Sunday, July 10, 2011

Justice League of Street Food - Denver, CO

Neither rain nor shine keep the food trucks away at the Justice League of Street Food gathering at 29th and Huron. Many people showed up to this event, braving the early rain threat and the 7:45pm downpour. Live Facebook updates shouted encouragements.
Faced with too much time and a good book, I traveled to Denver early. The trucks were already there or filtering in at 3:30pm. Parking was being set up along with tables and chairs. It's always interesting to see how much time and effort goes into running such events. Do we give much thought to the before and after efforts?
We're here to party though, right? Eat good food, enjoy the company, people watch, play in the mud, eat more food, pray your stomach doesn't explode past your stretchy pants. I have worthy goals.
Food truck No. 1 - Pinche Tacos. My friends were craving tacos and the special was intriguing too.
Asking for spicy, Pinche suggested the Chipotle Pollo a la Crema (left). I think the cashier misheard my friend. If you read the menu, you would notice the ingredient list: braised chicken and spinach with creamy chipotle sauce, cotija cheese, sour cream. Nothing screamed spicy. Likewise, it was tasty without much spice. My other friend enjoyed there special- Camaron Xni-Pek featuring yucatan shrimp ceviche, pico de gallo with habanero, cilantro and cabbage slaw, sesame seeds and one other ingredient.
Here's the lengua which disappeared rapidly down my gullet. Pinche Tacos does charge tax.
No. 2 brought us to Deluxe's Little Orange Rocket. Chinese BBQ Baby Back Ribs screamed for attention as did the lamb flatbread.
Outdoor "performance" food art doesn't hurt one's case either. Notice the kid's devilish sneaky grin.
 One more action shot.
Please admire the picture. Fingers rapidly creeping towards it. Women craving the promise of succulent ribs.
Satisfaction! Seconds were dealt later.
Ground pistachios, rightly spicy, savory eastern goodness. Meet the Grilled Lamb Flatbread.
We found another like-minded food friend outside of Biker Jim's (No. 3). A sausage fan, he wolfed down this Elk Jalapeno dog in no time.
Once again, Biker Jim's banishes any food pacing ideas with his Banh Mi dogs. They hit the spot, though I wished the pickled vegetables were a touch spicier. I also heard Biker Jim's restaurant were serving lobster dogs below their standard $20 price tonight. Did you try one?
Aaaaahhhh! The Denver Cupcake Truck goodness! Maple Bacon on left, a chocolatey creation on the right.
If you required beer, Avery Brewing Company was here. Wine was also available in another area. I liked the food truck setup this evening. You'll see more pictures later, but most food trucks were on one side, tables along with beer, wine, ice cream sandwiches on the other. It was nice organization and I never felt crowded.
We toured around the food truck circle debating what to eat. Denver Biscuit Co specials were a Biscuit Cinnamon Roll and Chicken Cordon Bleu.
We also walked past Fat Sully's with their special, the Raspberry Dessert Slice. Tempting, but wasn't in dessert mode yet.
Or were we? No. 4 led us to Agave S'Mores on a Stick. They featured homemade marshmallows using agave and special Great Divide Chocolate Yeti Caramel sauce.
Let the eager eaters demonstrate this dessert's yumminess and messiness.
Stick It To Me came in at No. 5. I convinced a friend to share two sticks with me. They don't sell single sticks (make note), but doubles, sandwiches and salads.
We chowed down the Italian (savory) and the Spaniard (spicy).
My friends wanted to explore their sweet tooth options some more, but I delayed them at No. 6 Gastrocart's Scott Parker's Roasted Mushroom Manwich.
It was huge! Honestly, this probably won the best value award. At $3, it was large and featured great flavors.
No. 7 was the new truck, Cream City Treats.
My friends are quite thrilled with their Chocolate Cookie with Jack Daniels Chocolate Chip ice cream (left) and Lemon Pistachio Cookie with Pistachio ice cream. I sampled half the lemon cookie, but found it quite boring. Cream City was the weak link today. And since they were serving ice cream sandwiches from a cooler, why bother with a truck?
We were wearing down. The 7 food trucks had dented our hunger, stretched our bellies tight, and threatened food comas.
You had a few options. Run around the block, leave, call for backup, or throw rocks in the mud or puddles.
We sat around a bit. Fortunately, they had plenty of seating and a cool dj mixing. Eventually, my group dwindled to one.
No. 8! Steubens! Green shirt guy looks happy. They had a few deals today including a combo slider (tempting, but couldn't fit that in), deviled eggs, and butterscotch pudding.
Six deviled eggs for $5 and a free butterscotch pudding sample (awesome!). The eggs were good and thankfully I bumped into friends to share with.
I did not share with this dog, but the puppy was quite popular. There were several dogs with their owners tonight. Some looked quite happy to be there. Scraps, anyone?
Then the rain struck. Timid at first, the gray clouds overhead built up.
They packed under Biker Jim's tents and beneath trees.
They found shelter underneath truck awnings and their umbrellas.
Others' alcoholic stimulation led to random cheering and hand waving.
If only everyone was as short as the woman hiding beneath Deluxe's order stand.
Gray skies only highlight Steuben's colorful truck.
Of course sunglasses are necessary during a rainstorm.
Hard to make Steamin' Demons' Banh Mi and Udon Bowl in such heavy crowding.
Tempting menu, right? (5pm shot)
DJ, ATM, Beer.
Once the rain stopped and clouds departed, people emerged from their shelters to kickstart their food frenzy again.
It was a good night. I had a great time and hope everyone else did too. These parties are awesome. There's great food and great energy here. Keep on partying, Justice League of Street Food!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Lodo Bites - Denver, CO

