Out-of-town guests dropping in? Where will you take them to eat?
‘Tis the season for out-of-town guests. Sure, you’ve got all the activities planned — a hike in Eldorado Canyon, a viewing of the King Tut exhibit, perhaps an afternoon at one of the municipal pools — but the real question is: Where are you going to eat?
Choosing a place for guests is different from choosing a place for yourself. You want a place with good food, a place that shows off Denver well, a place where anyone in the party will be able to find something to eat. A place that’s not too expensive. A place that reflects your own sensibilities, but dovetails with your guests’ tastes, too. The Denver area is packed with options. Here are just a very few and be sure to leave a comment to share your own!
El Taco de Mexico
Nothing could be more Colorado than a Mexican breakfast, and there is no better Mexican breakfast in town that the smothered breakfast burrito at El Taco de Mexico. Whether you’re filling up for the King Tut exhibit at the Denver Art Museum, or headed west on Sixth Avenue for a hike, you’ll be fully fueled by El Taco’s generous breakfast. Just have coffee before and/or after your meal; you’ll find much better java elsewhere. This is also an excellent “last bite” in Denver before heading out to the airport. El Taco de Mexico, 714 Santa Fe Drive, 303-623-3926
Pineapple upside-down cakes for breakfast? Why not? Even if you aren’t on vacation, your guests are, and dessert for breakfast is definitely on the menu. Fill up here on weekday mornings, when the line is relatively tolerable; waits of up to an hour on weekends are not unusual. Breakfast here will certainly fill you up for a visit to the Museum of Nature and Science, or a day at Elitch’s, or an afternoon by the pool. Snooze, 700 Colorado Blvd., 303-736-6200; snoozeeatery.com; additional locations downtown and in Fort Collins.
Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs
Repo man turned street-food guru Jim Pettinger has parleyed his excellent hot dogs (made from beef, elk, bison, reindeer, pheasant and more, and topped with cream cheese and/or Coca-Cola-sauteed onions) into favored-son status in Denver; the dude is a bona-fide institution for downtown lunching. Add on chips, a drink and a piece of Jim’s famous homemade cheesecake, and your lunch still won’t break $10. An excellent midday fortification before walking over to Rockmount Ranch Wear and the Tattered Cover. Biker Jim’s, 16th and Arapahoe streets; bikerjims.tumblr.com
My Brother’s Bar
This joint has been serving burgers and beer to Denver residents for 40 years, a true institution and the forebear of what’s become a defining style of restaurant in Denver — laid- back vibe, shorts-and-T-shirts dress code, cold beer, good burgers and an unfrenetic social atmosphere. A culinary revelation? No. But a charming, accessible place to hang and feed. It’s also right next to the mammoth REI flagship store, which is always a hit with guests from afar. My Brother’s Bar, 2376 15th St., 303-455-9991
Dinner outdoors on Larimer Square is one of the loveliest experiences Denver has to offer. Osteria Marco’s smart, simple menu features mostly shareable food (small plates, pizza and so forth) with enough vegetarian stuff to keep a mixed party happy. Jockey for a seat on the sidewalk to enjoy a mild Denver evening under the glowing city lights. There is also has a vigorous wine program with dozens of by-the-glass and by-the- bottle wines to help take the edge off having the in-laws invade your space. A good lunch option, too, particularly if you come after the rush. Osteria Marco, 1453 Larimer St., Denver, 303-534-5855; osteriamarco.com
Tap into one of Denver’s hottest neighborhoods during dinner (or lunch) on the patio in front of Venue Bistro, where James Rugile, one of the city’s best young cooks, puts forth smart, creative and fresh dishes using local ingredients and a light hand. Holly Hartnett runs the front of the room with her laid- back, Colorado-style hospitality, juggling hostess duties, floor management and cocktail-making with aplomb. This is the meal you’ll want to linger over, for all the catching up that out-of-town visits require. Afterward, stroll 32nd Avenue and window shop. Venue Bistro, 3609 W. 32nd Ave., 303.477.0477; venuebistro.com
Taking houseguests to dinner at The Fort is something of a cliche. But consider this: Cliches are cliches for a reason — they make sense. And besides, when’s the last time your party’s been to dinner in a 1960s replica of a 19th- century High Plains fort? And when’s the last time they had game — and well-prepared game at that — served to them by servers in period costumes? They’ll talk about it the whole flight home. Make it more affordable by ordering the $35 three- course dinner special. Buffalo tacos! Waugh! The Fort, 19192 Highway 8, Morrison, 303-697-4771; thefort.com
Unquestionably one of the stalwarts of the Front Range dining scene, this place was serving high- minded food with beautiful wine long before Boulder became such a mecca for both. The fact that it also has a spectacular view (best taken just at or just after sunset) is pure gravy, and will not be lost on your out-of- town friends. It’s also much closer than you think — five minutes from Chautauqua park, 10 from downtown Boulder. Not up for a full dinner? Come on a Sunday- Thursday from 5-7 p.m. for small plates and cocktails on the terrace. Flagstaff House, 1138 Flagstaff Drive, Boulder, 303-442-4640; flagstaffhouse.com
It’d be a lie to say that the view from Fuel Cafe (of a parking lot) is one of Denver’s finest. But there’s something architecturally interesting and raw about this restaurant in the Taxi development. This industrial context suits Bob Blair’s confident cooking — his is contemporary urban food, at once simple and polished, executed with lucidity and candor. And freshness — the menu here changes frequently. Come late and tarry over dessert. Fuel Cafe, 3455 Ringsby Court, 303-296-4642; fuelcafedenver.com
Rocky Dog at Coors Field
Rockies fans don’t always like to share this little bit of knowledge: Coors Field is one of the most pleasant ballparks in the country, especially on a warm summer night. Your guests may or may not want to watch baseball, but there’s nothing quite like a downtown evening outdoors with a fully loaded Rocky Dog (grilled onions and peppers and sauerkraut) and a cold beer. For tickets: coloradorockies.mlb.com
There’s little to recommend the food at this restaurant- cum-living tableau-cum-indoor-amusement-park, but, well, indoor cliff diving? Are you kidding? It doesn’t matter what city your guests are from, they don’t have a restaurant with indoor cliff diving back home. Warning: The hectic, Chuck-E- Cheese-on-steroids vibe at this gargantuan establishment may try parents’ patience, but visiting kids will tell their friends about it back home. Casa Bonita, 6715 W. Colfax Ave., 303-232-5115
Thought for food: Tips for entertaining out-of-town guests
A few things to consider when you’re entertainment director.
1. Remember that even if you’re bored with a place, your guests won’t be — it’ll be their first time.
2. Plan, don’t ask. Trying for a consensus with a group of out-of- town visitors is a futile challenge. Asking “Where would you like to go?” is not gracious hosting. Take stock of who’s coming (Are they food snobs? Barflies? Fussy? Adventurous?), then make the plans. Guests always appreciate a plan.
3. Think about what you’ll be doing before or after your meal, and choose a place that’s convenient to the next stop on the itinerary.
4. Go for a double whammy when possible. Solid food that will satisfy a diverse crowd is your baseline — if you can also layer on a great view, or provide a uniquely Colorado experience, or eat at a longtime Denver institution, all the better.
5. Choose a place that you know you’ll like. Even if everyone else hates it, at least you’ll eat well.
6. Don’t forget about your own backyard. Check our collection of grilling recipes on page 12D for ideas on what to make.
Weigh in: where do you take your out-of-town guests?!