Denver’s culinary scene emerges from hibernation, stretching its gastronomic muscles with a tantalizing array of events that are almost as diverse as the city’s meteorological mood swings. The city offers a smorgasbord of experiences that will leave one both satiated and bemused, from the tacos and tequila-induced swagger of a Cinco de Mayo block party to the existential absurdity of The Great Wait in Line Event at Casa Bonita, where Sartre’s “No Exit” meets sopapillas and cliff divers. And then there’s RARE, The Denver Steak Championship—a gastronomic gladiator match that elevates marbling and medium-rare to a near-spiritual reverence. It’s shaping up to be a busy month, and we’re here for it. The question is, where will you be?
Mon., May 22: The Culinary Classic @ Mosaic Community Campus
The inaugural Culinary Classic, a fundraiser for Work Options, features a strolling dinner made up of small plates from 20 of the best chefs in town as they compete for the Golden Spoon award for the best dish—plus refreshing libations. Mingle with friends, chat with the chefs, and see live culinary demos as you eat through the new culinary hub at Mosaic Community Campus (formerly Johnson & Wales University culinary school.) Get there early for the VIP happy hour with Chef Jennifer Jasinski of Rioja, Stoic & Genuine, Ultreia, and Bistro Vendome, and be sure to vote for your People’s Choice favorites and stay for the live auction for a chance to outbid the crowd on some delicious one-of-a-kind items. The event supports the mission of Work Options, a Denver-based nonprofit that has helped thousands of Coloradans find meaningful careers working with food by providing free culinary job training, resources, and supportive services. Tickets $90 via Eventbrite
Tues., May 23: The Great Wait in Line Event @ Casa Bonita
Ok, so we can’t say yet that this is the actual official opening day of the pink palace (“Grand Reopening May 2023” is all we know for sure), but it is the date that’s listed on the Facebook event listing for what the organizer describes as “far better than sleeping outside of Best Buy for a TV. This is sleeping outside for a once-in-a-lifetime historic event! Gather outside Casa Bonita to get in line for the opening night we’ve all been waiting for.” Brave the elements and queue up for the opening night of Casa Bonita, where only the finest cliff divers and sopapillas await. With 1.5k people reportedly attending and 13.3k interested, this is a rendezvous you won’t want to miss.
Wed. May 24: Gin-Txo’s 4: St. George @ Ultreia
Join Ultreia, Denver’s premier gin bar, for an evening of gin education and perfectly paired pintxos. Learn about the handcrafted gins of St. George Distilling and savor unique three-course pintxos pairing menu crafted by Ultreia’s very own Chef Quinn Polsinelli. Reserve your spot for $60 via Tock.
Thurs., May 25: RARE, The Denver Steak Championship @ Sculpture Park at Denver Center for the Performing Arts
This don’t-miss event of the month is an upscale alfresco evening dedicated to celebrating Denver’s rich steak history and showcasing the finest cuts from the Wild West. In partnership with Stella Artois and benefitting the Colorado Restaurant Foundation, RARE brings together 25 of the region’s most acclaimed steakhouses in a sizzling competition for the coveted title of Top Steak. Witness these culinary giants put their grilling skills to the test as they battle it out for the approval of both a panel of professional judges and festival attendees like yourself. (And for the lucky VIP ticket holders, there’s a SURF competition to go with all the turf.) The evening’s accouterments: live music, a gorgeous setting, and a good-lookin’ crowd who knows how to let the good times roll. Join them and start your summer off right. Tell your boss you’re taking a half day on Thursday and kick off your Memorial Day weekend in delectable style.
Fri., May 26–Mon. May 29: Boulder Creek Festival
This is the unofficial kickoff to summer in Boulder, boasting over 30 years of history. This vibrant community event features multiple days of festivities, including performances from 30+ bands, and diverse food vendors offering international delicacies like Brazilian cheese bread, handmade steamed buns and dumplings, lobster rolls, and more.
Quench your thirst at the Creekside Beer Fest, where 20+ breweries showcase their latest and greatest creations, including Avery Brewing Company, FlyteCo Brewing, Ratio Beerworks, and Upslope Brewing Company. The festival also features a curated marketplace with 200+ local makers offering fine art and other goods, a business bazaar, and a family-friendly Creekside for Kids area with engaging activities and entertainment.
Sat., May 27–Sun., May 28: Q BBQ Fest @ Empower Field at Mile High
Kick off a delicious summer of smoke as the top pitmasters from around the country gather at the stadium to collectively smoke over 30k lbs of meat. Enjoy great tunes on the Jack Daniel’s Music Stage, grab a slab and a cold one, and prepare to make some noise. Throughout the weekend, Pitmasters take the stage to showcase the top-secret, no-holds-barred recipes they use when they want to bring out the big guns. Everyone should bring their appetite, but if you’ve got a more extensive app than most, compete in the Rib Rumble rib-mowing competition on Saturday, then work off the gluttony on Sunday, when the Colorado Brewery Running Series teams up with Q BBQ Fest for a 5k around the stadium. Various ticket categories are available; see the Q BBQ site for details.
Sun., May 28: Counter Culture @ Stoic & Genuine
Join an introduction to clams class covering various varieties and preparations. This class includes raw and cooked clams with an optional wine pairing. Reserve your seat for $75 via Tock.
Sun., May 28: The Boozy Book Fair @ Hazel
Head to the funky neighborhood bar on Pearl Street (where art is appreciated) from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. for books, drinks, auction items, and coloring! All ages are welcome. Proceeds go directly towards worthwhile literacy work in Colorado. More details here.
Mon., May 29: 5th Anniversary Barbeque Party @ Acova
Celebrate Acova’s 5th anniversary with a BBQ party on the bar and patio (weather permitting) from 3 pm until close. Enjoy food and beverage specials and a DJ. Instead of the regular menu, the highlands hotspot is cooking up something special, so check the site for details. And plan to wash it down with The Misty—an organic wine slushie (red, white, or mix it up) with an optional floater. We recommend the white with a bit of St. Germaine.
Tues., May 30: Evergreen Farmers Market @ El Rancho Colorado
Gather your friends and family, grab your shopping bags, and join Bonanno Concepts out at the iconic restaurant newly under the restaurant group’s purview in Evergreen on May 30th (and every Tuesday after that) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for food, fun, and community. For the fifth year running, El Rancho Colorado hosts the lively Evergreen Farmers Market, where 40–50 vendors are proffering an array of local produce, baked goods, fresh pasta and seafood, sweet honey, and aromatic coffee.
Wed., May 31: Ephemeral Laughter Stand-Up Comedy Show @ Ephemeral Rotating Taproom
Catch some of Colorado’s best comedians at Denver’s newest taproom, located between City Park and RiNo. This barrel of laughs is presented by DeadRoom Comedy.