Lodo Bites started with Lodo Drinks at the Wynkoop. A mutual friend works there, so we were able to relax a bit before the madness and food hunting began. Lodo Bites had 1000 tickets and they sold out, so starting early and having a strategic plan were important.
 Evidenced by Wynkoop's near emptiness, I'm a rare food fanatic worried about crowding. The beer mellowed me and my friend asked for a large bag and takeout boxes. Ahhh strategy.
 Beer, black and tan brownies, berry shortcake, and background blues music.
 Next up was the Big Game Restaurant & Lounge. This place is huge, features large televisions, and helpful hosts.
 Sliders, sushi (fried roll was my favorite), and their tini samples.
 They had a most impressive food selection with great variety. Signs are pointing to a very full takeout box and full belly.
 Welcome to Backcountry Provisions. Notice the table heaped with sandwiches.
 This is your spot for thickly packed sandwiches. Here is the Avalanche (top round roast beef, asiago cheese, tomato, romaine and house vinaigrette) and the Sherpa (roasted eggplant, sweet roasted red peppers, tomato, romaine, asiago cheese and garlic mayo).
 Dixons Downtown Grill was lame. Aztec Chicken... voila! Thin sauce, 1-2 chicken strips, long unwieldy crispy tortilla chips. They are closing shop soon.
 Black, chic, comfortable. Welcome to the Wine Loft.
 Top left rotating clockwise we have Pork Taco Canapes, Mushroom Bruschetta (memories of Florence), and Chevre Fig Canapes. The food was excellent, such delectable bites. I imagine this a great place to sample wine, enjoy small plates, and enjoy fine company with their intimate seating.
Wazee Supper Club was next with warm to hot pizza squares, chocolate chip cookies and ignored $3 watermelon margaritas. The pizza was ok, but didn't make up for the slow moving line.
 A view of the bar space with televisions.
 We're now swinging our food group up toward H Burger.
 Thick, juicy sliders with bacon.
 Fried jalapenos with sriracha ranch sauce and their veggie slider. The jalapenos were so hot, but fortunately the sauce mediated the spice. The veggie slider was quite good. Their warm plates were a nice touch too.
 ChoLon Bistro Part 1.
 ChoLon was the most frustrating experience at LodoBites. The Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce was great, but after 10-15 minutes sitting inside, we figured out they were only featuring the Chicken Satay for that time. The food was only served at the bar, which meant you were fighting for samples with the people already seated there. Their tactic was obviously about selling drinks as people delayed.
 Frustrated, we moved to The Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant.
 They featured their  Spicy Shrimp Diablo (a favorite enjoyed by my shrimp loving friends) with guacamole, chips and salsa.

  Next, we headed to Ocean Prime, a recent Larimer addition.
 Their space was comfortable, clearly designed for drinking, but we experienced none of ChoLon's overcrowding. The Tuna Tartare on a Crispy Won Ton may have won the presentation prize. The flavor layers won us too.
 Bistro Vendome's welcoming space led us past their indoor restaurant space and outside as their smiling staff encouraged me to enjoy Gazpacho, Halibut Brandade with Mustard Creme Fraiche, Duck Rillette on Brioche with Meyer Lemon Mostarda. Yes, please. Thank you. May I have another?
Others enjoying the food and conversation at Bistro Vendome.
 Sausage time at Euclid Hall. They had so many delicious sausage samples (boudin noir, veal, kielbasa, and more). And their waitstaff would question you if you only took one. Take two! Take two!
 The enthusiastic crowd.
 Chicken and Waffles with maple syrup.
 Spying on a photographer.
 Camembert and Peach Preserves. So good.

 ChoLon Part 2. After noting their chicken satay strategy, we decided to come back. Here is the Pork Belly Pot Stickers with Ginger Mustard (great spices, enjoyed the ginger).
 Soup Dumpling with Sweet Onion and Gruyere. Good, but a novelty. At this point, they were pouring free wine and telling people at the bar "wine or food samples".
 We're getting close to the end with Vesta Dipping Grill.
 Their Lodo Bites menu was deceiving because it appeared as if there were two menu items when there was only one. Perhaps there was miscommunication between restaurant and Lodo Bites.
 The Celtic Tavern was disappointing. They came out with prepared plates, but those plates must have been prepared at least an hour previous.
 Nicely full, but cold to lukewarm food.
 Tavern Downtown panoramic.
 Great place for your sports fans.
They had a good selection of food keeping warm. It was ok bar food.

Overall thoughts: Lodo Bites cost $30 and I feel I received a lot of value. I was able to sample and experience a good portion of Lodo's restaurants. I also took home a lot of leftover food too. There is a strategy to sampling and not gorging your palate. My favorite places featured great food, but also good line management. Some restaurants could clearly do better with their lines. Some restaurants had good lines and/or comfortable seating, but didn't deliver in the food department. That's ok.

Strategies for massive sampling: Start early. Wear comfortable shoes. Get a takeout box. Go with a group.