No one would accuse Denverites of being jaded. After years of explosive growth, we still treat every arrival to the dining scene with breathless anticipation, even as we continue to revere local traditions (like mobbing taprooms on weekends, as in the Denver Beer Co. photo above). And while that's charming, it's not always warranted. Here are eight other examples of overhype, along with truly great alternatives.
The entire secret menu at Torchy’s Tacos
Why it's overhyped: Because if everybody already knows about it or can “discover” it in a two-second Google search, it’s not a secret.
Try instead: The actually secret taco at Los Tacos. Or the secret flavors on offer at Taiwanese shaved-snow shop Snowlab. (Granted, the shop's owners announce them on social media. But they change all the time, so you have to put in at least a little effort to get the scoop.)
Unusual/historical beer styles
Why they're overhyped: Don’t get us wrong: We dig the surge in onetime rarities like gose, cream ale, grisette and kvass as much as the next geek. But only so many brewers can jump on the bandwagon of obscurity before it topples over into a mud puddle of cynical, failed experimentation.
Try instead: Actually, scratch “instead.” You should try every pre-Prohibition lager, forgotten farmhouse ale or spontaneously fermented beer you find at such fine breweries as Diebolt, Call to Arms (pictured) and Former Future/Black Project. Just don't blame them when Anheuser-Busch starts hawking faux-gruit.
Anything with Palisade peaches
Why it's overhyped: Hey, the Western Slope's most celebrated stone fruit deserves all the love it gets. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be added to everything from soups and salads to pork chops and pizzas to cocktails and cobblers all season long. We’re already suffering from peach fatigue – and we’ve still got a few weeks to go.
Try instead: Mix it up with dishes that feature other famous crops hitting the market right now, including Olathe corn (pictured), Rocky Ford melons and, of course, Pueblo chiles.
Pancakes from Snooze
Why they're overhyped: There's no question: The pineapple upside-down pancakes at this ever-expanding chain are superb, as is the corned beef hash, and everyone from lawyers to librarians brave the jaw-dropping waits for breakfast. Still, considering the fact that there are hundreds of other worthy breakfast options in Denver, those block-long queues are a bit of a head-scratcher.
Try Instead: It's a sleeper, and we're not even sure we want to share for fear of a Snooze-like mob, but Maddie's makes for a joyous breakfast (and lunch) odyssey. On the menu: fantastic flapjacks, including banana-and-candied-walnut, blueberry, cinnamon swirl and a seasonal berry pancake, plus delicious hand-shredded potato-cakes. And while Uptown's tiny Onefold is no secret, its breakfast fried rice makes any wait worthwhile.
Burgers at the Cherry Cricket
Why they're overhyped: For decades, Cherry Creek's venerable Cherry Cricket has mastered the art of burger hysteria, commanding comically long lines at all hours of the day (and night) for its passable patties that rarely arrive at the requested temperature. And that's our biggest beef with the Cricket: There's an annoying lack of consistency. Sure, the ridiculously high volume doesn't leave much room for quality control, but in a city where burger joints are opening at an incredibly rapid pace, there are just too many other notable alternatives to settle for mediocrity.
Try instead: When we want to wrap our jaws around a burger that's worth its weight in poundage, we make a beeline to Highland Tap and Burger, which serves a Shroom Luva's burger (pictured) with sautéed mushrooms, Emmenthal cheese and white-truffle aïoli – a justifiably lauded burger that nabbed the top spot in Zagat's 2014 Burger Survey.
Highland Tap and Burger: 2219 W. 32nd Ave.; 720-287-4493
Ramen, ramen everywhere
Why it's overhyped: Do you need to ask? Like beets, banh mi and crème brûlée, ramen has remained on the shelves of trendiness long past its expiration date. While we get the allure, the fact of the matter is that it's just soup, people. There are no Fabergé eggs in ramen, no gold, no crystal, and yet here we still are, lapping it up like it's holy water – and paying holier-than-thou prices to boot. There's no telling when the ramen wave will slow to a trickle, but at this point, we're kinda over it.
Try instead: The curious "ancient Thai tom yum" (pictured) at Golden's Citizen Thai Bistro, at once sweeter and meatier than the standard with barbecued pork and pork meatballs as well as shrimp, or the incendiary shellfish-noodle soup called "dynamite jjam bong" at Yong Gung in Aurora.
A meal at Matsuhisa
Why it's overhyped: It's not that the place isn't impressive; it absolutely is. But judging by the hoopla that surrounded its opening, you'd have thought that 1) it filled some citywide sushi void, 2) Nobu himself was behind the bar every night and 3) Denverites had never seen the likes of miso black cod or uni shooters before. None of these are true. In any case, the prices here prohibit a majority of locals from ever setting foot inside.
Try instead: Our current faves for Japanese food include Ototo, Sushi Ronin (pictured) and Hasu Sushi & Grill – which just so happens to be right down the street from Matsuhisa.
Trendy foods, period
Why they're overhyped: Poke, ash, toast, gochujang, chicharrón, nitro, tallow, farro, sea vegetable, hot chicken, Calabrian chile – we could go on and on. The point is if we see more than three of these words or phrases on your menu, we might think you’re trying too hard. Same goes for an excess of black, pickled, ancient, smoked and/or sprouted things. Too many menus seem interchangeable around here.
Try instead: OK, we’re being a little snotty. Here are some emerging trends we do get a kick out of: the return of creamed vegetables, including corn (Old Major) and dandelions (Brazen, Arcana). The hip evolution of vinaigrette, now made with everything from guanciale (Bittersweet) to corn husks (Rebel Restaurant). The long-overdue embrace of long-maligned herbs and spices like dill (The Plimoth) and caraway (To the Wind). And the “brewed food” movement led in Denver by chef-consultant Jensen Cummings, whose hoppy, malty, worty stamp graces the menus of beer-centric eateries like The Rackhouse and Crafty Fox. You'll also find worthy examples at Boulder's BRU handbuilt ales & eats and Dad and Dudes Breweria in Aurora (pictured: spent-grain pizza rolls).