served on a grilled rustic roll. I ordered it with a cup of the soup of the day and a side of coleslaw. Thank goodness for that, as the soup and coleslaw were the best parts of the meal. The cheese and broccoli soup was made with a blend of several different cheeses, including Harvarti, which added a unique and enjoyable flavor to the soup. The chunks of potato and broccoli were just the right size and complemented the soup’s consistency. The coleslaw was nothing special, but lived up to what a traditional coleslaw should tasty like. Moist, but crunchy, and spicy in the sense of dill. Now the sandwich on the other hand did not live up to my expectations. The bread was good, but certainly dominated the sandwich, and was a bit tough on the ends. The “slow roasted” pork was indeed moist, but lacked flavor and spice, making each bit relatively dull. The shaved ham tasted as if it was came out of a Lunchables Box, and the mustard was hardly spicy at all. All in all the only thing that lived up to its title was the provolone cheese, which melted over the ham and bread gave the sandwich a hint of good flavor. That being said, I’m sure their other menu items may be better. My friend ordered their encrusted and seared tuna with a jicama salad, and aside from the relatively small size of the portion, was delicious. Also, we both sampled some of their house lemonades and I found mine, the Pomegranite Lemonade, to have a robust flavor and just the right amount of carbonation.
Moving our lunch along we stopped off at the Titled Kilt, only a few blocks northwest of Rialto Cafe, for a lunch beer and a place to continue our conversations. Now late lunch at the Tilted Kilt certainly isn’t their element, and aside from other folks enjoying a brew the place was mostly empty. But their beer selection was quite good, featuring more than 16 on tap, and double that in the bottle. I settled on a Laughing Lab Scottish Ale, made locally by the good folks at Bristol Brewing Company in Colorado Springs. If you’re ever head down that way, make sure to stop by and talk shop with their founder Mike Bristol. This dark ale was almost like a light brown ale in it had a hint of sweet, malty flavoring and a deliciously smooth finish. but for being dark it certainly was not heavy and its drink-ability was top-notch, definitely a good call to enjoy our conversational banter with.
So this past weekend was the last chance to enjoy Denver’s celebration of Bavarian heritage, live music & merriment, and of course…beer! So, on a surprisingly warm September day a few friends and I headed down to the Ballpark District to see things for ourselves.
When we first arrived its easy to see the numerous tents and stages setup for the vendors and performers. On either end of the festival were two stages for live music, with several blocks worth of covered tents between them. Journeying forward we see that there’s abundant food available from a multitude of vendors under these tents. Combined with the seemingly endless rows of tables and chairs, these tents form huge outdoor dining & drinking halls. And indeed, the beer was flowing, featuring both Coors and Sam Adams products. I myself was smitten with the classic Boston Lager from Samuel Adams Brewing, though they did feature the festival’s only seasonal beer: a namesake Oktoberfest. While enjoying my glass stein of the amber liquid, my friends and I continued to explore around and discover what other merriment was at the festival.
We came to find short lines and fun activities, including live music, carnival game tents, and an odd hamster ball on water game. People go into these clear plastic bubbles and then play across a large kiddie pool of water. The hilarity ensues as the participants try to stand in place, walking, and even doing flips in their bubbles on water. While this may not have any true ties to Oktoberfest, it certainly drew a crowd of curious eyes.
Meanwhile, the main stage featured two great performing groups, one of professionals and one of amateurs. The first are the traditional musicians and dancers dressed in full Bavarian clothing. This group seemed to be made up of two or three families and it was adorable watching the children enjoying their culture. One of the more memorable song and dance routines included wood chopping and sawing. No doubt based on the traditional usage and importance of timber in German history, the lumberjacks kept the beat and rhythm of the song through their axes and two-man saws.
