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'Top Chef' takes on Denver, where food scene is reaching new heights

Lori Rackl, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Travel News

Why? "Top Chef" judge and Chicago celeb chef Graham Elliot has a theory.

"Markets bring people together, and Colorado has always had that kind of feel -- it's a little more communal," said Elliot, a frequent visitor to the land of fleece and polarized sunglasses. His brother lives in nearby Boulder.


"Top Chef" filmed its 15th season in Denver, where the dining scene is reaching new heights.

Yet another high-profile food market is in the works, this one in the shadow of Coors Field in Lower Downtown, or LoDo. (Denver loves its place-name portmanteau words almost as much as Broncos fans dug the 2016 Super Bowl.) The Milk Market, part of a larger redevelopment of a former dairy, will have around 14 culinary concepts when it opens next year. Among them: a Ford Bronco converted into a poke cart and a Carnegie Deli-style spot serving massive sandwiches, "the kind where if you finish it, there's something wrong with you," said New Jersey native Frank Bonanno, the prolific chef and restaurateur behind the project.

Bonanno moved to Denver in the mid-'80s and hasn't looked back. The same can be said of a lot of people moving to this millennial magnet. (When you're done talking green chile sauce with your new Denver buddy, bring up natives versus transplants, and hunker down for an earful.)


During the planning stages of Milk Market, Bonanno did some recon in Chicago, checking out Latinicity and Eataly for inspiration.

"I'd say mine will be like an Eataly-meets-Whole Foods," he said. "Every one of our concepts has alcohol -- that's one thing we really loved about Eataly."

He noted that the city's famed suds will be well represented at Milk Market.

"If you go to some of these great breweries, they always have one beer they only sell in their taproom," he said. "We have 12 breweries lined up where the only place you'll be able to get the beer is here. We'll put it on tap with their handle."


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