Native Coloradans are more likely to debate green chile recipes, but the influx of transplants to our state has brought culinary diversity to our foodscape.
Take coastal types, for example, who have an affinity for the thick, creamy, comfort in a bowl known as chowder. Colorado’s land-locked nature might at first have fooled them into thinking they can’t access good seafood, but really nothing could be further from the truth.
When the winter chill sets in, look to these eateries across the Front Range serving up soul-soothing chowder. (And let’s be honest: Chowder satisfies even when it’s 65 degrees in December.)
Address: 560 S. Broadway, Denver
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 4-10 p.m. Saturday
Contact: 303-777-3474, chowderroom.com
The Scoop: South Broadway has its very own East Coast style seafood shack with the Chowder Room, bathed in beachy blue tones and dotted with maritime paraphernalia. Traditional New England chowder seems like an obvious choice, but a vegan chowder made with cauliflower, eggplant, and tofu in a curry coconut broth will appeal, too. The Chowder Room also offers a unique chowder of the day (yes, Manhattan-style chowder, made with a tomato-based broth, is in the rotation) and for those who simply can’t choose, a chowder flight is on the menu, serving sampler-sized versions of three chowders.
Blue Island Oyster Bar
Address: 2625 E. 2nd Ave., Denver
Hours: 11 a.m -10 p.m. Monday- Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday
Contact: 303-333-2462, blueislandoysterbar.com
The Scoop: A unique partnership is what makes Cherry Creek’s Blue Island Oyster Bar so special: Sean Huggard, a native of New England and former chef on Nantucket Island, co-owns the restaurant with Chris Quartuccio, the Long Island-based proprietor of Blue Island Shellfish Farms. Not only does Quartuccio raise the oyster bar’s signature oyster, Blue Island No. 9, but he’s also a seafood wholesaler, sourcing fresh fish within hours of the catch — and flying it directly into Denver.
“Because of the relationships Chris has built with the fishermen and the speed with which we can deliver it, we’ll get fresh seafood in Denver before restaurants in New York City and Boston,” says Huggard.
Their signature chowder (also served at sister restaurants Humboldt and Stout St. Social and at the Hotel Boulderado) is Huggard’s own family recipe. “It’s a two-hour process, so we have a dedicated cook just making the chowder, which is always made the day before,” he says. “We serve ours with a made-to-order clam fritter, just like you’d find at a clam shack in New England. It’s hot, doughy, and dipable.”
Keep an eye out for their Lobsterman’s Pie, which will appear on their Wednesday Lobster Riot menu throughout the winter. They’ll combine potatoes, mushrooms, sautéed seafood, lobster, cod, peas, corn, and carrots into a clam chowder base and top it with puff pastry.
Wild Standard’s New England Clam Chowder is made with sustainably sourced chopped clams from Seattle Fish Company, Tender Belly bacon, potatoes, celery, onion, cream and fresh thyme. It is rich, smooth and decadent. (Provided by Wild Standard)
Address: 1607 Wewatta St., Denver
Hours: open daily at 11:30 a.m.
Contact: 303-893-6779, grillconcepts.com
The Scoop: Wewatta Point is Denver’s newest arrival to the seafood scene, and it brings the neighborhood near Union Station the breezy coastal elegance of Laurel Point, its sister restaurant in Southern California. A white marble bar with a fresh shellfish and nautical touches throughout add to guests feeling transported to the coast for a casual yet elegant meal out. Wewatta’s creamy, rich, New England style chowder comes topped with a generous handful of bacon crumbles and oyster crackers on the side, cause who doesn’t love bacon?
Address: 1043 Pearl St., Boulder
Hours: 11 a.m. to close Wednesday To Sunday, 5 p.m. to close Mondays
The Scoop: Acclaimed Boulder Chef Bradford Heap (who’s also known for his restaurants SALT and Colterra) is all about fresh, top-notch sustainable seafood at his Pearl Street staple, Wild Standard. The menu thrives on simplicity, letting the authentic flavors of the quality ingredients speak for themselves. Heap worked after his graduation from the Culinary Institute of America as a sous chef for Chef Gary Danko at his self-named San Francisco restaurant, and Danko, a Michelin-starred and James Beard Award-winning chef, passed his recipe for New England clam chowder on to Heap.
Heap has given it his own twist by including sustainably sourced clams from the Seattle Fish Company and locally made Tenderbelly bacon. The decadent soup also includes potatoes, celery, onion, cream, and fresh thyme, making for a decadent version of chowder.
Address: multiple locations in Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins
Hours: Hours vary by location
The Scoop: Jax’s executive chef, Sheila Lucero, grew up in Colorado but got a degree in biology in Florida before becoming a chef, where she took her concern for seafood sustainability to the forefront of her kitchen. Under her guidance, Jax has partnered with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, The Blue Ocean Institute, Sea to Table, Fish Choice, and the James Beard Foundation’s Smart Catch to keep informed on the state of our oceans.
This summer, Lucero was invited to speak to Congress and lobby on behalf of several environmental policies that face renewal. With that in mind, Jax restaurants across the Front Range each feature unique clam chowder recipes created by their in-house chef. Winter months will see a traditional, creamy New England-style chowder, while red Manhattan-style chowder will appear on some menus during summer months. At the Jax in Fort Collins, the chowder is topped with fried Zesta crackers, an irresistible topping.
Recipe: New England-style clam chowder
By: Barbara Ellis
Every summer, I travel back to my home state of Massachusetts and to Cape Cod for family reunions. My goal: Spend as much time at the beach and eat as much seafood as possible in our short time there. Lobsters, clams, fresh cod and haddock, baked, broiled, fried … OMG I can smell the salt air from here. And to start, always, Captain Parker’s best-of-the-Cape clam chowdah (yes, we say it that way).
There was a time I’d have to bring back tubs of the ready-made soup from the restaurant, freezing it and carrying it on the plane so there was no chance of it getting lost. Now, the base is sold in grocery stores on the Cape (there’s a tub of it in my freezer right now). But I’ve also found the recipe, and have made myself when I find the time.
It is, truly, the best clam chowder evah (yeah, we said it that way). Trust me.