But the most enjoyable, and certainly unique, entertainment was the stein hoisting competition. Simply put men and women drawn from the crowd held a “filled-to-the-brim” glass stein outstretched in each hand for as long as they could. While it sounds simple these steins are monstrous and made out of heavy-duty glass. (After trying myself I gave up after about 2 minutes, and that was with only one!) This isometric feat of strength was the highlight of the afternoon, with more than 60 or so contestants stepping up to the plate. Each round brought new surprises, contestants young and old, big and small, muscular and petite. But the best performance was an outstanding 6 minute showing from a middle aged gentleman. He didn’t have the biggest arms of the day, nor the best technique…but he was centered and focused. For a day filled with beer and a somewhat younger crowd this was a matter of honor and pride for him.
Moving along my friends and I decided to take a break from this celebration of German heritage and step into a different culture for dinner. So giving up our steins for pints we headed up the 16th Street Mall for a delicious dinner at Katie Mullen’s. Certainly the highlight of my meal was a delicious appetizer of salmon, pita and chive cream cheese. Though it may seem an odd mixture it was the best thing I ate all evening! The only thing that may have topped the food was enjoying the cooler temperature setting in for a balmy 70 degree night downtown on their outdoor patio. Facing out to 16th Street Mall it was easy to enjoy my dinner, have good conversation and people watch the night away. For the main course I partook in a somewhat bland Fish and Chips dinner. On the plus side I was given a heaping fillet of fish with just the right amount of fry encrusting the outside as well as a wonderful pairing of coleslaw. However, the steak fries were somewhat bland and lacked flavor, and the tartar sauce was a veiled concoction of mayonnaise at best. All in all I ate my fill and by the end of my meal I was stuffed and could take no more. While the fish and chips weren’t up to my standards, I’ve never been let down by Katie Mullen’s before and would recommend their boxty if you’re looking for a delicious and authentically Irish dish.
Afterwards we headed back to partake in some live music and fireworks. Unfortunately huge lines and thick crowds took away much of the carefree fun from our afternoon experience. Instead we headed up to the Tavern Downtown and enjoyed the fireworks from the largest rooftop bar deck in the state! It was a great show, filling the night sky with cracks, pop, and showers of glitter and light. The rest of the evening was centered around Downtown Denver’s nightlife as we continued to dance, drink and enjoy the evening. We stopped by Lodos for another taste of the rooftop life, while enjoying great music and less of a pretentious crowd than the Tavern drew. People dressed for a fun night and dancing versus people dressed to impressed and an odd mix of baseball fans, cougars on the prowl and powerbrokers from 17th Street blowing through their cash. The night continued on, and we stopped by 1Up next. A hipster bar if there ever was one, we packed into a somewhat dank and humid basement the bar is filled with retro and classic arcade games. While the nerd in me would absolutely love to sip his drink and play skeet ball all night, the crowds and pretentious drink orders make me think Saturday isn’t quite the right night for that. So in the end we went back to the Tavern to meet up with some friends…and that’s what really makes the night what it is. It’s not the music, the crowds or the cover charges. It’s about catching up with friends, meeting new ones and dancing the night away!
Autumn in the High Country. The aspens are beginning to change colors, the first snow of winter has dusted the mountain tops, and hundreds turned out to celebrate Oktoberfest in Breckenridge! That’s right for two days Breckenridge’s Main Street shut down to host one of Colorado’s best beer festivals. Breckenridge Brewery and Paulaner were on hand to provide several variations of ale and pilsners. Toasted Head Winery rounded out the drink menu by having samplings of some of their most popular bottles. But as much of a draw as well designed steins and enough kegs to criss-cross Colorado with, the biggest draw has to be the wonderful food and atmosphere.
Those Austrian Guys were on hand to get the crowds riled up with traditional Austrian & Bavarian tunes; from polkas to the chicken dance the band was in their element. And the food…don’t get me started, they had everything under the sun. Of course there was the traditional bratwursts, schnitzel, and pretzels. But there were also stands dedicated to turkey legs, funnel cakes, grilled corn and a whole host of other delicious festival food. Sure there was some rain and chilly weather on Saturday, but that didn’t dampen any spirits or keep the crowds away. The one element of Breckenridge’s Oktoberfest that is a bit of a bummer are the long lines to get beer. But, with friends by your side and a whole afternoon to enjoy the festival the lines really aren’t that bad. And you know what they say, “Good things come to those who wait”, Prost!
