Lunch Truck Heaven: Denver 2016

My only trip to the Mountain time zone took place in 2016, when my wife and I flew to Denver. We initially planned to hit a couple other spots outside of Colorado’s biggest city and state capital, possibly Colorado Springs or somewhere scenic in the Rockies. But we made what I consider to be the mistake of remaining in Denver the entire time we were there. 

Our thinking at the time was that we didn’t want to deal with renting a car and spending much time on the road. In retrospect, I wish we had done that. Remaining in Denver got a little old by the end of the vacation. The city is more hipster than genuine old-school, which isn’t really my style. But we did make one very pleasant discovery while there. They have a remarkable lunch truck set-up in a beautiful section of downtown. We took full advantage of it, as you’ll soon see.

Before getting into the details of this trip, I need to mention that some of the photos I took are missing. We did visit the Colorado capitol building and the state history museum near it. But you’ll just have to take my word on that. 

Rather than our usual custom of staying at a hotel, we tried AirBnB for the first and still only time. It wasn’t the best experience, but where we stayed was in a pretty good location in terms of being able to walk to most of the places we checked out while in Denver. We also had this to look at across the street as a reminder of the neighborhood’s political leanings.

This trip took place during the 2016 presidential campaign. Bernie wasn’t far enough to the left for some in Denver. I believe his endorsement of Hillary is what led to this graffiti.

Our first meal after arriving in Denver was a late dinner at a place called Steuben’s that I would describe as a hipster comfort food restaurant. This was less than a year after my first visit to Henderson, Kentucky, and I was still obsessing a bit over fried chicken, which was included on Steuben’s late-night menu. I enjoyed it, although I certainly wouldn’t compare this chicken to what I had in Kentucky. The gravy that came with it was quite good though, as were the deviled eggs my wife and I shared.

The late-night menu at Steuben’s, where we enjoyed our first meal in Denver
Steuben’s specializes in comfort food.
I enjoyed this fried chicken, although it didn’t make me forget Kentucky.

The following morning, we met my wife’s friend for breakfast at one of Denver’s top diners, Sam’s No. 3, which has an interesting history and had a line out the door that day.

The backstory for one of Denver’s top diners, where we had an enjoyable breakfast.

Denver is close to the Southwest, and that showed on Sam’s menu. My wife and her friend both went with Mexican-themed breakfast plates.

I found it amusing that they offered both canned and homemade corned beef hash on their menu. I’ve mentioned before that homemade CB hash is difficult to find at restaurants in the Philly region and that I like to get it when the opportunity presents itself on the road. I really can’t imagine anyone foregoing the homemade stuff in favor of canned hash. But there must be people who do so if they are both on the menu. Sam’s version was very good, although I could have done without the green peppers mixed in with it. I also had pancakes.

I skipped the canned corned beef hash offered at Sam’s and went for the homemade has instead.

We timed this trip to coincide with a series between the Phillies and Rockies at Coors Field and headed there after leaving Sam’s No. 3. It was a scorchingly hot day, with the temperature up near 100 degrees (that’s 38 degrees Celsius for my international readers). But we had great seats that gave me the opportunity to take some nice pre-game photos, and the Phillies won handily. So it was a pleasant afternoon in spite of the oppressive temperature. 

The home of baseball’s Colorado Rockies, who were hosting the Phillies while we were in Denver.
Our great field-side seats gave me a good opportunity to take pre-game photos.

For dinner that night, we checked out Grimaldi’s, a coal-burning brick oven pizzeria. Their original location is in Brooklyn, and I had wanted to try it for a fairly long time. At some point, they expanded into a national chain, and when I spotted it as we were walking downtown, we jumped at the opportunity to eat there. It turned out to be a wise decision. Many famous restaurants that become chains don’t maintain the quality of their original location as they expand. Although I haven’t eaten at the original Grimaldi’s, I find it hard to believe that their pizza could be much better than what we ate at the Denver location, which has unfortunately closed since we were there. This was up there with any pizza I’ve had outside of Connecticut, which remains the nation’s pizza capital. 

A New York pizza institution in Denver
This half-sausage-half-plain pie was some of the best pizza I’ve had outside of Connecticut.

