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The popcorn kernel, once reserved for movie theaters and state fairs, is adding a bunch of crunch to local dishes. Denver chefs have been thinking outside the box—er, bucket—to incorporate the whole grain into plates both savory and sweet. Here, some of our favorites.
Cracker Jack Waffle
2030 W. 30th Ave., 303-993-3120
There are two ways to enjoy popcorn at Linger: In the evenings, you’ll find complimentary popcorn at your indoor table, spiced with everything from curry to dill (a welcome gluten-free stand-in for the bread basket). At brunch, the Cracker Jack waffle recalls afternoons at Coors Field with its garnish of candied popcorn and peanuts. The crunch is the perfect counterpoint to the fluffy waffle, rich vanilla custard, and boozy cherry syrup.
Kettle Head combines organic corn and snappy flavors for an improved version of the classic. Simple yet addictive flavors like toasted cinnamon, jalapeño-cheddar, and honey barbecue will have you going in for handful after handful at local breweries such as Copper Kettle Brewing, Epic Brewing Company, and Former Future Brewing.
2240 N. Clay St., 720-287-1895
With a rotating menu of French classics such as coq au vin and oxtail bourguignon, Amass seems like an unlikely place to spot the American favorite. But the popcorn sundae, the Jefferson Park eatery’s staple dessert, proves that kernels can get dressed up. A winning combination of creamy vanilla ice cream, bright blueberry compote, and crisp morsels of caramel popcorn gives the nostalgic snack a sophisticated makeover.
Buttered Popcorn Ice Cream
52 Broadway, 303-282-4645
Every so often, the unconventional-flavor maestros at Sweet Action scoop batches of buttered popcorn ice cream. If you’re adventurous enough to deviate from the ever-popular Stranahan’s whiskey brickle, you’ll be rewarded with a treat so buttery you’ll nearly forget you’re eating ice cream. With just the right balance of salty and sweet, the flavor could become a new favorite.
Maple-Bacon Crème Caramel
3316 Tejon St., 720-420-0622
If there’s one thing that’s always in season at Old Major, it’s pork—which is why the maple-bacon crème caramel never leaves the menu. While many have bemoaned the ubiquity of bacon in sweets, this dessert is crafty enough to change the naysayers’ minds. The velvety maple-syrup-sweetened flan benefits from the crunchy addition of salty candied bacon (from chef and co-owner Justin Brunson’s Denver Bacon Company) and crisp bourbon-caramel popcorn.