Cravings. It’s hard to say what triggers them. Sometimes a bad day at work sends us to the nearest fast food joint. Other times our taste buds simply get wanderlust; they remember a meal from childhood, a trip or just plain want something new they’ve never had before.
Whether you grew up in Colorado or came as part of the latest boom, chances are you’ll have a craving soon. When it does hit, consider this list of 25 regional dishes your tongue’s next travel itinerary.
If you hail from anywhere in the Midwest, then you may think you can’t find a taste of home in Colorado. Anyone who has searched for a truly tasty cheese curd will tell you how hard it is to find the flavors of home here. However, there are actually lots of great spots serving up everything from classic Chicago-style pizza to pierogis and, yes, cheese curds. Take a look at a few fun spots to visit when that Midwest craving hits you, and hits you hard.
C.B. & Potts Restaurant & Brewery
When the cheese squeaks just right, you know it’s perfect. At least, that’s what Midwesterners say about cheese curds — the solid part of the milk curdled during the cheese-making process. While you may think it’s tough to find a good squeaky cheese, you need look no further than the appetizer menu at C.B. & Potts. These Wisconsin-style white cheddar curds are carefully breaded and served with both marinara and a raspberry dipping sauce. Locals love the authentic taste of these delectable little morsels, which keep them coming back for a basket of the little guys for less than $10. You can’t beat that.
There are so many different types of pizza, and depending on the region you call home, you’ll have a preference for thin crust, thick crust, cheese styles and more. Chicago-style pizza is most synonymous with deep-dish pizza, but according to Nicolo’s in Longmont most pizza consumed in Chicago is thin crust. So when you need your true Chicago-style — Margherita, pesto, chicken or more — Nicolo’s has you covered. You can sit down to a small seven-inch just for yourself or belly up with the family for a large 16-inch pie. Then have a rousing debate on the important issues — like which type of crust is superior.
Pierogis are big in the Midwest. Chicago, Milwaukee and Cleveland all have large Polish populations, who brought the filled dumplings to the United States. If you’ve got a hankering for some truly authentic Polish food, you can find a plethora of pierogis at Cracovia Polish-American Restaurant and Bar in Westminster. The handmade dumplings come filled with your choice of cheese and potato, ground pork or sauerkraut and mushroom, plus you can get them fried or steamed. The pierogi party doesn’t end there. Complete your meal with some sweet pierogis, filled with blueberry, strawberry or cherry, and served with sweet cream sauce.
Your Butcher, Frank
There’s no Dagwood sandwich on the menu, but you can certainly build your own by asking for a few different meats. Their default portion size is hefty, so no worries there. The butchers behind the counter (Ron and Lee) have years of experience, offer great standard cuts but will also cut to order. Come in for a lunch sub and leave with fresh cuts for dinner.
Say you’ve moved to Colorado from New York City, Boston, or any of the other well-populated northeastern cities, and miss a taste of home. Chances are you have a refined option on what’s the original, best or most authentic version of your favorite dishes. But let’s take a breath, and chow on these northeastern delights. You may find they taste good enough to not only remind you of those meals you so fondly remember from home, but rival them.
Reelfish Fish & Chips
What could be more comforting than a steaming hot bowl of clam chowder? Ok, maybe a bowl of lobster bisque, but either way, you don’t have to live on the East Coast to get your fix. Reelfish offers fresh seafood options, including lobster bisque and clam chowder. The Lafayette-based restaurant proudly serves up these creamy bowls of comfort to sate the cravings of locals. The chowder’s rich broth is filled with clams and chunks of potatoes and the salty bisque has plenty of fresh lobster.
Ask any New Yorker and they’ll tell you that it’s impossible to find an authentic New York bagel locally. Some say it’s the water, others say it’s the attitude. Whatever it is, Longmont residents love Brooklyn Deli and claim it’s the closest thing you’ll find to the real East Coast treat. The bagels here are flown in from either H&H Bagels or A&S Bagels — both of which are New York bagel joints with stellar reputations. The fish comes from Brooklyn’s ACME Smoked Fish. So the next time a bagel craving has you looking up flights to New York; try Longmont.
Nebraska makes a claim for inventing the reuben, but until they get more facts, it’s a northeastern dish. Chances are you don’t care about its origin, you just like aged corn beef between slices of rye, but we expect more, which is why we suggest you try the Korean Reuben here, which mixes 10-day corned beef with house made kimchi topped with Sambal Thousand Island dressing. This is another example of Chef Kevin Kidd taking the known in new directions.
If you’ve never eaten in New York City, here’s a little secret: There is plenty of awful, flimsy, undercooked pizza there to buy by the slice. Save your Brooklyn comparisons, Sal’s closed down decades ago. We’ll call this a Northeast Slice because it’s really its own style of pizza drawing inspiration from favorite pies tasted in New Jersey, Boston and yes, New York. The dough is thin and often comes with a nice char on both sides. While even the website says old-world, it’s really more old-school, which is to say they take a no-nonsense approach using fresh, traditional Italian ingredient including housemade pork sausage and freshly-sliced pepperoni.
