Tailgating at a Denver Broncos game can be an awesome experience with the right friends and in the right location, but if you’re not in the mood for the mayhem — or if you don’t know anyone with a parking space and an orange and blue smoker — then you might want to think about grabbing some pre- or post-game food and beverages at one of the great spots located within a quarter mile in all directions of Mile High, from Jefferson Park to Sunnyside and Sloan’s Lake.
Here are some suggestions:
Chile Verde, 2311 Federal Blvd.; chiliverdedenver.com
Chile Verde has always stood out on Federal Boulevard, not just because of its elevated take on traditional dishes from Puebla, Mexico, but also because of its cool ambiance, modern interior and sit-down service. On Sundays, you can find dishes like chilaquiles and enchiladas rojas on the bunch menu, but a post-game dinner might be the better ticket, when the eatery brings out specialties like its pork in chile Morita, Puebla-style crepes and mole poblano.
El Cazo Cocina Y Cantina, 2901 W. 25th Ave.; elcazodenver.com
The streets around Jefferson Park are filled with surprises that give local businesses here a neighborhood flavor. One of them is El Cazo Cocina Y Cantina, which opened just as football season was kicking off in 2018 and has become a favorite stop for people walking to the game. Here, former La Loma chef Efren Velasquez dishes out chile rellenos, enchiladas and street tacos. El Cazo stays open late for Monday and Thursday night games and sells margaritas and beer to go (sealed per state law) out of its window during home games.
Cilantro Tacos Tequila Mezcal, 1703 Federal Blvd. (go to zmenu.com for info)
Although it’s just three years old, Cilantro has become a popular spot for locals because of its breezy vibe and large menu. Part of a newer wave of more upscale places in the area, Cilantro offers everything from Tex-Mex standards like fajitas and nachos to classic Mexican dishes like tacos and carnitas. It also has molcajetes. And then there’s the tequila, mezcal and a cocktail menu based on both spirits. Warning: Cilantro does sometimes limit the menu on game days, however, to make it easier to handle the hordes of hometown fans.
Federal Bar & Grill, 2544 Federal Blvd.; thefedbar.com
Most days, the Fed is a classic neighborhood bar and pub, serving up craft beer, cocktails and bar food like burgers, nachos, sandwiches and wings in a busy atmosphere with a well-worn vibe. But on game days, the Fed becomes a great sports bar for watching the game on TV or for enjoying a few mimosas or bloody Marys and brunch before heading over to the stadium.
Snarf’s and Snarfburger, 2527 and 2535 Federal Blvd.; snarfburger.com
Let’s face it: For the most part, the food inside Mile High isn’t great. Although there are some definite exceptions, the better strategy is to bring your own. One of our favorite places to score pre-game provisions is at Snarf’s, the local chain that makes some of the best sandwiches in Colorado. Get your sammies to go and take them into the game with you. Or, if you’re not feeling like a sando, try the Snarfburger next door to the Federal Boulevard location.
Ros Siam, 2637 W. 26th Ave.; ros-siam.com
Ros Siam is only open for dinner on Sundays, so this is more of an after-game spot, a bit of getaway inside an older Victorian home in the Jefferson Park neighborhood. Even better, order takeout or delivery and enjoy some drunken noodles on your own couch.
My Thai Cafe, 2524 Federal Blvd.; mythaicafedenver.com
Like many of the restaurants on this list, My Thai is a small, family-owned restaurant with friendly service. It operates in the former Jack-N-Grill, which was a Federal Boulevard staple for many years. My Thai serves up most of the classics you will be familiar with — curries, noodles, soup and rice — as well as some fusion appetizers and some specialties like pumpkin curry and khao soy (egg noodles and coconut curry). It also does takeout, which is perfect on cold days.
Taqueria mi Pueblo, 2300 Federal Blvd. (no website)
Holding down the corner of 23rd and Federal for decades, Taqueria mi Pueblo is a bastion of old-school west Denver Mexican food. In fact, it’s hard to imagine the street without it. Well-known for its menudo (thanks to the sign in the window and online reviews), the eatery also serves just about every other dish you could want — many of them displayed in full color above the counter on a photographic menu — including tortas and tacos, chile rellenos and carne asada, breakfast burritos and huevos rancheros. It’s a great way to lay a base before the game.
Araujo’s, 2900 W. 26th Ave. (menu at allmenus.com)
The first thing to know about this unassuming hole-in-the-wall, tucked back on 26th Avenue across from Safeway, is that, like nearby Santiago’s, it’s not open on Sundays. But since not all of the team’s home games are on Sundays this year, Araujo’s should be in the mix for your football sustenance. Its breakfast burritos also make for some great hangover food on the day after.
Little Machine Beer, 2924 W. 20th Ave.; littlemachinebeer.com
Set up on the hill above the northwest parking lots at Mile High, Little Machine feels like an extension of the tailgating scene going on next door. It’s also a prime spot for people-watching as thousands of fans stream past the patio on their way to the stadium. The brewery does German-style lagers, fruit beers and classic styles particularly well, so you can get a taste before the game — or stick around and watch it on TV.
Briar Common Brewery + Eatery, 2298 Clay St.; briarcommon.com
Sitting at the corner of 23rd Avenue and Clay Street, Briar Common overlooks Jefferson Park and the surrounding neighborhood from its fantastic rooftop patio — which doubles as the perfect pre-game spot on Sundays, before concerts or really, any time. The crew there slings burgers, salads, sandwiches, their popular Buffalo Cauliflower and, of course, pitchers of their housemade beer. Oh, and Briar Common has been known to roll out blue and orange Jell-O shots on game days as well, handing them out for free when the Broncos score.
Raices Brewing, 2050 Old West Colfax Ave.; raicesbrewing.com
When it opened in 2019, Raices Brewing, which is located right on the South Platte River, brought something new to the labyrinth of streets and underpasses in the commercial district below Interestate 25 and Colfax Avenue: a destination spot not just for beer but also for any number of events and activities celebrating Latino culture. In September and part of October, the brewery will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with food and culture almost every day. And during home games, Raices sets up a large LED screen outside on the patio for tailgating before, during and after the show.
Strange Craft Beer, 1330 Zuni St.; strangecraft.com
Since it opened in 2010, Strange Craft has offered great craft beer in a no-nonsense setting with a local, down-to-earth clientele. In fact, it’s probably one of the few breweries where you’re just as likely to see a host of Broncos jerseys on non-game days as you are on game days. Set near the viaduct, with a patio that brushes up against the light rail line, Strange pumps out delicious hoppy beers, along with fall and winter seasonals that will warm you up whether the Broncos win or lose.
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