Eating from Denver's Plate

Denver’s delicious dishes

Chipotle, Smashburger and Fat Tire Amber Ale? No wonder Colorado’s entrepreneurial scene is taking off. The Front Range is home to enough craft breweries, food companies and fast casual chains to keep an incubator full of coders working all night long. Here’s a partial list: 

Wild Oats Markets

Founded in 1987 and headquartered in Boulder, this natural food store chain grew to 110 stores in 24 states and Canada. Rival Whole Foods bought it in 2007, but was forced by the FTC to divest. Wild Oats is now owned by Luberski, a West Coast-based food distributor.

Celestial Seasonings

The maker of Sleepytime and Red Zinger teas started in Boulder in the 1970s. It was owned by Kraft for a while, but was bought back by local management and in 2000 merged with natural food company The Hain Food Group to form the Hain Celestial Group. The Boulder factory offers free tours.

Chipotle Mexican Grill

Steve Ells started selling burritos near the University of Denver to raise money to open a fine dining restaurant, but wisely changed his mind. The Mexican casual fast chain was owned for a time by McDonald’s. It’s used its more than 1,600 locations to spearhead the movement for more sustainable fast food and is starting a pizza chain in Denver.

 Qdoba Mexican Grill

This fast casual chain started in Denver two years after Chipotle. It has approximately 600 locations in the United States and Canada and is owned by Jack in the Box.

Boston Market

Though it was started in Massachusetts, the casual dining chain is now headquartered in the Denver suburb of Golden.

Coors

The third-largest brewer in the United States is headquartered in Golden.

Einstein Bros. Bagels

This spinoff of Boston Market began in Golden, but is now headquartered in another Denver suburb, Lakewood.

Jolly Rancher

Though now owned by Hershey, the candy company was started in Golden.

New Belgium Brewing Co.

Headquartered in Fort Collins and best known for its Fat Tire ale, this is the third-largest craft brewery in the United States. It was opened in 1991 by homebrewer Jeff Lebesch.

Noodles & Co.

Yet another fast casual chain headquartered in Denver. It features (duh) noodle dishes. Started in 1995, it has more than 300 locations.

Red Robin

This burger chain with more than 400 restaurants started in Seattle, but is now based in Denver.

Smashburger

The gourmet burger chain is based in Denver, but sells burgers specific to each state in which it operates. It also sells beer and wine, which is unusual for burger oufits. 

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