Post Brewing Company
Known for its fried chicken and southern fare – and rightly so – it was the whoopie pie in the display case that first caught our eye, and we’ve been in love ever since. Also known as a gob in the northeast, or a Big Fat Oreo, the ‘cookies’ here are essentially slices of German chocolate cakes with a bounty of whipped, fluffy mascarpone crammed between. These hamburger-sized treats go great with milk, or a nice stout.
Ask anyone from Philly what food is most comforting and chances are you’ll hear one word: cheesesteak. It’s an obvious answer, and they don’t care. To get a taste of that thinly sliced sirloin with grilled onions, peppers and mushrooms, try Foolish Craig’s in Boulder. This popular Pearl Street eatery is known for its crepes, but you can order a Philly Steak Sandwich, complete with smoked provolone on a house-made baguette. In fact, everything is made in-house, which helped attract the attention of Guy Fieri and his “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” – words that are hard to find in Boulder these days – and thus is on the radar of plenty other food enthusiasts.
The flavors of the south are something totally different, and truly regional. Everything from fried chicken to grits to the many varieties of barbecue are comfort foods for those that grew up in the area. If you’ve recently relocated here, or if you’re just on a visit to Colorado but you want to have a taste of home, there are still several popular local restaurants serving up these classic southern dishes, just the way you might get them at home.
Bru Handbuilt Ales & Eats
When the craving hits for some amazing southern-style fried chicken, what’s a local to do? Boulderites in the know are raving about the fried chicken at Bru Handbuilt Ales & Eats. Words like “unbelievable,” “amazing” and “delectable” fill most reviews. The Crispy Fried Chicken comes with red-chile honey to blend the sweet with tangy, and served with the only things fried chicken should be served with – pickled collard greens and buttermilk biscuits.
There is a lot this institution does right. As the oldest bar and restaurant in Boulder, the staff at this local spot has had plenty of time to perfect every recipe. Case in point – the Chicken and Waffles. The sweet taste of maple and the salty, savory fried chicken blend together in this open-faced waffle sandwich, served with bacon-maple jam and Cholula butter. And the chicken? It’s cornflake-fried, so you get plenty of that crispy texture that makes this dish work so well. If you are from Boulder, then you already know The Sink, but if you haven’t been there before, a dish of this classic southern dish is the perfect reason to visit.
Why should you have to wait for Thanksgiving for a slice of pecan pie? When life feels stressful, a perfectly sweet dessert may be the perfect answer to that stress and this Louisville eatery does pie right. This popular restaurant has been voted a local favorite time and time again. This is no ordinary pecan pie; it’s Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie. The additions of the chocolate and bourbon are the perfect southern-style treat to amp up this classic favorite dish. Swing by to try for yourself, and you just may find The Huckleberry’s pies on your Thanksgiving table too.
Georgia Boys BBQ
Traditional southern barbecue can be tough to find in Colorado. Longmont’s solution for southern-style cravings is Georgia Boys BBQ Company, and it’s about as southern as you can get. The restaurant serves up everything from pulled pork to hot links, pulled chicken, turkey and the always-popular smoked brisket. Before you check the internet to look, yes, there are visible smoke rings. Whether you prefer the classic chopped brisket for a sandwich or the flavor-packed burnt ends, these Georgia boys have the recipe for you. Enjoy a pound or some fraction thereof, and pile on some fixin’s (or sides) for a southern smorgasbord.
Gque Championship BBQ
Barbecue comes in different variations, and from different animals, and fans of Carolina-style barbecue can be downright picky when they hunger for what they, by default, simply refer to as barbecue. Westminster locals swear by the hickory-smoked goodness coming out of Gque, which has won national accolades for all its styles. The owners intend to put Denver on the barbecue map, and by rightly serving their Carolina ‘cue on a bun with slaw and a sweet tangy sauce, they’re well on their way.
Lucile’s Creole Café
For more than 36 years, Coloradans have loved the Creole flavors here. You can find all the classic Creole staples, from fresh collard greens to red beans, Zydeco salad, Chicken Robicheaux and more. Of course, one of the most classic comfort foods of the Creole cuisine is the favorite — Shrimp and Grits, and Boulderites love a steaming bowl of Lucile’s famous shrimp with Andouille sausage and red peppers served with a huge helping of creamy, flavor-packed grits. Word is that these grits have far more flavor than your average bowl, and it’s the perfect dish to bring some comfort as the weather turns cold and you want something to really stick to your ribs.
On the other “southern” side of the country, the ingredients and flavors differ. Instead of grits and barbecue, you find staples like green chili, chilaquiles and chicharrones with Mexican and native origins. These traditional flavors have are now standard, comforting foods in the region and have a reputation far beyond it. If you’re on the search for a taste of not-so-distant southwestern flavors, here are some fabulous places to visit.
