Denver street food: The best meals-on-wheels of 2010
The marvelous pizzas at Brava! Pizzeria, of which there are five, plus a daily pie, are shoveled into an 850-degree oval oven for about ninety seconds, and when pizza virtuoso David Bravdica and his crew pull them from the embers of the smoldering Missouri oak wood, they're charred, bubbly and taste of pizza utopia. Bravdica, who spent nearly a year in Tuscany throwing pies, built his wagon on wheels in Boulder, but it's those of us in Denver -- specifically, the stream of strollers on the 16th Street Mall -- who reap the rewards of his prowess. His top-notch ingredients -- pepperoni and sausage procured from II Mondo Vecchio; Jumpin' Good Goat Dairy goat cheese; fresh herbs from Grower's Organic; locally-sourced flour; hand-pulled mozzarella; San Marzano tomatoes; and Hazel Dell mushrooms -- are judiciously spread across the dough that rises high above its competition.
Denver's Civic Center StrEATS
"Everyone has a connection with crockpots, whether it's sitting on top of your refrigerator collecting dust, or it's something that your mom or grandmother used while you were growing up," says Stephen Daniels, who runs the Crock Spot with business partner Mandy Birks. He and Birks, who serve the stewed meats (chicken, pork, lamb and beef) with healthy grains, including pearl barley, quinoa and brown rice, have amassed a devoted fan base of hippies and hipsters who have fallen head over pot for the innovative, healthy bowls crowned with one of four different sauces -- chimichurri, chipotle sour cream, tzatziki or a spicy garden gravy -- and topped with scallions and Beefsteak tomatoes. It's been a successful venture for Daniel and Birks -- so successful, in fact, that the duo is soon unleashing a food truck, followed by a brick-and-mortar.
Deluxe Street Food/Little Orange Rocket
Seasonally at Civic Center Eats, Cherry Creek Farmer's market, the City Park Esplanade Farmers' Market; catering
The Little Orange Rocket, chef Dylan Moore's tangerine-tinted mobile meals on wheels, is all about pimping globalized foodstuffs with flair. The truffle mac-n-cheese balls whiffed with truffle oil and thyme, have their own legion of followers -- as do the fries buried in white cheddar, roasted red pepper ranch dressing, bacon and scallions -- but the shining star in the worldly lineup is the bánh mi slider, grilled chicken pressed with cucumbers, pickled daikon and cilantro sprigs, and dressed with fish sauce and squiggles of rooster sauce. We're not suggesting you should forsake your Federal Boulevard fix; just that this is a bánh mi that deftly combines quality and quantity.
Various locations around Denver; available for private parties, school demos and fundraisers; and Kleinman's soups are also served at the Waffle Brothers, 393 Corona Street
Molecular magician Ian Kleinman, the former exec chef of O's Steak & Seafood at the Westin Westminster, and the mad genius behind the Inventing Room, his Willy Wonka-like catering company and laboratory of liquid nitrogen, space foams and Pop Rocks, launched a food cart last summer, attracting clusters of curiosity seekers who couldn't wait to see the celebrity of liquid nitrogen in action. Kleinman is always experimenting -- he's currently playing around with liquid nitrogen fried ice cream -- and his cart, from which he hustles unassailable ice creams and sorbets with wacky toppings, like peanut butter Pop Rocks, alongside crème brûlée, slushies, chocolate malt popcorn, housemade caramels, marshmallows and fruit dipped in chocolate, and soups and breads, has no limitations. Just go with it and revel in the fun of it all.