Discover Colorado's Culinary Treasures: 4 Ingredients Worth Traveling For

Colorado’s land and soil—the same things that make the state a treasure trove of natural wonder—also conspire to forge another kind of magic: incredible local food. Fields here gleam golden with corn, orchards teem with juicy stone fruit, and sheep roam verdant, stream-fed pastures. Everywhere you look, there’s abundance.

This isn’t lost on Colorado’s culinary masterminds, either; many of the state’s top chefs spend summers traveling to local farms, hand-picking ingredients, and weaving these flavors into their seasonal menus. So, when you explore Colorado’s food scene, you retrace these steps—to the orchards of the Western Slope, the pastures of the Front Range, and the sun-soaked fields of Southern Colorado. Embark on your own journey with a tasting tour of Colorado. These quintessential establishments celebrate and elevate the state’s four most irresistible ingredients and their most iconic dishes. Let the adventure begin.

Pueblo green chile gives savory ramen a flavorful kick at Denver’s Four By Brother Luck.
Pueblo green chile gives savory ramen a flavorful kick at Denver’s Four By Brother Luck. COURTESY OF FOUR BY BROTHER LUCK

1. Pueblo Green Chile

Southern Colorado gets up to 300 days of sunshine, which is exactly what the green chile needs to grow hot and flavorful. By summer, farmers cart fresh-picked chiles to town by the truckful—a harvest that culminates in Pueblo’s annual Chile and Frijoles Festival in late September. But you can taste the region’s signature chiles across the state at any one of these iconic establishments.

Duck with Pueblo Green Chile at Four by Brother Luck, Colorado Springs

Four by Brother Luck—the latest restaurant concept by Food Network star and James Beard Award nominee Brother Marcellus Haywood Luck VI—serves up an elevated take on traditional Southwestern cuisine. Since no menu of that genre is complete without a healthy dose of green chile, you can find the flavor in everything from the restaurant’s honey-slathered blue cornbread appetizer to its renowned Green Chile Duck entree. In the latter, salty cotija cheese and bright, fresh tomato balance the heat and draw out the rich, fatty flavor of the duck—a match made in heaven.

Crispy Chicken Sandwich at Diavolo Pueblo Hot Chicken, Pueblo

This charming fast-casual joint is a celebration of all things Pueblo—and all things spicy. So, naturally, green chiles have a place of honor on the menu. Located in the popular Fuel & Iron food hall just steps from the emerald waters of the Arkansas River, Diavolo Pueblo serves up hot fried chicken with a number of green chile-inspired sides. Everything from the coleslaw to the fries to the desert menu’s caramel dipping sauce draws its heat from the town’s world-famous chile.

Green Chile Chorizo Ramen at Osaka Ramen, Denver

Osaka, a playful, industrial-chic noodle joint in Denver’s artsy RiNo neighborhood, serves one of the most masterful examples of Japanese-American fusion in the city: Green Chile Chorizo Ramen.. The warmth from the chile harmonizes beautifully with the rich umami flavor of the broth and fatty chorizo, all brightened by cilantro and fresh cabbage. Finish up with a light and fluffy tea cake—served with earl grey tea ice cream—or an order of Osaka’s signature mochi-filled donuts.

Green Chile Ale at Soulcraft, Salida

One of the best ways to enjoy the subtle heat of the green chile is, as it turns out, one of the most unexpected. Soulcraft Brewing, a lively burgers-and-beer joint alongside the Arkansas River in Downtown Salida, brews roasted green chiles into its Green Chile Ale. The result is a perfect balance of fruity, hoppy flavors with warm, roasted notes and just the right amount of kick. Order a pint and a burger, and grab a seat on the shaded back patio, which looks out upon the forested slopes of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains.