As Featured on the Downtown Denver Partnership’s Urban Eye Newsletter…
That crazy month of September has rolled around once again, which can only mean one thing: it’s Oktoberfest Season! I’ve come up with this guide to help keep your month long celebration of that golden elixir right on track. Enjoy!
New Belgium’s Tour de Fat
Jump on the bike-loving bandwagon and join fellow pedal-pushers for a ride through the Mile High City. This Saturday, September 10, at 10 a.m. two wheel enthusiasts from all over Colorado will descend on City Park for a celebration of everything Fat Tire! Stick around for live music and theatrics by Dovekins, Daredevil Chicken Club, Yo Yo Squared, and Los Amigos Invisibles. All proceeds from the event to benefit BikeDenver and the Denver Cruisers.
Denver’s Ballpark Neighborhood welcomes back one of the city’s longest running festivals and one of the largest of its kind in the nation! Oktoberfest Denver is ready to commemorate this world-famous and time-honored tradition of German heritage by combining dynamic performance of music and dance, bier-based activities, fireworks, a sausage eating contest and entertainment for all ages. Click here for a special Denver Daily Deal that gets you a commemorative 2011 beer stein and a free refill!
September 16 – 18; 23 – 25
Larimer St between 20th & 22nd
Denver Beer Festival
Heads up! The third annual Denver Beer Fest will be taking place September 23 – October 1, 2011. The nine-day festival presented by VISIT DENVER will include brewery tours, rare beer tastings, beer-paired dinners, “brewer vs. brewer” nights, tappings and a variety of entertaining beer events. For a sneak peek of this festival try to get into the Denver Zoo’s Brew at the Zoo, a sampling gala on September 9th.
September 23 – October 1
Great American Beer Festival
Once again the Great American Beer Festival is coming to Downtown Denver. Held at the Colorado Convention Center, this three day extravaganza of everything beer features hundreds of brewers competing to be the best in America. It also features beer pairings, interviews with brewers, beer tastings and much more!
September 29 – October 1
Breckenridge’s 17th Annual Oktoberfest
Includes a fun-filled weekend of fall foliage, great parties, Paulaner Bier, genuine German cuisine, collectable steins and special accommodation packages. Main Street shuts down for the long weekend as people come from all over to take part in this wonderful end of summer/kick off to fall event. Make sure to get you’re pretzel necklaces and lederhosen, you won’t want to miss the largest Oktoberfest in the Rocky Mountains.
So for all you foodies out there this is your weekend! A Taste of Colorado is back in Denver from Friday thru Monday of Labor Day weekend. Offering hundreds of food options to try from dozens of different area restaurant it is a food connoisseur’s paradise. And even though this weekend of tastes has been around for as long ss I can remember, this was the first year I went myself. That’s right, my sister and I went for a late lunch Friday afternoon, before the crowds really geared up for the long weekend. After passing through several vendors selling t-shirts, handbags, clothing, arts and crafts, and other knick-knacks, we came across the first row of food vendors.
Lining up in front of the City and County Building it was like a normal food festival on steroids. Everything from ice slushies to fired alligator to Neapolitan pizza, all side by side. Not to mention the generous selection of Pepsi beverages, MillerCoors products, and Barefoot wine, there was something for everybody. We bought our tickets and began studying what Taste had to offer. The festival is massive, truly taking up all of Civic Center Park and the adjoining blocks Downtown. There are several music stages, each sponsored by a different radio station, featuring jazz, rock n’ roll, country, and much more. There are plenty of interesting arts and crafts vendors, including a custom stain-glass maker that caught my eye. The Downtown Denver Partnership, which helps organize A Taste of Colorado, even put out three ping pong tables left over from their Employee Appreciation Week tournament for free play. The tables come with balls and paddles and are located right next to the fountains on the North side of the park.
