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Colorado’s got it all: great weather, gorgeous mountains, a booming beer scene, and the treasure that is Casa Bonita. But what about a good cheesesteak or a solid slice of New York–style pizza? Luckily, with so many of us from other places, many regional food favorites have made their way here. Of course everything tastes better in a memory, but when you’re feeling homesick or just really, really want some good barbecue, the Denver area has options. We asked transplants from all over the U.S. what foods from home they miss the most—and where we can find the best versions here.
What you’re craving: Philly cheesesteak
We concede that it’s hard to navigate Denver’s sea of disappointing cheesesteaks. The rolls are off; the meat is so dry it’s like gnawing through jerky; some places—God help ’em—try to load them up with condiments. But there are good cheesesteaks to be had.
Where to find it: Two unexpected spots at which to satiate your cheesesteak desires: a Christmas-themed Turkish restaurant (Aspen Lodge Bar & Grill; 8125 W. 94th Ave., Westminster) and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sandwich pop-up (Little Arthur’s Hoagies).
What you’re craving: Jewish-style deli fare
Whether you’re from Florida, New York, D.C., or really anywhere on the East Coast, you probably miss those sky-high pastrami on rye sandwiches and heals-what-ails-you bowls of matzo ball soup. You wouldn’t kick a black-and-white cookie out of bed either.
Where to find it: East Coast transplants say that the Bagel Deli (6439 E. Hampden Ave.) is the closest they’ve come to that homey feel. You’ll have more options when Call Your Mother, a D.C.-based “Jew-ish” deli, opens two locations here in early 2023.
What you’re craving: Italian beef sandwich
We may not have Portillo’s, but you can still find juicy Italian beef sandwiches—topped with hot giardiniera and loaded onto Turano rolls, of course.
Where to find it: Chicago Style Beef & Dogs (6680 W. Colfax Ave., Lakewood) has all the Chicago foods you’re missing, even Salerno butter cookies and Fannie May candies.
What you’re craving: Vienna Beef hot dog
Speaking of Chicago, where can you score a good dog around here?
Where to find it: Mustard’s Last Stand (2081 S. University Blvd., Denver, and 1719 Broadway, Boulder) has been serving Chicago-style Vienna Beef hot dogs for over 40 years. Don’t ask for ketchup.
What you’re craving: Soul food
For many Southerners, a meal without mac and cheese or collard greens just isn’t a meal. While soul food might take a little longer to make, it’s certainly worth the wait—and the effort it takes to find it in Denver.
Where to find it: Priscilla Smith has been cooking up fried chicken, catfish nuggets, and black-eyed peas at CoraFaye’s Café (15395 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora) since 2006. Just be sure to save room for something off the cake table.
What you’re craving: Grits
No, you’re not crazy, it is hard to find good grits in Denver. Southerners have long lamented our lack of comfort classics, especially the southern staple that is grits.
Where to find it: The smoked gouda grits at Rupert’s at the Edge (2045 Sheridan Blvd., Edgewater) are among the best in town, right alongside the creamy cheese grits at Lucile’s Creole Cafe (multiple locations).
What you’re craving: Barbecue
Barbecue, like politics and religion, is divisive. But no longer will we allow smoked pig to destroy us; let us instead unite over wood-fired pits.
Where to find it: Texas, Kansas City, and Memphis transplants flock to Post Oak Barbecue (4000 Tennyson St.), because good barbecue knows no geographical boundaries.
What you’re craving: Barbecue, specifically brisket
But I’m from Texas and brisket is my reason for living—where can I secure my lifeblood around here?
Where to find it: Austin native Bill Espiricueta might have a fine dining background, but at Smōk (3330 Brighton Blvd. and 327 E. Foothills Parkway, Unit 110, Fort Collins), it’s all down-home, Texas-style barbecue, and his brisket is first-rate.
What you’re craving: Detroit-style pizza
Brick cheese, cupping pepperoni, crispy-cheesy crust, a rectangular pie: if you know, you know, right? Up until seven years ago, Detroit-style pizza was a unicorn in the Mile High City, but now we have options.
Where to find it: Blue Pan Pizza (3930 W. 32nd Ave. and 3509 E. 12th Ave.), and they even sell Faygo pop.
What you’re craving: New York–style pizza
You like your slices greasy and foldable, light on the sauce and thin-crusted.
Where to find it: Two spots do New York pie right: Original Pizza (1300 W. Midway Blvd., Broomfield) and Famous Original J’s (715 E. 26th Ave.)
What you’re craving: A good bagel
Seriously, how hard is it to recreate a chewy sphere of dough with a small hole in the middle?
Where to find it: New Yorkers get in line at Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen (multiple locations), where they replicate the city’s famed tap water for bagel perfection.
What you’re craving: Fish fry, and throw in some cheese curds while you’re at it
Friday night in Wisconsin means one thing: fish fry. And of course you need a side of cheese curds to go with it.
Where to find it: Not only can you get a basket of tempura-battered walleye at Wally’s Wisconsin Tavern (1417 Market St.), but you can make your fish fry all-you-can-eat for $24. (Cheese curds sold separately.)
What you’re craving: California-style burritos
Burritos are plentiful in the Golden State: They’ve got Mission-style, L.A.-style, Dorado-style, and, yes, San Diego-style. Colorado Mexican food is great and all, but sometimes you need French fries stuffed into your burrito, a signature trait of a California-style handheld.
Where to find it: Carrera’s Tacos (7939 E. Arapahoe Rd., Suite 170, Greenwood Village) doles out a range of Cal-Mex cuisine, including the French fry-rific Cali Burrito, plus other southern California-inspired creations. (Pick steak as your protein for the full San Diego carne asada experience.)
What you’re craving: Dim sum
In San Francisco, good dim sum restaurants are so plentiful that each neighborhood has its own favorites. In Denver? Not so much. But that doesn’t mean that great har gow, bao, and sticky rice don’t exist here. You just have to know where to line up on weekend mornings.
Where to find it: You’ll find everything from dumplings to turnip cakes to chicken feet with black bean sauce spinning around Star Kitchen’s (2917 W. Mississippi Ave.) seafood tank-lined dining room.
What you’re craving: Lobster roll
It’s 2022 and we have things called airplanes, so let’s stop whining about there being no fresh seafood in Denver. Sure, it may not have been caught within the hour, but it’s still pretty darn fresh.
Where to find it: Maine Shack (1535 Central St.) flies in lobsters multiple times a week to load up their toasted frankfurter buns with claw and knuckle meat. (Yes, there’s clam chowder on the menu, too.)
Read more: Colorado’s Most Iconic Foods, Ranked