You've heard it — and said it — before: "It tastes like chicken." Nonetheless, the humble bird has its virtues, and plenty of Denver chefs are proving that there's nothing foul about fowl when it's prepared — and served — in ways that bring out its best attributes. Here are 10 standout chicken dishes from restaurants that opened within the past six months.
Pollo abondigas from Poco Torteria at Avanti Food & Beverage
At Kevin Morrison's popular torteria, located on the main floor of Denver's hottest food hall, fans line up for the pollo albongidas, a hefty torta smeared with chipotle sauce and stacked with homemade chicken meatballs, mojo-de-ajo-braised spinach and queso fresco. Served with superb fries, the meal is large enough for sharing, but we're betting you'll want it all for yourself.
3200 Pecos St.; 720-885-5069
Chicken karaage from Osaka Ramen
Chef-owner Jeff Osaka's chicken karaage — Japanese fried chicken — features boneless pieces of dark meat marinated in ginger, garlic, soy and citrus and crusted with potato flour, yielding crisp, delicate skin and incredibly tender meat. The spicy Japanese mayo that comes alongside is excellent too.
Chicken and waffles from Good Son Taphouse
While Detroit-style pizza is the siren song of this neighborhood hangout in the former Lowenstein Theater, don't dismiss the daily blue plates, most notably the chicken and waffles: croissant-dough waffles, classic fried chicken with crackling skin in a pool of salt-and-peppered country gravy. The downside? It's only available on Saturday.
2550 E. Colfax Ave.; 303-355-5445
Grilled chicken sandwich from Honor Society
There's a lot to love about chef Justin Brunson's new Honor Society, a fine-casual-style setup that marches to an "Honor Thy Belly" motto. To that end, fill yours with Brunson's grilled chicken sandwich, a heap of herb-rubbed slices of Red Bird chicken jazzed up with fresh greens, green hummus, radishes and a lemon-splashed vinaigrette.
1900 16th St.; 720-420-0614
Roast chicken from Milk & Honey
When it comes to comfort food, there's nothing more soul-warming than roasted chicken, and while chef de cuisine Lance Barto's crisp-skinned poultry — served with chanterelle mushrooms, grains, roasted corn, black garlic and jus — is far more elevated and whimsical than the traditional version, it's a delicious flurry of flavors and textures.
1414 Larimer St.; 303-997-7590
Tinga tacos from Dos Santos
Sure, tacos are a dime a dozen in Denver, and there's nothing particularly revolutionary about chicken tacos...unless they're the chicken tacos at Dos Santos, a rustic-modern taqueria in Uptown that recently opened to a wave of accolades.The tinga tacos, which showcase tender flesh from chicken thighs soaked in a tomato-chipotle broth, are topped with guacamole, cotija cheese, onions, cilantro and zigzags of roasted-red-chile crema.
1475 E. 17th Ave.; 303-386-3509
Thai coconut chicken curry from Cho77
Yes, the presentation is gorgeous, but while chef Lon Symensma's artistry is one of his calling cards, so, too, is his cooking. His curried coconut broth, redolent with herbs, rings of Fresno chiles and vivid Thai spices, also showcases the virtues of fresh-pulled chicken, which tastes nothing like the chicken you've had to endure a million times before at the lackluster Thai joint down the street. His curry comes with sides of mustard greens and crispy egg noodles, proving, once again, that he knows how to gamble with success.
42 S. Broadway; 720-638-8179
Shake N' Bake from Carbon Beverage Cafe
The menu at Carbon is full of footloose and fancy-free dishes with playful twists and presentations — for example, the Shake N' Bake, a glazed donut (from the next-door donut dispensary that shares ownership with Carbon) sandwiching butter-glossed fried chicken accompanied by Sriracha-maple syrup.
1553 Platte St.; 720-428-8565
Pavé of chicken from Baur's
In the culinary world, pavé, the French term for cobblestone, typically refers to a serving of food – usually fish or meat – that's framed as a square or rectangle. At Baur's, the pavé of chicken — pressed, seared, juicy and delicate — is displayed atop a painterly plate of massaman-curried purple cauliflower purée, a tangy grape syrup, Romanesco and cashews.
1512 Curtis St.; 303-615-4000
The Franklin from Denver Biscuit Company
The newest outpost of the Denver Biscuit Company — like its other two locations, it resides inside the Atomic Cowboy — is a brunch magnet for those who like their Southern-style biscuits a mile high. And the Franklin, whose centerpiece is buttermilk fried chicken dusted with Cajun spices, is the kingpin of hen. The expertly fried bird, served on one of those buttery house-baked biscuits, is crowned with bacon, cheddar and sausage gravy, giving those homesick Southerners the ultimate place to flock.
4275 Tennyson St.; 303-377-7900