The Slopper at Gray’s Coors Tavern, Pueblo

First opened in 1934, Coors Tavern is a cornerstone of downtown Pueblo history and culture. Dark wood paneling and mismatched furniture give this narrow bar the feel of a cozy, family-friendly taphouse—and it’s got the hearty pub food and locals-only vibe to match. But the bar’s main celebrity is its signature sandwich. Dubbed The Slopper, this juicy burger comes slathered in green chili, cheese, bacon, and guacamole. The sandwich has been featured on the Food Network and is served much the same today as it was when it was first introduced in the 1950s.

Potager’s vibrant Gargouillou dish often features fresh Palisade peaches.
Potager’s vibrant Gargouillou dish often features fresh Palisade peaches. COURTESY OF POTAGER

2. Palisade Peaches

There’s no populace in the world as ecstatic about its peaches as Coloradans. Sweet, tangy, and dribble-down-your-chin juicy, peaches from the town of Palisade are particularly sought after. Come mid-July, you can find them in farmers markets, grocery stores, and fine dining restaurants across the state. Join the celebration with your own Palisade peach scavenger hunt: Here are five establishments doing this fruit justice.

Palisade Peach Pancakes at Mawa’s Kitchen, Aspen

One of Aspen’s most revered fine dining restaurants, the Michelin-recommended Mawa’s is a go-to spot for celebratory meals—and that’s never more true than during peach season. Every summer, founder and executive chef Mawa McQueen celebrates Palisade’s sweet bounty with stacks of fluffy, buttery, maple syrup-doused peach pancakes. Grab a seat at the elegant, colorful bar, or reserve a table for brunch on the shaded back patio. Order a cappuccino and a peachy stack, and drink in the breathtaking views of the Elk Mountains towering over town.

Princess Peach Mule at Peach Street Distillers, Palisade

Sometimes, it pays to go straight to the source, and the vibrant, hard-working farm town of Palisade is littered with hidden gems. Peach Street Distillers is one of them. Here, you’ll find both traditional craft liquors and experimental new recipes. Grape liquors like grappa and amaro are made from local fruit, and the house brandy is a punchy nectar distilled from Palisade’s famous peaches. Try it for yourself in the distillery’s signature Princess Peach Mule: a gorgeously balanced blend of brandy, local ginger beer, rosemary, and fresh lemon.

Lobster and Peach Salad at Potager, Denver

Known for its farm-fresh ingredients and surprising flavor pairings, Potager offers one of Denver’s best date nights. Simple yet mesmerizing dishes draw inspiration from Parisian and Provençal traditions, but you can find food for any palate on this spirited and free-ranging menu. Case in point: Potager’s peach-forward salads. The menu changes often, but the lobster and peach salad offers a perfect example of what diners have come to expect. Fragrant fennel, heirloom tomato, and fresh basil set the stage, and a dollop of white balsamic aioli enhances the lobster’s buttery sweetness.

The Peach Pizza at Hot Tomato Pizza, Fruita

Summer is prime time at this funky, bike-themed establishment, which caters to both Fruita locals and adventurers road tripping along I-70. That’s in part because the season marks the annual return of The Peach, Hot Tomato’s special-edition pie featuring fresh Palisade peaches, sharp Gorgonzola cheese, fragrant rosemary, and Canadian bacon. This crowd favorite is only available July through August, and it sells out fast. Be sure to arrive early to grab a slice.

Pork Belly with Palisade Peaches

Fatty, savory pork and bright, fresh fruit may be a timeless pairing, but Salt—a longstanding staple of Boulder’s historic Pearl Street—kicks it up a notch. In years past, the restaurant’s chefs have laid perfectly ripe peaches alongside strips of roasted pork belly and drizzled the lot with a warm sriracha-honey glaze. Wedges of warm polenta cornbread and slices of heirloom tomatoes add a southern twist. Visit in August for your best chance at seeing peaches on the menu, and be sure to grab a seat on the front patio for an iconic view of the Flatirons, the 1,500-foot sandstone slabs rising through the forest west of town.

