Chicago may be renowned for its deep-dish pizza, Philly for its cheesesteaks, and New York City for its bagels, cheesecake, and countless other delights, but Denver’s got a secret culinary weapon that sets its dining scene apart, too: community. The Mile High City’s culinary camaraderie will be on full display on July 12 at the Big Eat, a colossal food-and-drink showcase that opens this year’s Slow Food Nations festival and highlights more than 60 Front Range restaurants. For the past eight years, Eat Denver, a non-profit network of independent restaurants, has organized this impressive gathering to highlight the hard work and delicious bounty of our local eateries. The event encourages Denver diners to mingle and sample from industry go-tos (such as Vesta, Jax Fish House, and Racines), while also introducing them to new additions to our dining scene (think: Acreage and Santo).
“The restaurant business is such a hard one,” says Katie Lazor, executive director of Eat Denver, “but it also attracts passion from those who want to make a positive impact on their guests.” The Big Eat offers local chefs and cooks a rare opportunity to “step away from [their] restaurants to celebrate with their peers and gather as a hospitality community.”
As you walk along the galleria at the Denver Performing Arts Complex and peruse the sea of restaurant tents (organized by their brick-and-mortar neighborhoods), you’ll be able to taste 67-plus delectable bites, from Tavernetta’s risotto with local peas and smoked ricotta salata to Linger’s bison pastrami bao buns to Duo’s raw summer squash salad with goat cheese and mint. Bonus: This year, one-third of the dishes will be meat-free and veggie-forward.
After (or as) you satisfy your appetite, make sure to snag a neighborhood-themed cocktail—complete with spirits from Colorado distilleries including the Family Jones Spirit House and Woody Creek Distillers—from the new bar, which was custom-built for the event.
Proceeds benefit Eat Denver programming, including restaurant industry education talks and training programs for budding cooks at Emily Griffith College and Metropolitan State University.
If you go: The Big Eat, July 12, 6 to 9 p.m., The Galleria at Denver Performing Arts Complex, 1400 Curtis St. Tickets are $65 per person and can be purchased here.