The following day’s lunch was at Ace Eat Serve, a pan-Asian restaurant with a table tennis theme. They had a number of tables set up for diners to take advantage of between courses, but I refrained. My father was ranked fifth in the United States in his age group when he was a teenager and I played in a number of tournaments during my youth. But that came to an end when I went blind in one eye at age 15. 

Table tennis aside, my tiger chicken wings were a delightful mix of sweet and salty, while my wife devoured her big bowl of yellow curry. If I had anything in addition to the wings, I’ve lost the photos of it.

The interior of Ace Eat Serve in Denver. Their many table tennis tables are not in view.
My delicious tiger chicken wings
My wife’s yellow curry

After visiting the Colorado capitol building, which is in downtown Denver, and checking out the state history museum, we went back to the apartment where we stayed to change into nicer clothes in preparation for dinner. We had a reservation at Guard and Grace, which is arguably Denver’s best steakhouse. The interior of this red meat palace is gorgeous, but it was also very dark, so I didn’t get any good photos. 

Downtown Denver’s top steakhouse

I can’t think of a better way to start a steakhouse meal than a cold lobster cocktail, and the one I had at Guard and Grace more than hit the spot.

An outstanding start to a great meal

My dry-aged bone-in ribeye was also top of the line. On the side, the presentation of our oak fired carrots was a sight to behold, while the whipped potatoes were light and buttery; just the way I like them.

My dry-aged bone-in ribeye at Guard and Grace
Oak-roasted carrots
Wonderfully light and buttery whipped potatoes

Later that night, which was a Monday, my wife made a discovery while browsing through a Denver tourist magazine. Each Tuesday through Thursday from late spring through early autumn, there are numerous food trucks set up for lunch in a park across the street from the state house. We decided to check it out the next day. 

Civic Center Eats, which is the name given to this three-times-a-week lunch truck set-up, turned out to be the most amazing array of food on wheels I had ever seen. And it’s in a gorgeous space between Roman-style columns and sculptures in an urban park. I simply could not believe how many different types of cuisine were represented; both regional American and international.  The below photos are only a sampling of what was available. I’ll show more in part two of this trip report.

There were in the neighborhood of 30 trucks lined up between big and beautiful Roman columns in this park across the street from the Colorado state house in downtown Denver.
The park surrounding the lunch trucks was full of feasts for the eyes.
There was an abundance of both American regional and international food trucks at Denver’s Civic Center Eats.
There were also two or three ice cream trucks each day.
Wood-fired pizza
I by-passed this one with the help of superior will-power.
Some of the trucks belonged to area restaurants. This one looks familiar.
I settled on a warm lobster roll for my first of three food-truck lunches.

When faced with so many options, deciding what to eat is not an easy proposition. But I went with the lobster-themed truck and ordered a warm lobster roll, which had less meat than I’m accustomed to from my travels in New England, but was still absolutely delicious, with a nice, buttery flavor. 

Unfortunately, I can’t locate the photo I took of the lobster roll, but I do have one of my dessert that afternoon. It was from Em’s Ice Cream truck. The scoop of Meyer-lemon ice cream I ordered was absolutely remarkable. It had a perfect blend of sweet and tart and was extremely creamy. I’ve eaten a ton of ice cream in my lifetime, but none of it has surpassed this.

A scoop of Meyer lemon from Em’s Ice Cream truck, possibly the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten.

To be continued.

Published by BZ Maestro

I live outside of Philadelphia and have been food-obsessed for as long as I can remember. After toying with the idea of starting a blog for a fairly long time, the extinction of a food-themed message board that I frequented for years prompted me to finally take action. Thank you for taking the time to check out what I've been up to - and eating. If you've enjoyed what you have read and seen, please consider clicking the "like" button and signing up as a follower.

4 thoughts on “Lunch Truck Heaven: Denver 2016

  1. If only you’d known that your photos that included the guy in the Arrieta jersey portended a massive blunder by the Phillies.

    But at least you ate well. ;^)

    Like

  2. I was in Denver a fair amount for work, and the places I enjoyed were out in the Latino neighborhoods. A car helps a lot.

    Like

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