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Flat-out Best Delis in Denver

DiningOut's The List

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The moment you’ve been waiting for is here: the everything-food-and-drink list to end all lists. We’re undertaking a rather ambitious project—a year-long endeavor that lays out our flat-out best picks of the most exceptional culinary experiences in Denver and Boulder.

We’ll cover the usual suspects: tacos and ramen, for example. Pizza and burgers, too. But think of this as the Herculean version of Denver and Boulder’s gastronomic universe. Over the next 52 weeks (give or take), we’ll post 104 different lists, wherein we’ll give you the lowdown on the very best neighborhood restaurants, bottle shops and butchers, food festivals, pop-up dinners, industry nights, cooking classes and kitchen stores, chef counters, spice shops and cake shops, Cuban sandwiches, Chinese hot pots, and even the best food from truck stops. Who knows? We might be compelled to feature a fantasy-filled list of strip club grub that goes beyond thighs and breasts.

Thanksgiving is less than a week away, which means that your dinner table will likely be decked out with plenty of thighs and breasts. Be thankful for that. Be thankful, too, for Denver’s deli culture, a landscape of pastrami sandwiches, pudgy bagels, Polish sausages and pickled herring. Here are the flat-out best delicatessens in the Mile City for all of those and so much more.

1. Rosenberg’s Bagels and Delicatessen {725 East 26th Avenue, 720.440.9880}

rosenbergs

An absolute madhouse during the breakfast and lunch crush, this real-deal Jewish deli is worth its weight in dough, doling out substantially chewy and dense bagels that make you weep New York tears of joy. The display cases, full of puffy poppy seed bagels, pumpernickel bagels, onion bagels, cinnamon-raisin bagels, and bagels stamped with garlic, are blank canvasses for the smorgasbord of marvels that you can smear, spread or slap on top: cream cheese flecked with Hatch green chiles; Nutella; Scottish smoked salmon; steelhead trout; pickled herring; smoked white fish salad; chopped liver; and gravlax. And then there are the sandwiches, objects of obsession that involve things like house-made corned beef, Tender Belly bacon or ham, roasted turkey, and roast beef. The breakfast sandwiches, heaped with cheese, meat, and a fried or scrambled egg, make dreary mornings damn near dreamy.

2. City & Country Deli & Sausage Co. {2393 South Downing Street, 720.216.0573}

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A year-and-a-half after unleashing Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que in the Rosedale ‘hood, owners Coy and Rachael Webb added a sibling: City & Country Deli & Sausage Co., a sandwich shop and sausage-centric delicatessen two doors down from their thriving smokehouse. Here, against a backdrop exposing a wall devoted to knives and cleavers and a cooler bearing rows of house-made mustards, pickled vegetables, and relishes, there’s a glass-enclosed case brimming with dry-cured bacon sweetened with molasses, pecan-smoked lamb linguiça, elk bologna, roast beef, venison breakfast sausage studded with blueberries, corned beef, and house-smoked pastrami, the latter of which is the showpiece of the Business Man, a mammoth sandwich on rye smudged with brown mustard and voluminous with tender red ribbons of solidly seasoned brined meat and bracing pickled red cabbage. The sandwiches don’t come with a side—their size all but guarantees leftovers—but you’d be remiss if you didn’t pick up some of the deli’s delicious potato chips for a midnight snack.

3. Masterpiece Delicatessen {1575 Central Street, Denver; 303.561.3354; 1710 Sherman Street, Denver; 303.832.5555}

masterpiece-deli-pastrami

In addition to mastering nostalgic classics like the Reuben and picnic-perfect chicken salad, Justin Brunson’s duo of delis rewards breadheads with numerous other attractions, including a beef brisket number tangling with caramelized onions, Telaggio fondue, red wine gastrique, and arugula, all plopped on a crusty baguette. Delis, by default, are defined by their corned beef and pastrami, and at Masterpiece, the housemade meats are justifiably extolled. When things start to feel weird with the world, and the universe deals us cards of uncertainty, take solace in Brunson’s hot pastrami, a wistfully soulful sandwich sheeted with shavings of crimson meat, Swiss, coleslaw, and Thousand Island dressing daubed on toasted rye.