Seared scallops rest on a pillow of sweet creamed corn at Boulder’s Oak at Fourteenth.
Seared scallops rest on a pillow of sweet creamed corn at Boulder’s Oak at Fourteenth. PHOTO BY SHAWN CAMPBELL

3. Olathe Sweet Corn

Famous for its sugary sweetness, juicy bite, and lightly nutty flavor, Olathe sweet corn has been one of Colorado’s biggest exports since the strain was first developed in the 1980s. When harvest begins in early July, mountains of the golden ears suddenly appear in grocery stores across the state—and have been known to sell out just as fast. The fervor reaches its peak at the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival, a late-August country fair in Montrose, Colorado featuring all-you-can-eat fresh-roasted corn and even a corn-eating contest. Can’t make it to the festival? Try the sweet, delicate kernels for yourself in these top dishes.

Olathe Corn Soup at Chimayo Stone Fired Kitchen, Durango

Amid exposed brick and golden lamplight, Chimayo Stone Fired Kitchen dishes out some of the state’s finest contemporary Southwestern cuisine: hot roasted chiles, house-made cornbread, inventive street tacos, and Mexican lager-braised pork. And each August, the seasonal menu pays homage to one of Colorado’s biggest contributions to that culinary genre: Olathe corn. When the sweet kernels come into season, Chimayos’ chefs serve them off the cob, brushed with butter and drizzled in lime crema, as well as in their signature Olathe Corn Soup. In this must-have appetizer, creamed sweet corn forms a silky soup base served with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of chile powder. Order up, then grab a seat on the front patio for views of historic Main Avenue and the high-desert foothills beyond.

Braised Boneless Short Rib with Pickled Sweet Corn at Brickhouse 737, Ouray

Ouray’s Brickhouse 737, an elegant bar with a rustic mountain tavern twist, is famous for its craft cocktails and sizzling steaks—but its Braised Boneless Short Rib is the real star of the show. Pickled corn lends a tangy kick, which elevates the rich, fatty flavor of the beef and brings out its natural sweetness. After dinner, stretch your legs with a stroll up and down Ouray’s main street. Tucked into a narrow valley amid the San Juan Mountains, wrapped in cold mountain air laced with the sharp scent of snowmelt, the town is one of Colorado’s most scenic high-alpine villages..

Creamed Corn with Scallops at Oak at Fourteenth, Boulder

Located just off the lamplit brick of Boulder’s iconic Pearl Street, Oak at Fourteenth is an intimate local gathering place. Dinner here is a white tablecloth affair; grab a seat on the patio for a view of the comings and goings of Pearl Street (and views of the iconic Flatirons and Front Range Mountains just beyond). While the offerings rotate regularly, sweet corn makes a strong appearance every summer. In years past, chefs have laid seared scallops atop a bed of freshly creamed corn, allowing the subtle flavor to underscore the delicate succulence of the seafood. In other years, the menu has featured Colorado bison tenderloin nestled beside hot, whole-roasted Anaheim peppers and sweet Olathe kernels.

Mint-Scented Burrata with Sweet Corn at Apple Blossom, Denver

Tucked into the high glass windows and plush furniture of Downtown Denver’s Hyatt Centric, Apple Blossom is a true hidden gem. Here, North Carolina-born chef Adrian Faison brings a southern flair to the elevated Americana cuisine that Apple Blossom does so well. For a true taste of summer, visit in August when Olathe corn is most likely to be found on the seasonal menu. A prime example: the mint-scented burrata with sweet corn. Here, fresh, creamy burrata is served alongside a maple-buttermilk cornbread and scattered with earthy, savory maitake mushrooms.

Grilled Elote Sweet Corn at Taco Party, Grand Junction

Taco Party is every bit as fun and funky as the name suggests. This stylishly minimalistic gathering space turns up the party with colorful dishes, playful flavor combinations, and, of course, fresh seasonal produce. Late in the summer, the restaurant often serves up fresh Olathe sweet corn elote style—in other words, brushed with kewpie mayo and sprinkled with cotija cheese and scallions. In years past, they’ve also whipped up a sweet corn soft serve—a divinely sweet and earthy dessert sprinkled with fresh toffee crumbles.