However, my favorite offering has to be the Lego exhibit for kids (and adults alike). Featuring beautifully constructed animal heads that kids can use for a photo opportunity, several building stations with free legos, and building challenges and contests this is certainly a high light for me to stumble upon. But back to the food… We wandered over to Broadway which featured even more unique food vendors, offering wild game, world cuisine, and a truck giving away free Greek yogurt! (Chobani…way yummy with like a dozen different flavors) After snacking on an appetizer of free yogurt my sister and I decided to start sampling. First was a baklava sample from Pete’s Greek Town on Colfax. A Denver local’s kind place, Pete’s baklava was sweet, moist, and a great starter. Next up was a Pulled Pork slider from Hard Rock Cafe. Yes I could have gotten a slider from Elway’s, The Broker, or gotten one made of wild boar two tents down, but with a limited amount of tickets I held back. No problem with that as the pork was deliciously seasoned with a tangy BBQ sauce and an addition of chipotle mayo. For Kate’s main dish she selected a chicken dumpling from Hot Wok Cafe. Simple and prepared just right, it hit the spot. Well on to dessert, which ended up being a chocolate chip cookie straight from Grandma’s Goodies and Kate enjoyed a personalized Blue Raspberry slushie from Snow Business. She certainly had the right idea as the sun was really heating up, and with that we headed back home to get ready for a fun-filled Labor Fay weekend in the mountains.
I have to say that this event is a must-see if you’re in the Denver area, truly the king of food festivals. It runs until 10 p.m. tonight (Sunday), and from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday. Make sure to squeak in today or tomorrow before this event is gone for another year. For more information on the event please visit their website at www.atasteofcolorado.com.
For Colorado beer fans this summer is one to celebrate. After opening this spring, The Ale House at Amatos is ready for the summer as Denver’s quintessential craft beer restaurant and bar. Through a partnership between two local brewing powerhouses, Wynkoop and Breckinridge Brewing, Amatos was born with the purpose of showcasing Colorado’s best. Of the 42 taps, 37 are devoted to Colorado beers (and there is even more variety by the bottle).
Recently a good friend of mine was planning on leaving Colorado for quite sometime, and she couldn’t think of a better place to say farewell to Denver than Amatos. The view from the porch truly highlights the city skyline. You see everything, from the RiNo District on the Platte River to the soaring highrises of Downtown Denver all the way southeast past the Auroria campus. Just a hop-skip over the highway, you can walk across the footbridge into Lower Highlands and enjoy the Denver skyline with a local cold one. I ended up driving, and found ample parking in the neighborhood around the restaurant.
The beer list at Ale House at Amatos features many Colorado microbrews, including Breckenridge, Wynkoop, Great Divide, Odell, Left Hand and Avery. There’s also a handful of out of state brews (there to showcase how much better Colorado beers taste) and include well known microbrewers Alaskan, Boulevard and Dogfish. The menu is simply astounding! All of us at the table ended up sending the waitress away because we couldn’t narrow down our choice of beers. Everything from an agave nectar Wheat that tastes just like summer, to a dark and strong Stout so rich that it should be considered a meal in it’s own right. After wrestling with myself over tried and true favorites, (like Avery’s White Rascal) and more daring choices (like Wynkoops’ famous Patty’s Chile Beer) I ended up with a true blond; Ska Brewing’s True Blond that is. The balance of hops and Durango,CO harvested honey was just the right ticket for a warm June night.
But don’t forget about dinner, Amatos has a great selection of beer’s favorite pairing: burgers. Choices include the Cholula-jalapeño burger and the West Side burger, a down home combination of apple wood smoked bacon and Gorgonzola cheese. I myself ended up favoring a unique and quite tasty burger called the16th Street burger (no doubt paying homage to the wonder that is the 16th Street Mall) featuring crispy onion strings and crumbled horseradish cream cheese. Sounds a little out there, but was delicious to eat. The cheese just melted with every bite and the burger was cooked just right. Paired with the right beer and great friends, my evening at the Ale House at Amatos couldn’t have been better.
But don’t just listen to me, check it out for yourself:
Ale House at Amatos
2501 16th Street
*Follow Up Note – Check out what BrewPub critic Laura Shunk from Westword has to say about Amatos this Fall – http://www.westword.com/2011-09-29/restaurants/ale-house-at-amatos-restaurant/