It's what the Brits call a sticky wicket, a subject that requires delicacy, because in this case, there are many factors to consider. I'm talking about how to describe the hamburger I had at Slayton's. There's that oft-deceiving word, "natural," along with assurances of no unwanted growth-inducing additives to the meat. Good sign, right?
But when I ask an outspoken someone in the beef biz what he thinks of the ranch in question, he says, "Very bad ... one of the biggest importers of Mexican cattle in the U.S." He continues, "Google 'Harris Ranch feedlot images.'" Those lots apparently smell so bad that they inspired Michael Pollan to begin research for what grew into The Omnivore's Dilemma.
Meanwhile, Harris' own website boasts of "humane livestock handling," with input from Temple Grandin, the renowned doctor of animal science.
Bottom line: It's hard to sort out the truth, even with a smartphone at dinner. So maybe for now, we'll just eat.
Slayton's Tejon Street Grill
28 S. Tejon St., 471-2311, rockymtnrg.com/slaytonsbbq
During Slayton's happy hour (Fridays, 3 to 7 p.m. and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.), I sample the cornmeal crusted catfish fingers ($5, normally $8), well-seasoned and -fried and served with a nice, house-made tartar sauce. An underlying bed of skinny fries are as perfect as they come.
The Firehouse Chili Burger ($9), made with "all natural," steroid- and hormone-free (but reportedly cramped feedlot-produced) Harris Ranch choice black angus, gets an open-face slopper treatment with a chili-powder-dominant but pleasantly robust smoked brisket chili playing the role that green chile usually does. Our burger is cooked a beautiful, requested medium-rare, and shredded cheddar lends welcome dairy richness to the mix. Sweet potato fries ($1 extra) also deliver, for an all-around exceptional meal. — Matthew Schniper
Great Divide Brewing Co.
2201 Arapahoe St., Denver, 303/296-9460, greatdivide.com
The impending winter solstice calls for a hefty winter warmer like Hibernation Ale ($9/six-pack). The English-Style old ale is classically brewed mid-summer and allowed to age a bit at the brewery to help develop the complex malty flavor. It's a style of beer that can be enjoyed today, but also be cellared to enjoy years later, so long as you can contain yourself.
The style's complexity is something other beers tend to lack due to the quick turnaround of modern production rates. Dark amber ale delivers flavors more akin to a port wine, or what you might expect to smell in an old English pub. Think: earth, leather and sweat, but in a good way. The seasonal beer is only released for six weeks, so move quickly and beware the 8.1 percent ABV. It could set you into hibernation mode after just one or two. — Steve Hitchcock
3003 N. El Paso St., 633-8212
Walking through the solid tan door leading into Papa Jo's, you get the sense that the place could have just been pulled out of Fargo, or Gone Baby Gone, or any other movie with the requisite dive bar — but not unpleasantly so. A wraparound bar dominates the middle of the room, where in one corner a group of regulars is discussing the chances of success for President Obama and the Denver Broncos, with equal fervor.
So it's with a certain set of expectations in place that I grab the steak sandwich ($5.75) off a small menu that features rotating daily specials, and pizza every other Friday night. It comes as you'd expect: decently sized on a white roll, with a yellow bag of Lay's potato chips. Greasy, salty and a little chewy, it's no better or worse than promised. — Bryce Crawford