Just in Time for Sunday, 3 Denver and Seattle Food Specialties to Try

This Sunday, I'll be at my friend's house watching two teams that aren't the San Francisco 49ers play in the big game. It's going to be horrible. Between the fact that I used to live in Seattle (and the Seahawks used to buy ads in my paper) and the fact that they knocked my team out of the running (also, division rivals and everything), who am I supposed to pull for? Bruno Mars? The Red Hot Chili Peppers? The weather?

All I know is, it's going to be a really long day, and all I'm going to have to keep me company is beer and food (and a whole mess of people).

At least I'm in Orange County, because we'll have the barbecue going, and I'm going to have my pick of everything from carne asada, to thit nuong and regular ol' burgers. If I were in Seattle? Or Denver? Well…


3. Seattle Hot Dogs

As much as I love to hate on Seattle's cuisine, if there's one thing that'll always stick with me about the city (apart from all of that professional and personal development), it's how they eat hot dogs.

Straight out of Pioneer Square, Seattle Dogs come topped with a healthy helping of cream cheese and grilled onions. That's right, that's it. There's no fuss, no real mess, just meat, bread, cheese (which might as well double as glue), and some onions to cut the richness. Whoever thought poppy seed buns, peppers, and stupid amounts of toppings were a good idea anyways?

2. Putting Smoked Salmon on top of Everything

The hot dogs just about end my love for Seattle food. Smoked salmon, on the other hand, begins my hatred.

Everyone who visits tries to bring home smoked salmon. I don't understand why, it's a waste of perfectly good fish. Worst still is Seattle's penchant for putting it in places it doesn't belong. On top of some croissant with egg? Fine, that sounds amazing, but I've found smoked salmon in places way away from Copper River.

Case in point, smoked salmon sushi. I was at Uwaijimaya, the local Japanese super market, one lunch looking for something quick. I picked something called a “salmon roll” and went on my merry way. Back at the office, I took a bite and almost died. In place of the wonderful raw salmon I was expecting were thin slivers of smoked salmon so discordant with the sushi rice that I had to throw half the roll away. It's okay, I didn't go hungry that day; I had lost my appetite.

1. Pulling Things Out of the Dirt
Pacific Northwest Cuisine is the only cuisine I can think of that's defined by the freshness and locality of its ingredients instead of its spices or flavors.

Ever see that Portlandia sketch with the chicken? Yeah, that's not that much of an exaggeration.

Every single iconic Seattle eatery, from Molly Moon's Ice Cream (which doesn't even make its own ice cream base) to Lil Woody's burgers and Skillet Seattle has the provenance of their ingredients readily on hand. How're we supposed to replicate that without a ridiculous amount of community gardens? Well, just start digging, I'm sure you'll hit something edible eventually.


3. Craft Beer

Yes, Seattle likes its craft beer, but has Washington's governor or Seattle's mayor ever operated brewery? Nope. John Hickenlooper, current Colorado governor and former mayor of Denver, operated a brewery before getting elected, and Colorado has the fifth-highest number of craft breweries per capita beating eighth place Washington. (California has the most craft breweries, but we also have a ton of people, so we're down in 19th place.)

When it comes to beer, Denver's just got Seattle beat.

2. Mexican Hamburgers

Den-Mex rolls legion over Seattle, the land of no burritos. But a Mexican Hamburger being representative? I'll let Gustavo explain why.

Brace yourselves, folks: underneath that Syracuse Orangeman-hued goop lies the structure of a burrito–a flour tortilla containing refried beans, your choice of meat, and a grilled hamburger patty, almost extant in shape. This version is smothered, which means Colorado's classic take on green chile (flecked with pork, and prepared as a gravy) drowns the burrito burger with its viscous, spicy glory. The flour tortilla itself is cooked well until it becomes firm, until you can slice off a chunk and it won't flop around on your fork as it enters your mouth.

I've had puffy tacos in San Antonio, glorious bowls of the green in Albuquerque, the Mexican hot dog of El Paso, and gargantuan Mission burritos in San Francisco, but the Mexican hamburger–found only in Denver, much to the surprise of the Mile High City's residents, who always thought their dish, like the Broncos, had a national reach–is the dish that best personifies the Mexican-American experience. The tortilla is wholly indigenous; its flour rendition, the legacy of Spain. The focus on green chile places it firmly in the Southwest; its gravy presentation, the legacy of Tex-Mex. The hamburger patty, of course, is wholly American–but even that has a German past. The combination of all is pure rascuache. And the taste? Heavy, thick, yet the Mexican hamburger at its best retains all the flavors of its distinct parts. I only ate half of this, having to stop myself because I had just eaten a sandwich, a taco, and another burrito.

1. Chipotle/Qdoba Burritos

Speaking of burritos, this one should be easy for everyone to get.

If we owe the existence of Chipotle and it's two-year-younger rival Qdoba to anyone, it's the city of Denver. Both chains and their baby-sized burritos were founded smack dab in the Mile High City, and if it weren't for them, we might still be eating our rice without lime and cilantro. (I'll conveniently forget for the moment that Denver stole those burritos from San Francisco's Mission District)

Sorry Seattle, you might win Sunday, but when it comes to food? You're beat.

(Yes, I know I didn't include Denver Omelets. They're not even from Denver for goodness sakes.)

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You can also follow Charles Lam on Twitter @charlesnlam. He's less sardonic there, we swear.

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