Megan Bucholz, owner/founder and chief tasting officer, of Local Table Tours, began hosting the foodie-friendly walks in 2010, with humble beginnings in Boulder, Colorado. Since then, the balanced “eat, drink, walk, repeat” excursions have expanded to include additional neighborhood crawls in both Denver and Fort Collins.
Bucholz says she has always been “a foodie” and was hard at work on her food blog, A Bolder Table, before launching Local Table Tours. The brilliant concept, that seems to be gaining steam in many major cities, fell into her lap after a friend participated in a similar culinary tour in Seattle.
“She came back and just started telling me a story and that led to her being like, ‘you should do this,'” says Bucholz. “I thought it was a great idea.”
Within just three months Bucholz was in business, reaching out to local restaurants to feature them on her tours. As she nears a decade of dining, drinking and hoofing it, Bucholz broadens not only the geography, but the inclusion of commodities to highlight during her outings.
“It started with food and then I thought oh, coffee and chocolate could be fun, and then, cocktails could be fun, and then coming to Denver could be fun, and going to Fort Collins.”
Local Table Tour continues to grow with plans to push into the Highlands area of Denver and now employs a staff of eight guides. Orion Carrington, who hosts the Denver food show, “Let’s Eat” moonlights a few times per month and Bucholz vouches that he is a Colorado native who “knows the industry.”
“I put together some of my favorites for today,” says Bucholz excitedly as we meet outside Tattered Cover Book Store. She tells us to expect five scheduled stops on our “little walk” and that “you’re going to be full.”
We wait for the rest of the crew to join our tour, and greet travelers fresh in from Los Angeles before taking to the streets. En route Bucholz says our first destination, Hearth & Dram, is “very elegant and then [the tour] is going to switch to more casual.”
As we walk, we ask Bucholz why she selects this particular area for her main Denver presence.
‘The LoDo area works great for a lot of reasons but there’s also a lot more out there,” says Bucholz. “This is also where a lot of tourists want to go but we do mix it up so it’s not always the same.”
Bucholz shares that her goal is to keep their LoDo route intact but to also invite a coffee and donut tour and another up and coming Denver neighborhood, either RiNo, LoHi, or potentially Capitol Hill.
We enter the sleek facility that houses Hearth & Dram and Bucholz says it’s “one of my favorite restaurants right now in a neighborhood that didn’t exist a few years ago.”
We start with a refreshing cocktail that our server seemingly names on the spot as ‘Poolside’ and it captures the essence, as a crisp, citrus-forward drink, that matches the etheral and hip feel of the entire bar and restaurant.
Fanciful cheese balls with lavash, homemade pickles and a mesclun salad arrive right before they set oversized metal trays before us capable of feeding a few families. Pillowy, garlic Hawaiian rolls with generous flecks of salt, line the perimeter cornering stacks of onion rings, chicken wings and slices of various meats. The pastrami, which rests in a brine for an entire week, literally melts in our mouths and hunks of beef shank and brisket are savory and tender. Short mason jars hold Southern-inspired sides; green beans, cole slaw, baked beans and collard greens which sit beside a row of condiments that includes a swoon-worthy peach mustard that fully rounds out the upscale barbecue feast.
We all exchange almost nervous glances acknowledging that we are finishing a meal in itself and we have four more establishments to hit… We acquiesce and prep our appetites as we head in a different culinary direction to Lucky Pie & Taphouse, where two Neapolitan pizzas and tasters of beer are ready to greet us.
The thin-crust pies are hot and bubbly as we divvy up slices and notice the menu advertises organic, local flour for the crust and artisanal toppings. A “straight-up” pepperoni features San Marzano tomato sauce, which we love for it’s slightly sweet qualities, with mozzarella and pecorino cheeses, made in-house. The porky classic gets luscious compliments from the pairing with a velvety graham cracker porter from Denver Beer Co.
The Telluride, a white pizza, provides a nice contrast with garlic thyme sauce, mozzarella, Hazel Dell mushrooms, caramelized onions, white truffle oil, fried rosemary and a sprinkling of oregano that leans nicely into the Belgian-style witbier from River North Brewery, with strong notes of banana and clove.
As we finish up Bucholz says we are going to give the “new kids on the block” some love as we trek over to Oskar Blue’s newest fooderie, The Black Buzzard, who she refers to as a Colorado staple that “set the standard for canning craft beer nationwide.” We promptly get down on one of our favorite appetizers, boudin balls, which we are all too familiar with, thick cut, heartily breaded, fried pickle spears, bacon wrapped jalapeños and truffle fries.
Everyone enjoys a core beer from their lineup and we opt for something a bit stronger, their signature cocktail, ‘The Black Buzzard’ with bacon-infused Maker’s Mark and their Ten Fidy imperial stout.
We savor our last sips at Oskar Blues and then shift gears to work our way towards Zoe Ma Ma for dim-sum. Bucholz mentions the elderly, oh-so-sweet “Ma ma” who is responsible for the Asian flavors inside that has landed them on “Best of” lists in Denver and Boulder in recent years.
“They’re all her recipes and the food is awesome,” says Bucholz.
We sit at a table lined underneath with Chinese newspapers and bright, red accents around the restaurant helps to create an enchanting quality. Big windows look out on the comings and goings of those traveling through Union Station and we people watch as we dig into “the original” or guo tie, their top secret family recipe full of finely minced garlic pork, shrimp and vegetables. We keep the party going as we snag uno mas brewskis and wash it all down with a Tsingtao.
Bucholz attests that no meal is complete without dessert and we find ourselves beyond full but in agreement once again. Our group draws into Milkbox Ice Creamery, which resides inside Union Station, the nucleus point of the entire afternoon, where we enjoy a sweet finale with cups of frozen goodness and exchange hugs goodbye to firm up our satisfying and food-centric afternoon.
“We’re just a local business that’s trying to support some excellent local eateries,” says Bucholz. “We feature about 70 establishments across the front range so it’s my job to know where to eat and drink in Colorado. It’s always different and you never know what you’re going to eat. We’re still doing it, eight years later, and it’s been cool to watch the scene grow up.”
*Header photo courtesy of REN Creativ