DENVER - Business review website Yelp has identified the best 100 places to nosh in the country, as determined by the most discerning palates: normal, food-loving, Yelp-using citizens. The list features two Denver options.
Engineers on the Yelp data team used a technique based on the Wilson Score to compile a list of highly rated places to eat. The method takes into account restaurant rating and number of reviews to show which spots are the most popular with Yelpers.
Colorado made the list with an unusual type of eatery - a hot dog cart on the 16th Street Mall, manned by a crew of motorcycle dudes. Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs made #12 out of Yelp's 100 Best Places to Eat in the U.S. and even grabbed a mention in the site's official blog post.
What makes Biker Jim's so great? It's weird.
Their hot dogs are made from reindeer meat. And elk meat. And wild boar, duck, rattlesnake and pheasant meat.
"We try to get everything local but sometimes it's not possible," said Jim Pettinger, owner and founder of Biker Jim's. "The buffalo, that's usually local. The wild boar is from Texas. And the rattlesnake, I know the guy, it's from Alaska. The nice thing about serving game is that we don't have to deal with the commercial meat issues."
The menu even has two different flavors of vegan hot dogs - spicy and herb. Pettinger's wife is vegan. Nearly the entire side menu is vegan, including charred tahini cauliflower and hand-cut potato chips, but not the fried mac-n-cheese or the deep fried pickles.
For your dog, choose from seven different topping combos. Yelp users swear by the "classic" cream cheese and onions combo, and the other six options take off down crazy lane with things like roasted cactus, sriracha lime mayo and pinto beans. The "Bat Dog" includes avocado puree, tomato cream cheese, onions, bacon bits and tomato bacon powder.
Colorado only has one other restaurant on Yelp's Top 100 list (listen, California, do you really need to hog 47 spots?), and it's Denver's Pho 95 Noodle House.
"The beef noodle soup. Our customers say it's the best in town," said Vincent Trinh, an employee at Pho 95. "Also the combination noodle bowl is a favorite."
The combo bowl is grilled beef, pork, chicken, shrimp and eggrolls on top of vermicelli noodles with veggies and herbs.
If that's not enough food for you, think about grabbing a seat at the Pho-King Challenge table, where you'll fill up on more than four pounds of noodles, meat, broth and vegetables. Can't finish? You'll be awarded with a pink shirt that says you're a loser, and a $35 bill.
"We have five James Beard award-winning chefs coming from Colorado," Pettinger said. "I'm a cookbook guy. Some days I can't believe I get thrown in the same category and called a 'chef.'"