Centro Mexican Kitchen
Commuting to and from Boulder can be a hassle, especially in the snow. Yet this Pearl Street hotspot is worth a stop. Start the day off right with a big breakfast burrito packed with hash browns, chorizo, eggs, asadero cheese and rajas — and yes, topped off with green chili. Anyone who’s been to this favorite eatery knows that this is a great place to get that classic morning dish. Of course, you can also enjoy lots of other Mexican delicacies here, including carne asada, carnitas, relleno and more. But when a huge breakfast burrito is on the menu, why order anything else?
Though it’s classically associated with the Southwest, just about every Colorado native loves Green Chili. There’s something so heartening about a warm bowl of the spicy, flavor-packed dish that instantly comforts and delights. And when it comes to green chili in Colorado, this is one spot everyone recommends. In fact, you can buy Santiago’s in grocery stores. Of course, it’s always best fresh from the kitchen, and the Boulder location is ready to serve you as many bowls as you like. You can also get it served atop a burrito or any other classic Mexican dishes they serve.
If you’ve never had chicharrones, you’re really missing out. It’s as popular of a snack in the Southwest as it is in Mexico, Chile or Colombia. Traditionally made from fried pork rinds or fried pork belly, these are not your average grocery-store rind. The real deal is full of flavor that explodes in your mouth with each bite, and available right here in Westminster. Kachina has the delectable morsels on the appetizer menu, served with pickled onion and pineapple, a chipotle aioli and morita salsa. Note: these are pork belly chicharrones, a more flavorful way to serve them.
For more than a century, American cookbooks have included chilaquiles, so your breakfast cravings are nothing new to the southwest. Likely a morning dish because it was a tasty solution to using up the previous day’s leftover tortillas and salsas, Comida uses house made sliced tortillas and fresh salsas. Scrambled eggs for protein, tortillas for carbs, and a spice and heat of tomatillo chile verde and ranchero sauce to give your day some fire. What makes them more Boulder-y? The GF designation on the menu.
If there’s one thing that’s plentiful in Colorado, it’s Californians, and many of the west-coast dwellers have moved here for a plethora of different reasons. However, just because you may have left the coast, that doesn’t mean you’re not still searching for some really great seafood. Colorado may be landlocked, but thanks to lightning-quick delivery, you can still get some fresh, delectable seafood dishes without leaving the state. If you’re on the search for fish tacos, cedar plank salmon or other tasty west coast dishes, here are a few places to look.
Riff’s Urban Fare
Cooking salmon with cedar planks is the traditional method among Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest and it remains a favorite method among chefs who love the simplicity of allowing the wood to impart flavor in the fish. Riff’s is the place to go for cedar plank organic salmon, which comes served with bay laurel butter and hazel dell mushrooms. The wet wood smoke adds layers of flavor to the fish without masking it. It’s truly amazing how that one little addition changes the flavor of the fish. Try it for yourself and you’ll see why so many west-coasters crave it.
Japan and California share different sides of the vast Pacific and a few residents, too. While sushi was prepared along the west coast for decades, the majority of Americans were reluctant to eat fish served with rice in a seaweed wrapper. Then came the California roll, which used an ‘inside-out’ style of sushi that put the seaweed inside, and swapped toro for avocado alongside cucumber and crab (often imitation crab). And while we encourage you to savor that little nori of food history, if you go to Sushi Zanmai, you must eat the fish. As much as you can!
The Denver-based chain has expanded to others states, but hasn’t outgrown the rave reviews from locals. One of their most-touted sandwiches is the French dip with Au Jus, a sandwich that originated in L.A. It’s a simple sandwich made with thin slices of roast beef inside French bread and, most importantly, served with au jus — the yummy beef juice that concentrates its flavor while cooking. Snarf’s lightly toasts the bread to so it holds up under repeated dunks into the dip, and if they’ll let you break from the traditional and pile on plenty of toppings.
T/ACO an Urban Taqueria
You’ll find several takes on authentic Mexican food on the menu, but we’re focused on their fish tacos. Already established in coastal Mexico, fish tacos have become a trademark offering for California where diners look for a healthier way to mix their love of spice and seafood. Boulderites were early adopters of the fresh and healthy eating that California’s influence brought to American menus, and they’ve recently shown their love of fish too. The fish tacos at T/ACO are made with grilled red snapper and served with chipotle mayo, cabbage, scallion, red onion, radish and avocado, all of which is a bit more decadent than the menu’s “street-style” implies.
We’re at the end of a long list, so perhaps it reads as jest that someone would crave a salad. But in keeping with the theme of California’s influence on New American cuisine, Empire’s Kale Caesar Salad represents a fresh and healthy meal, a new hot ingredient (kale) and oh yeah, the Caesar salad was born in San Diego. Empire also imbues a relaxed vibe while serving its elevated takes on casual food, and this salad wouldn’t be on the menu if there wasn’t something special about it.