Like a well-aged steak, RARE, The Denver Steak Championship seared its way into the hearts of Denver food lovers on May 25, despite a taste of Mother Nature’s dramatic seasoning. Hosted in the prestigious Sculpture Park at Denver Center for the Performing Arts and produced by DiningOut Events, the culinary contest began with a dash of hail, a sprinkle of thunderstorm warnings, and a generous pouring of suspense.
As the Denver sky darkened, festival-goers might have questioned the wisdom of dining alfresco. Thunderstorms prowled over the metro area, seemingly intent on ruining our gastronomic gala. Jeff Suskin, the founder of DiningOut Events, admitted that as park officials initiated an evacuation, he wasn’t entirely sure what would happen. “The storm got more intense by the minute. It seemed to be hovering right over the park.”
But Denver has a storied history of weathering, well, the weather. Not only did the storm pass but it was swiftly followed by a festival feast of epic proportions. As soon as the city gave the green light, chefs and bartenders sprinted back to their stations, cranked up the music, and the festival roared to life in a carnivorous fervor.
Despite being ordered to seek shelter away from the open field for that precious hour before the gates were scheduled to open for VIPs at 5:30 p.m., the festival got underway after just a 15-minute delay. As for the storm? It was graciously escorted out by the sun, leaving a perfect evening in its wake.
Sponsored by Aspen Ridge Natural Angus Beef (available at Safeway, of course), RARE, The Denver Steak Championship boasted 24 venerated local chophouses and eateries showcasing their meaty talents. Culinary competitors battled for top honors in the Traditional and Creative Steak categories, with a side contest of cocktail concoctions to keep spirits high. It was a fierce feist—and it sure was fun.
In the eye of the storm, the People’s Choice went to 801 Chophouse & Milagro for Best Cocktail, Jack’s on Pearl for Traditional Steak, and Tstreet for Creative Steak. Tipping the scales in the Judge’s Choice, Old Hickory Steakhouse & Garrison Brothers took home the Best Cocktail award. At the same time, GQue Barbeque and Ranch House Restaurant & Saloon won the Traditional and Creative Steak categories, respectively.
VIP attendees were also treated to the exclusive SURF, The Seafood Championship. A nod to Water Grill, Le Bilboquet, and Denver Poke Company, who reigned supreme in the People’s Choice, while the Judge’s Choice returned with Water Grill at the top, flanked by Kini’s and Le Bilboquet.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the support of our sponsors. A hearty thank you to Aspen Ridge Natural Angus Beef and Safeway, our VIP sponsor Seattle Fish Co., our beer sponsor Stella Artois, VIP liquor sponsor William Grant & Sons, and spirit-free beverages provider Pepsi Co.
An attendee’s Facebook comment perfectly summed up the event: “Never witnessed anything like this. It was amazing to see the pride and dedication that went into all of these dishes.” Pride and dedication, indeed, that’s what the Denver food scene is all about.
As we savor the lingering flavors of RARE 2023, our sights are set on the next epicurean showdown, the longest-running festival in DiningOut Event’s delicious summer lineup—Top Taco. Remember, just like a juicy, perfectly cooked steak, tickets for Top Taco are coveted. Don’t let them slip through your grill tongs. They’re on sale now for July 13 at Westminster City Park and just like the finest cuts, they will sell out.
From near washout to an unforgettable cookout, RARE, The Denver Steak Championship 2023 was a testament to the Denver spirit, proving once again that come hail or high water, Denver knows how to bring the heat in and out of the kitchen. Here’s to the “Steakholders” who made it all possible, and to you, the gourmands of Denver, we raise our forks. Let’s do it all again soon.
Here’s a full list of all this year’s winners:
2023 People’s Choice Winners
1st: Jack’s on Pearl
3rd: 801 Chophouse
2nd: Monarch Chophouse
3rd: Chez Maggy
Surf, The Seafood Challenge:
1st: Le Bilboquet
2nd: Denver Poke Company
3rd: Water Grill
Judge’s Choice Winners
1st: GQue Barbeque
2nd: Jack’s on Pearl
3rd: 801 Chophouse
2nd: Chez Maggy
3rd: Urban Farmer
Surf, The Seafood Challenge
1st: Water Grill
3rd: Le Bilboquet