Popcorn used to be reserved for movie night, but the high-fiber treat has found its way into the professional kitchen. I first saw this trend emerge two summers ago at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, but now it has hit Denver in a big way. At some local restaurants, bowls of popped kernels replace the bread basket; at others, it’s a garnish for dishes both savory and sweet. Here’s where to find the snack.

Linger

At Linger (2030 W. 30th Ave., 303-993-3120, lingerdenver.com) freshly popped kernels arrive spiced with an ever-changing combination of surprising flavors, including Oaxacan mole; habanero and maple; and Madras curry and dill.
______

Oak at Fourteenth

Popcorn shows up on the dessert menu at Oak at Fourteenth (1400 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-444-3622, oakatfourteenth.com). The cremoso—a decadent chocolate pudding—arrives garnished with Boulder Popcorn in a style reminiscent of Cracker Jack.
______

Tag Raw Bar

Diners at TAG Raw Bar (1423 Larimer St., #010, 303-996-2685, tagrawbar.com) are greeted with “poppycock”—a complimentary dish of Asian-esque caramel corn dusted with Japanese seven spice. The starter shares space with salty-sweet, totally addictive roasted kombu chips.
______

Bitter Bar

At the Bitter Bar (835 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-442-3050, thebitterbar.com) caramel-bacon popcorn dresses up steamed gingerbread. It’s addictive enough that the treat can be ordered (off the menu) by the bag.
______

Venue Bistro

During the 4:30–6:30 p.m. happy hour at Venue Bistro (3609 W. 32nd Ave., 303-477-0477, venuebistro.com) a large bowl of savory popcorn in flavors like barbecue bacon or smoky cheddar goes for just $1—and includes a free refill.
______

Blue Bonnet

Come summer, look for green chile-fajita popcorn—made with Rocky Mountain Popcorn Company’s white cheddar flavor—to adorn the gazpacho at Blue Bonnet (457 S. Broadway, 303-778-0147, bluebonnetrestaurant.com).

This article was originally published in 5280 April 2012.

Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison

Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.