4. Carmine Lonardo’s Specialty Meats & Deli {7585 West Florida Avenue, Lakewood; 303.985.3555}

lonardo

A deli destination, meat market and sandwich shop that doubles as a time machine, this always crowded Lakewood stalwart is a family affair that bleeds Italian. Shelves are stocked high with dried pastas and olive oils, and an Italian flag presides over the counter, where loaves of butter-slicked garlic bread, fresh-baked ciabatta rolls from City Bakery, and lovely Italian cookies vie for attention above the come-hither cases chock-block with olives, pasta salads, ropes of fresh and dried Italian sausages, cheeses, and high-quality deli meats. The hefty sandwiches, which number 16, are sensational, especially the Italian combo torpedoed with salami, capicola, ham, pepperoni, Provolone, a dusting of oregano, olive oil, and vegetables. This is a piece of history that we hope never fades away; it’s also the kind of place that embraces the heart and soul of genuine hospitality.

5. Curtis Park Delicatessen {2532 Champa Street, Denver; 303.308.5973}

curtis-park-deli

Named after the neighborhood where it resides, this lunch-only sandwich parlor and retail deli ballyhooing specialty meats, housemade condiments, excellent cheeses ,and fresh produce from local distributors, turns out some of the most spectacular sandwiches in the city, all stacked on City Bakery ciabatta. Every sandwich is a smash hit, from the two-fisted French marvel, layered with rosemary ham, thick slices of Brie, mixed greens, aïoli, and mustard to the smoked rainbow trout scaled with blue cheese, slivers of red onion, arugula, capers, olive oil, and a spritz of fresh lemon. Fair warning: Unless you want to experience severe heartbreak, don’t saunter in after the lunch crowds have descended, otherwise you’ll come face-to-face with the gut-wrenching “sold-out” sign. This happens. A lot.

6. Bagel Deli & Restaurant {6439 East Hampden Avenue, Denver; 303.756.6667}

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Way before Guy Fieri (you know, that guy) waltzed into this longstanding deli in southeast Denver, the joint’s buxom Reuben had already made headlines. It’s a beast, mounted a mile high with shingles of salt-licked corned beef, slices of oozy Swiss cheese, and tangy sauerkraut squished between slices of lightly bronzed rye. That sandwich, one of the most legendary creations in Denver, is reason enough to ditch your diet for a day and endure the inevitable wait for a table, especially on weekends. The deli counter, often six-deep with Jewish (and non-Jewish) grandmothers gathering bagels, liverwurst, tuna salad, egg and chicken salad, smoked salmon, beef tongue, blintzes, and knishes, is Denver’s New York counterpart, with one exception: no one cops an attitude.

7. Sawa Meat & Sausage {2318 South Colorado Boulevard, Denver; 303.691.2253}

sawa

This is where you go—and you should really go right now—for flavor-throttled European meats, housemade bacon, Polish and Russian condiments, and sausages that pack a Polish punch. The shop’s long links of kabonsy—a dried pork sausage that’s similar to Slim Jim meat sticks but emphatically better—are unequaled; the same can probably be said of the fresh blood sausage, hunter sausage, and white sausage made from pork liver. The joint doesn’t sell sandwiches, salads or side dishes, but if you want to build a terrific cheese and meat plate (headcheese!) that impresses the hell out of guests, you’ll want to make this strip mall storefront—which also happens to sell fantastic sauerkraut and frozen perogies stuffed with everything from black sausage to cheese—a mainstay on your market list. Pick up some housemade stuffed cabbages while you’re here and celebrate the pride of the Polish.

Below is a master roster of our flat-out best lists published to date.

Best Beer Caves in Denver
Best Barbecue in Denver
Best Ethiopian Food in Denver
Best Reuben Sandwiches in Denver
Best Butcher Shops in Denver and Boulder
Best Food Carts on the 16th Street Mall
Best Rooftop Patios in Denver
Best Dishes at Avanti Food & Beverage
Best French Dips in Denver
Best Clam Pizzas in Denver
Best Cocktail Bars in RiNo
Best Thai Restaurants in Denver
Best Vietnamese Restaurants in Denver

Best Sushi Restaurants in Denver and Boulder
Best Bars with Live Music in Denver
Best Candy Stores in (and around Denver)

Best Bowls of Pozole in Denver and Boulder