Before I went to Denver, I heard about the booming food scene but really didn't expect it to be anything like Chicago's. Once we started feasting around the city, though, my expectations were immediately surpassed. In fact, after eating at The Populist, I wished Chef Jonathan Power would open up a restaurant in Chicago.
As we sat outside on a clear night munching on our creamy cheese starter (which happened to be one of my favorite dishes of the night), I couldn't help but feel relaxed. We had walked over from downtown Denver (near the convention center) to work up an appetite, and we certainly did. On the way, you will pass by some creative artwork, but it's really not a walk I would do again at night.
As you wait for your dishes, choose a local brew from their drinks menu. We didn't have time to check out the breweries in the area, so restaurants were the perfect place to try out the various concoctions.
If I didn't have to think about weight (or health), I would want to eat this bacon and egg dish for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a midnight snack. The thin slices of bacon glistened on the toasted wheat bread. This is my gold standard for bacon: a pure slice of fat. Then you can top it off with the yummy mix of sausage and poached egg. Once it was gone, we were yearning for more.
The shishito peppers in Denver seem to be of a different variety from the ones we get in Chicago. For some reason, these are a bit more flaccid looking and have a tiny spice to them. Although they pick up flavors very well, these shishito peppers were not up there on my list of some of the best. Unfortunately, the Napa cabbage just didn't work for me with the shishito peppers because it didn't soak up the seasoning nor add another level of texture.
If you love jackfruit, this is the dish to get. When I had raw jackfruit in Singapore, I honestly couldn't eat more than a piece or two because it would start tasting vaguely like durian to me. However, when it's cooked, it takes on a stiffer texture and more pleasing flavor. Especially with the greens, this is a unique vegetarian dish that transforms jackfruit in a way I've never seen before.
OMG. Can I please just get a larger bowl of this ragout? The poached egg is a suggested add-on, but it is really an inherent part of the dish. Every bite is light yet fulfilling. If I were eating a hearty homemade meal on a farm, this is exactly what I would imagine.
I'm not sure how all the seafood in Denver is so fresh - if I didn't know where Denver was, I would think it were a coastal city based on the seafood I consumed there. This perfectly seared rockfish was gone after seconds of being set down in front of us.
This tartlet is a new item on the menu, and what I really loved was how it is not overly sweet. In fact, the crust has a tiny bit of bitterness and saltiness that really balanced everything out. The only problem was that the caramel REALLY hardened onto the plate. I thought I was going to break the spoon scraping it off, but I kept going at it because it was addictive!
- Make a reservation - we went on a Thursday night, and there were a lot of people!
- There is free street parking outside.
- Just an fyi, if you are planning to drink, Ubers are SUPER cheap in Denver (at least compared to Chicago - e.g. an UberX from The Populist to The Grand Hyatt was only $4.50).
- If you don't have time for dinner, try out nearby Crema (also owned by The Populist), the innovative coffee shop that serves up probably the best PB&J I've ever had!
- The Populist is great for a girls' night out or a romantic date!