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Eat and Drink

It’s a Carnivore’s Paradise at the National Western Stock Show

From bacon-studded funnel cakes to juicy prime rib, meat-forward fare abounds at Denver’s iconic Western extravaganza.

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Starting January 11, more than 700,000 attendees will flock to the National Western Complex for the 114th Stock Show. It’s easy to work up an appetite while cheering on rodeo contenders and some of the country’s most prized livestock, and patrons are expected to consume about 16 tons of beef—including 27,000 burger patties—over the course of 16 days, according to CaterWest, the complex’s food provider.

“It is a beef event,” says CaterWest executive chef Mike Van Trabert. “We cut about 4,000 pounds of steaks alone.”

Whether you’re hankering for a big-as-your-face turkey leg or a platter of fall-of-the-bone ribs, there’s no shortage of dishes to satisfy your inner carnivore at the year’s biggest event celebrating Colorado’s agricultural heritage. Here are our picks:

Steak 

All of the tenderloins, New York strips, ribeyes, and more being served at the Stock Show this year are wet-aged for 28 days, then smoked for 12 more at the National Western Bar and Grill Steakhouse on the north side of the Expo Hall. “We are always sure to place our beef orders far in advance to ensure proper aging of the meat before we receive it. We’ve been very impressed with the quality of Buckhead’s meat thus far,” says Van Trabert.

Order a thick slice of prime rib with hot atomic horseradish alongside a glass of Marooned at Last, a concoction featuring Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co.’s TX Blended Whiskey (the show’s official whiskey sponsor), lemon juice, black cherry, ginger beer, and mint. Also on the menu: green chile mac and cheese with chicken; the green chile slopper (an open-faced burger smothered in the namesake stew); and Rocky Mountain oysters. Since seating at the restaurant is limited, an express touch-screen kiosk was added this year, allowing attendees to order meals to-go.

If you can’t make it to the bar and grill steakhouse, the Cattlemen’s Grill on the second floor of the Hall of Education, has fine cooked-to-order New York strip steaks that are also wet-aged for 28-days.

The Rocky Mountain oysters with a side of cocktail sauce. Photo by Patricia Kaowthumrong

Barbecue

Smokehouse BBQ and the Dew Country Roadhouse (both in the Hall of Education) offer chicken, pork ribs, and brisket, accompanied by hearty sides such as jalapeño cornbread, potato salad, and coleslaw. Or, head to one of the Urban Cowboy stands in the main building and Events Center to get a plate of brisket nachos—topped with pico de gallo, jalapeño-cheese sauce, and a whole roasted jalapeño—a dish Van Trabert says is one of the Stock Show’s most popular. They’re also available at the Events Center’s Humboldt St. Pizza stand.

A barbecue platter with coleslaw, potato salad, and a corn muffin. Photo by Patricia Kaowthumrong

Handheld Bites

While you are roaming the complex in search of portable sustenance, keep your eyes peeled for a stand selling elevated Vienna-style sausage dogs in the outdoor food court on the east side of the Stadium Arena. The jalapeño-cheddar or veal varieties, served on a local Aspen Bakery bun with a side of grainy mustard, are worth skipping the jumbo corn dog for.

Looking for something a bit sweeter? Order a funnel cake enhanced with a generous sprinkling of bacon bits and powdered sugar, available in the Event Center concourse and in the Expo Hall. Yee-haw, indeed. 

Stock Show Food by the Numbers

16 tons of beef
30,000 pounds of French fries
27,000 burger patties
8,500 pounds of chicken fingers
6,400 slices of pie
4,000 pounds of butchered steak
1,600 gallons of beans

If you go: The National Western Stock Show takes place January 11–26 at the National Western Complex (4655 Humboldt St.); view the event’s schedule and get your tickets here.

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