Joel Klatt gets schooled in the Denver dining scene over dinner at Squeaky Bean

Categories: Fast Food

Lori Midson
Joel Klatt, Mark Antonation and Squeaky Bean owner Johnny Ballen.
In advance of the Super Bowl, 104.3 The Fan morning sports commentator Joel Klatt declared that Denver was a chain restaurant town without a unique food culture. In the course of the subsequent Twitter barrage, chef Paul Reilly of the soon-to-open Beast + Bottle jumped to Denver's defense with this: "@joelklatt @mantonat Fair enough. I absolutely think DEN has better restaurants than KC or STL #culinarymovement#foodietown."

After that, I reached out to Klatt, hoping to educate him about the dining opportunities here. And he agreed to meet for dinner at the restaurant of my choice to discuss the Denver dining scene and, hopefully, experience culinary proof that this city can hold its own against other American foodie destinations -- including New Orleans, Kansas City and Austin -- that he'd named during his morning drive-time show.

See also:
- Is Denver a chain-restaurant town? 104.3 FM's Joel Klatt thinks so, but we disagree
- Chef and Tell with Max Mackissock of Squeaky Bean

- Johnny Ballen, the bionic man behind Squeaky Bean

After some deliberation, we decided that Squeaky Bean would be the location of our meeting, both because of its stellar reputation as a leader in Denver dining, and because I thought chef Max MacKissock's playful yet complex dishes would be just right for challenging Klatt's assumptions, without being too off-putting. After all, Klatt had admitted on the radio that more often than not he finds himself at steakhouses -- either because he's entertaining athletes who gravitate toward beef-centric menus or he's exhausted from his travels as a baseball and college football commentator and needs comfort and familiarity that hometown steakhouses generally provide.

My wife and Cafe Society editor Lori Midson joined us for dinner (we invited Reilly, too, but he was unable to attend).

For me, the Squeaky Bean's menu hit the perfect balance of adventure and familiarity. The opening soup -- a borscht broth with a sour-cream sphere, tiny potato dumplings and sprig of dill -- was an instant reminder of my Ukrainian grandmother's more robust and hearty beet soup. A bowl of clam tortellini at first hinted at an old-school Italian joint's best linguini and clam sauce, but veered into new territory with a fragrant, bright green sea urchin emulsion poured tableside by the waitstaff. Between this and the bison carpaccio with its sprinkle of crunchy barley, I think Klatt was a little taken aback.

Lori Midson
The borscht at the Squeaky Bean.
But just as in his CU Buff days, Klatt was a great sport and took the challenge head on. His favorites? We all agreed that the deceptively simple but powerful flavor of the cauliflower couscous with vadouvan was a clear winner, as was the bite of butter-smooth beef tongue that came immersed in pho broth.

(Although tongue jokes made the rounds on the Evans and Klatt radio show the next morning, Klatt was clearly impressed.)

Location Info

Squeaky Bean

1500 Wynkoop St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

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Klatt. Ugh. Nice of you to take on the task Mark and well done by all appearances but who cares if Klatt can't be bothered to find out something about the food scene in his city of choice. Plus think of poor Texas Roadhouse, down one customer for this week.


Mantonat is also married to Lori Midson?

Klatt - so nice that he is STILL slamming Denver.  Guess what, Klatt; go to ANY city that has a publication (or multiple) that does a best of and a lot of the readers' choices end up being chains. It is the nature of the beast.  A good reason for all these publications having the editors' choices as well.

I don't understand why he is so willing to shed that attitude in other cities, but clings to it so desperately in regards to Denver.  He is quickly moving up the chain for worst Buff representative.  Still outdone by Ray Carruth and the douche bag Orange County Housewives  offspring, but moving up fast.

jonathan.shikes moderator editor

Although I love Santiago's and Chubby's, I do miss the California-style burritos that seem to be sold on every other street corner in Southern California -- but not in Denver. The closest I have found locally is Viva Burrito, which has two locations I think. I've heard that Tacos Rapidos is good as well.


@a94buffJoel Klatt can think what he thinks. I assume his line of thinking was more along the "KC is known for BBQ, NO for creole, and Denver isn't really known for anything specific". I can't disagree with him if that was his thinking, but he statement that Denver is not a good food town is very incorrect.

That being said, Klatt can stick to being a never-was pro football player from the suburbs who blabs on the radio, and I'll enjoy Denver's finest food in his place.

Fletcherneedsajob topcommenter

@a94buff Agreed. I would prefer that the unadventurous diners stay away from these local gems and continue to fill up their local Applebee's and let Guy Fieri drive 'em wild with cravings. Keeps the my waits at the real spots a little more manageable. 

Mantonat topcommenter

@Stilton Also - did you just seriously include Joel in the same category as Ray Carruth? Because he has an opinion that's not the same as yours, that makes him second in line to a murderer? I think we may need to add a new corollary to Godwin's Law.

Mantonat topcommenter

@Stilton "My wife and Cafe Society editor Lori Midson joined us for dinner" I guess that could be a little confusing! There were 4 people at dinner  - Lori, Joel, my wife, and me.

LoriMidsonCafeSociety moderator editor

@jonathan.shikes Shikes -- Joel wanted to know the same thing, and I'll give you the same suggestion that I gave to him while we were at dinner: Raliberto's! It's quite to similar to Roberto's, in San Diego, a joint that I used to go to two or three times a week when I lived there. 

Mantonat topcommenter

@jonathan.shikes Tacos Rapidos seems to fit the mold of the San Diego style (although I've never been to San Diego, so I can't claim any expertise). Rolled tacos, California burrito stuffed with fries, carne asada fries, etc. Tamale Kitchen also does burritos stuffed with fries, but I haven't tried them.


@Mantonat @Stilton You see so many references to Ray Carruth that you think it needs to become an adage?  ok. Not as clever as you seem to think, though, and talk about exaggerating.  You would prefer that I just state Klatt is the worst representative Buff? And anythe OCHW knows I am correct about the the OC douchebag.  And wearing a CU t-shirt in every freaking scene.  blech!

It is not just an opinion he is expressing.  Like it or not, he is representing this state and CU every time he opens his trap.  His opinions go everywhere.  But what really chaps my hide is that those "opinions" were made more as statements of fact.  And since he is from here, outsiders are going to assume he knows what he is talking about, when clearly he doesn't.  And even after all this (I am glad to see him go to dinner with you), he still is taking potshots at Denver's food scene.  So now he has been a little educated, and yet still doesn't know what he is talking about.

If he is heard talking about Shiner Bock being the best beer going, he needs to be thrown out of the state.

ScubaSteve topcommenter

@Mantonat @jonathan.shikes 

I'm from San Diego, and Tacos Rapidos is nothing like the Mexican style there.  Mexican style in San Diego is very traditional and simple.  Nothing fancy.

ScubaSteve topcommenter

@Stilton @Mantonat 

Just for the record, Mr. Carruth spells his first name "Rae".

Mantonat topcommenter

@Stilton @Mantonat So tell us what you love about the Denver food scene and what makes it unique! By the way, you're screen name is making me hungry. I may need to stop at the Truffle or St. Killian's on my way home.

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