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People love barbecues for many reasons, not the least of which is that when food is cooked over an open flame, each ingredient takes on a smoky, almost primitive flavor. This includes greens, ranging from romaine to cabbage. Not surprisingly, Denver and Boulder chefs are using this old-school method to create perfectly charred, totally delicious bites. Here, three of our favorites.
1710 Pearl St., Boulder, 720-708-6309, zealfood.com
Boulder’s health-minded Zeal serves grilled romaine two ways: in a vegan Caesar salad (avocado replaces egg in the dressing, and nuts take the place of Parmesan cheese); and accompanied by berries, goat’s milk feta, and a tangy Champagne vinaigrette. The smokiness of the grilled greens anchors both versions with a satisfying, earthy flavor that makes it easier than ever to go meat-free.
Pizzeria Locale Boulder
1730 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-442-3003, localeboulder.com
While the Naples-style pizza is still the main draw, don’t miss Pizzeria Locale Boulder’s salads. Our latest favorite is the “polpo caldo” (hot octopus) kale salad. A wood-stoked fire cooks the leaves just long enough to char the edges, and those blackened bits allow the vegetable to stand up to the rest of the dish’s bold flavors: salty octopus, spicy red pepper flakes, red onions, and cannellini beans. An abundant dusting of bright lemon zest ties it all together.
Central Bistro and Bar
1691 Central St., 303-477-4582, centralbistroandbar.com
Rather than focusing on the hearty, crunchy leaves of kale or romaine, Central’s executive chef, Matt Selby, shifts the paradigm and grills turnip greens. The tender tops wilt over the heat but still retain a smoky edge—and they bolster the dish of poached turnips, feta cheese, apples, sage tempura, and roasted apple vinaigrette. Consider the salad a root-to-leaf experience.