Anthony Bourdain in Denver: 2 Spots Where Tony Ate
Nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Denver has become one of America’s major cities over the past two decades. While it might once have been a bit more country than cosmopolitan, Denver is now a tech city with all the conveniences of an urban epicenter – including a world-class dining scene in the heart of Colorado.
Anthony Bourdain visited Denver twice: once off-screen during his early book tour for Kitchen Confidential about which he described Denver as having “nothing worthwhile to eat,” and again on another book tour that eventually became episode 15 of season 6 of No Reservations. These were his only two documented visits to the Mile High City.
While I don’t normally write guides for destinations where Tony ate fewer than three places, I thought Denver was worthy of having its own guide: over the course of his travels, Bourdain changed his opinion of the city’s culinary landscape from disparaging to worth visiting; that seems worthy of mentioning – and for encouraging us enthusiasts to visit too.
Whether you’re planning a trip or just call the city home, here’s a guide to the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Denver. Dig in!
Want to watch the episode where Anthony Bourdain visits Denver?
The No Reservations episode (“US Heartland”) is available on Amazon and Apple TV.
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Tséstho’e (Cheyenne), Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, hinono’eino’ biito’owu’ (Arapaho), and Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute) peoples, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
First up, Bourdain sinks his teeth into the finer side of Denver’s dining scene; during his 2009-2010 visit, he met up with chef Frank Bonanno at his restaurant, Mizuna, to show that Denver has more to offer than chain restaurants and happy hour specials.
The two chefs try a number of dishes both on- and off-menu: they start with a tasting plate of different foie gras with local squashes and bread pudding, followed by roasted squab (young pigeon) with brussel sprouts and burgundy black truffle vinaigrette, and end with blood sausage and sweetbreads cassoulet with baby lamb.
Lucky for us, Mizuna is still going strong, over 20 years after it opened – and more than a decade after Tony’s visit. The restaurant is open for dinner only, and I recommend reservations if you’re planning a meal here.
Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs
Conversely to Mizuna with its finer dining experience, Bourdain then visits Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs which is about as no-frills as possible. This hot dog stand is also still open today, serving the wide variety of street meats that Tony so loved trying during his career.
Known for unique meats and toppings, Bourdain tried several sausages during his visit: elk with cream cheese and caramelized onions; wild boar with apricots and cranberries, also with cream cheese; reindeer sausage – “the best thing I’ve heard coming out of Alaska in a long time” – and rattlesnake bratwurst.
Today, you can also order Biker Jim’s sausages online, in case you need a fix and aren’t heading to Denver soon (or get hooked on them while visiting).
Denver Food Tours to Try
Given that Tony didn’t visit many restaurants in Denver, you might still be feeling hungry after these two spots. That’s where a food tour could come in handy: we can’t all have a local fixer to recommend the best spots to eat, but a food tour is a great way to sample a lot. Here are some food tours to consider:
Have any questions about the (admittedly few) places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Denver? Let me know in the comments below!