Ribbons of fresh papardelle cradle a rich bolognese made with local lamb at Yampa Valley Kitchen.
Ribbons of fresh papardelle cradle a rich bolognese made with local lamb at Yampa Valley Kitchen. COURTESY OF YAMPA VALLEY KITCHEN

4. Rocky Mountain Lamb / Colorado Lamb

The emerald slopes and mountain pastures of Western Colorado often resemble the hilly paddocks of New Zealand and Northern Italy—in other words, textbook lamb country. Now add master farmers with generations of expertise, and you’ve got a livestock-raising epicenter capable of producing lamb more tender and richer in flavor than anywhere else in the nation. While many of Colorado’s fine dining restaurants have mastered the preparation of this succulent and sought-after meat, these five do it best.

Lamb Osso Bucco at The Friar’s Fork in Alamosa

Located in a former church and paired with a cozy speakeasy called The Sanctuary, Friar’s Fork masterfully combines local meat and produce with traditional herbs and spices for an elevated, local take on Mediterranean classics. A perfect example: the Lamb Osso Bucco. Chefs slow-braise a Colorado lamb shank until the meat practically falls off the bone, and then serve it with a side of creamy polenta. Thanks to this dish—and a raft of other top sellers on a stacked menu—Friar’s Fork is home to some of Alamosa’s most sought-after reservations. And in 2023, the restaurant earned a James Beard Award Best New Restaurant semifinalist designation—an accolade that only added to the allure.

Colorado Lamb Burger at Rioja, Denver

Located amid the twinkling lights and historic facades of Denver’s trendy Larimer Street, Rioja serves up Mediterranean tapas bar vibes in a cozy setting. Think: exposed brick, a copper-topped bar, and a wine list to make any sommelier thirsty. The restaurant’s chefs have been James Beard Best Chef Southwest winners (2013) and finalists (2016), and the place lives up to the hype. Go for lunch to order one of their signature dishes, the Colorado Lamb Burger. The juicy patty is topped with house-made mozzarella, spicy aioli, and tomatoes that are lightly oven roasted and charred to perfection.

Bolognese at Yampa Valley Kitchen, Steamboat Springs

Adventurous new recipes and nostalgic classics share the menu at Yampa Valley Kitchen, a bright and airy all-day eatery launched by chef Hannah Hopkins in 2020. A longtime Steamboat Springs resident, Hopkins takes a community approach to cooking. That means working hard to uplift local growers and ranchers—and using Colorado lamb and other sustainably raised meats in her menu whenever possible. Case in point: her Bolognase. Her take on the traditional meat sauce is thick with crumbles of fresh lamb from nearby Mystic Hills Farmstead and ground Wagyu beef from 7X Ranch. It’s served hot over fresh pappardelle pasta and topped with a dollop of ricotta and a dusting of fresh-grated parmigiano reggiano.

Lamb Rack at Ember, Breckenridge

This upscale, mountain-town grill—located beneath the soaring peaks of the Tenmile Range—serves up local game and Southwestern dishes in a unique setting. The walls and ceilings of the restaurant’s interior are decorated to resemble the flames of a campfire, a nod to Ember’s famous fire-roasted meats. For your main, order the Lamb Rack, a melt-in-your mouth cut of meat drizzled in spicy shishito ponzu and black garlic molasses. A warm rutabaga and bok choy hash mellows the sweet-and-sour punch of the sauce, and a little daikon adds a fresh, subtle crunch.

Lamb Meatballs at The Garden in Hotel Jerome, Aspen

Nestled between beds of wildflowers in a patio bedecked with string lights, The Garden easily lives up to its name. This hotel restaurant is one of Aspen’s finest—and most dedicated to sourcing ethical, sustainable protein and produce. See for yourself: grab a shaded table within view of Aspen Mountain, and order the lamb meatballs, a satisfying appetizer served with a punchy salsa brava and sharp pecorino cheese. Dates and figs enhance the savory flavors in the meat with a delicate, earthy sweetness.

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