Denver's 10 Most Extreme Dishes & Drinks

Over-the-top items from a pho challenge to a bone-marrow Manhattan
January 20, 2015
by Lori Midson

Everyone has a culinary bucket list, and for some that might include annihilating your taste buds with the world's hottest chiles, or tackling a Godzilla-size burrito, Man v. Food style. In your honor, we've tracked down 10 outrageous dishes, from a blistering curry that requires a verbal waiver to a killer bone-marrow Manhattan. Try them all, we dare you.

Phaal from India Tavern

You've heard it before: "Are you sure you want to eat that?" You'll definitely encounter that question, and raised eyebrows, at India Tavern, the only curry house in metro Denver that serves phaal ($15-$18, depending upon which protein you order), a British-Indian invention that's made with bhut jolokia, a fiercely hot chile that's used to make tear gas by the Indian military. If your macho tendencies take over, and you go down the path of pain, you'll have to give a verbal disclaimer to your server acknowledging that they're not responsible for any physical or emotional damage. If you do manage to empty the bowl (plenty of warriors have), you'll get a complimentary bottle of beer, although you might be begging for a milky lassi, a beverage that's more likely to beat the heat.

5062 S. Syracuse St.; 720-287-5211

Hot pot from China Jade

China Jade boasts three menus: an American-Chinese menu, a traditional Chinese roster and a third menu that's solely dedicated to the Chinese hot pot (prices vary according to to which broth and ingredients you choose), a feast that always attracts communal crowds of adventurous eaters. Go for the flaming red broth studded with an infinite number of fevered chiles and mouth-numbing peppercorns, and then choose from an endless vault of ingredients (pork intestines, sea cucumber, surf clams and an infinite number of vegetables) and slurp away.

12203 E. Iliff Ave.; 303-755-8518

Pho King challenge at Pho 95

There's the standard bowl of pho, and then there's the King Kong-size version. Both locations of Pho 95 have what it calls a "Pho King" challenge, a mammoth vessel of traditional pho stocked with two pounds of noodles, two pounds of meat, 200 ounces of broth and a separate plate of vegetables, all of which must be consumed in one sitting in order to claim victory. If you manage to bleed the bowl dry, you're rewarded with a black T-shirt inked with a "Pho King Champion" title and your photo displayed on the winner's board; if you're defeated, your prize is a $35 tab and a pink T-shirt inscribed with the words "I'm a Pho King LOSER." Want to take the plunge? Go for it, but keep in mind that advance notice is required.

1401 S. Federal Blvd.; 303-936-3322

Oak-grilled steak from Acorn

Cow. A whopping 32 ounces of it. That's what's mooing on your platter if you indulge in Acorn's splay of oak-grilled meat, a $95 spread that's intended for family-style feasting, although if you're solo and starving, no one's going to stop you from attempting to swallow it on your own. But wait, there's more: in addition to the epic poundage of beef, chef Steven Redzikowski props the huge plate with a mound of fried potatoes, shishito peppers and chimichurri sauce, ensuring that it's an extremely large weapon for one, and more than ample for two or three.

3350 Brighton Blvd.; 720-542-3721

Bone-marrow Manhattan from Euclid Hall

When was the last time you drank a Manhattan from a marrow bone? Thanks to the kitchen and bar crew at Euclid Hall, you can make it a daily habit. It works like this: order the brûléed bone marrow ($9 per bone), scoop out the marrow from the center, smear the fat on some bread and eat it. Once you've done that, the roasted bone then becomes a sled for a liquid asset, namely a Manhattan, which you pour into the bone and then shoot down your gullet. It's called the "luge," and the spirited cocktail includes Leopold's American small-batch whiskey, Cocchi vermouth, a few dashes of Angostura bitters and muddled Honeycrisp apples. You'll need to fork over an extra $7.50 for the drinking experience, but it's a small price to pay for a terrific cocktail and photo op. 

1317 14th St.; 303-595-4255

Reindeer sausage from Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs

Hot dog honcho Jim Pittenger is the arbiter of exotic sausages and the Mile High City's kingpin of the caulking gun, a plastic contraption that flings long ropes of cream cheese down the split centers of his grill-streaked dogs, which are also bombarded with soft onions soaked in Coke. But the signature toppings aren't nearly as funky as the sausages themselves: Alaskan reindeer ($7, pictured), rattlesnake-and-pheasant, jack-a-lope, wild boar and a smoked bacon brat (aka, the Bat Dog) heaped with tomato cream cheese, avocado purée, bacon bits, caramelized onions and tomato-bacon powder. Extreme, yes. And extremely delicious.

2148 Larimer St.; 720-746-9355

Macaroni 'n' cheese pie from Ian's Pizza

When this Ballpark pizzeria opened last year, the menu struck an immediate chord with the progressive pizza posse who embraced the joint's offbeat and unorthodox pies. True, you can get a pepperoni pizza, but with outlandish toppings like flour tortillas, guacamole, smoked brisket, tator tots, penne pasta and a macaroni 'n' cheese pizza ($10.50, $16.50, $22.50; pictured), it's time to order out of your comfort zone.

2210 Blake St.; 303-296-9000

Molecular donut from the The Inventing Room

Molecular magician Ian Kleinman, who founded The Inventing Room, a lab of liquid nitrogen, doesn't have a brick-and-mortar, but he does host donut pop-ups across Denver, and while they're few and far between, you're in for a treat this week: between January 22-25, Kleinman will set up his laboratory at Sunnyside Burger Bar, where he'll feature nine crazy (and crazy-good) donuts for $5 each. Inspirations include everything from cream, brown-sugar-braised bananas, salted chocolate and frozen pie crumbs to cream, burnt peanut butter marshmallows and grape jelly caviar. The pop-ups go from 6 to 10:30 AM, and preorders are available on The Inventing Room website.

3759 Lipan St.; 720-255-2485

Any burger from Bad Daddy's Burger Bar

True to its name, the over-the-top burgers at these kitschy meat palaces (you'll find three of them in and around Denver) are bad-to-the-bone big. There are nine signature burgers, plus a build-your-own-burger option with 16 different toppings and more than 20 condiments, but no matter how you stack it, it's a massive workout for your jaw. The aptly titled "Badass" burger ($13.25, pictured), a 10-oz. patty with American cheese, buttermilk-fried bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickles and horseradish mayo, is pure mile-high gluttony.

240 Milwaukee St.; 303-377-3032

Seven-lb. breakfast burrito from from Jack-n-Grill

When Adam Richman, host of Man v. Food, the gut-busting TV show on the Travel Channel, journeyed to Denver to tackle Jack-n-Grill's seven-lb. breakfast burrito, he was squarely defeated by the monstrosity. Bursting with five pounds of potatoes, a half-pound of ham, another half-pound of cheese, a dozen scrambled eggs, onions and the joint's fiery green chile, it's a $24 challenge that's not for the faint of stomach. But if you're a male who succeeds, the burrito is on the house, and your mug shot is pinned to the hall of fame; if you're a woman who achieves victory, you get to eat free at Jack-n-Grill (there are three outposts across Denver) for as long as you're still living.

2524 Federal Blvd.; 303-964-9544

bone marrow
hot pot
molecular gastronomy
breakfast burritos
extreme food
eating challenges
game meats