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Meta Burger, chainsaw lady, and YOU

Why do WE love Denver?

Hey City Casters,

To state the obvious: We really love Denver. And during this, a time of great love and gratitude, we are reflecting on all the unique things we cherish most about our beautiful city. So this week, we’ve got something special for you — each day leading up to Christmas Eve, a different City Cast team member will shine the spotlight on five things they think make Denver such an awesome place to live.

Today, City Cast Producer Paul Karolyi’s picks:

1. The food of Denver’s future: Meta Burger
As regular listeners of the show will know, I am a vegetarian. But for the past six months, I’ve been thinking A LOT about meat (stay tuned to CCD in January). When we have such delicious replicas, why do people still eat so much of it? And what is Denver’s role in the future of plant-based protein, lab-grown animal flesh, and good old fashioned ranching? These questions tend to send me into a spiral I can’t think my way out of, but there is one thing that has helped — Meta Burger, my new favorite local restaurant. They opened in 2019 and now have two locations in Denver and a third in Boulder. Here’s the pitch: it’s an entirely plant-based fast food restaurant. There’s no pushy anti-meat manifesto, just good food that happens to be meat-free. They’ve got all your classic burger combos, plus a few more creative options, and you can get any of them with either a Meta patty (their version of a Beyond or Impossible burger) or a garden patty, which is more like a traditional bean burger (and remains my preference). I ate there for the first time in the spring, and I’ve since made my way through the entire menu, so trust me when I say, start with the Flatiron. It’s got shaved Brussels sprouts, steak sauce, grilled mushrooms, and plant-based gouda cheese. That’s the sandwich that’s going to make them famous, mark my words.
What you can do: I’m a fan of City O’ City and Watercourse, and I’ve got my orders at a bunch of other local spots, but there must be more good vegetarian options out there. What are your favorite vegetarian/vegan restaurants and dishes around Denver? Reply to this email (or reach me directly at, and we’ll share your recs in the new year when folks are working on their New Year’s resolutions. 

2. A Pleasant Morning Surprise: Chainsaw Lady
Over the summer, when the sun was rising early and the mornings weren’t too cold, my wife Megan and I enjoyed waking up early to run together along the High Line Canal Trail. It’s a little too roundabout to rival the Cherry Creek Trail’s perfect mix of usefulness and beauty, but the High Line deserves a strong showing in the debate over Denver’s best urban trail. And thanks to Councilwoman Kendra Black, the High Line trail has been getting a little more lovely. On two occasions now, she has now enlisted the services of Faye Braaten, also known as Chainsaw Mama, to carve downed cottonwoods into beautiful art. First, there was “Foxy,” the fox carved out of a stump at the southern tip of Bible Park. And now, as of November, Braaten has carved a massive tree trunk into a forest scene with all kinds of critters and a couple nice spots for us humans to pause and take a breather during a long run or a bike ride.

Credit: Paul Karolyi

3. The quickest wit in the West: Patty Calhoun
One of the many nice things that comes along with starting a platform that aims to tell Denver stories is the opportunity to meet some of Denver’s greatest storytellers. And this year, I count myself lucky to have developed something of a friendship with Westword founder and editor Patty Calhoun. She is truly a one-of-a-kind person and journalist — the kind of journalist who always makes the extra call to figure out what the heck is actually happening. Throw any topic at her, from Casa Bonita to the Broncos to the housing crisis, and she’s ready with a quip or an anecdote offering a fresh perspective. It’s exactly that perspective and expertise that has made Westword an indispensable publication for nearly 50 years, and I can’t imagine Denver without it or her.

What you can do: Check out this hilarious Westword story about the time former Colorado governor Dick Lamm prank called Patty.

4. Denver’s most ferocious historian: Phil Goodstein
When I heard the news about a car driving through the front window of Capitol Hill Books back in November, my mind immediately went to Phil Goodstein. It’s one of the few bookshops that properly showcases his work, and the last time I was in — to buy a copy of part 1 of his history of Denver Public Schools — the clerk behind the counter told me he’d be excited to hear about the sale. Phil wasn’t doing well last year, she said, and he hadn’t been able to bike downtown to restock their supply of autographed copies in a while. I haven’t talked to Phil since last spring when I interviewed him about how Denver responded to the 1918 pandemic, but his monthly newsletter still comes on time, loaded as always with unparalleled historical perspective and vitriol directed at the rich and powerful. His politics are a little too out there for some, but his rigorous research and energetic criticism of institutional power in Denver are unmatched.

What you can do: Buy Phil’s new book at Capitol Hill Books! It’s called “The Denver That Is No More: The Story of the City’s Demolished Landmarks.”

5. The best community I could have asked for: You
As of earlier this month, I have been working on City Cast Denver for exactly one year. And I am so pleased to see how this community has grown. I thought there might be people out there craving a deeper connection with our city in these dark and lonely times, but the response we’ve had to this podcast and this newsletter has wildly exceeded my expectations. It feels like we’re all making something together, and it gives me hope that we’ll be able to muddle through the rest of this pandemic and overcome anything else the future may hold. So in the spirit of gratitude, I’ll share just a few excerpts of my favorite reviews we’ve had on Apple Podcasts:

“I’m a 4th gen native and this show is like listening to old friends talk about current events. The topics are perfectly on point. They’re relevant and well covered. Of all the local media this is my favorite!” -H.ham

“In a world of dwindling-to-dying local media production, where all news seems to be nationalized and calculated to fuel maximum outrage, it’s too easy to ignore what’s going on in our own backyards. City Cast is an important corrective, focusing on teh nitty gritty of local politics, reporting on culture and government that directly affects the lives of people in and around Denver. I am so grateful for this show.” -williamgdewey

“If you live in Denver, you should listen to this podcast. Topics are thoughtful and often balanced with a bit of humor. The reporting is from a perspective of self awareness, humility, and a genuine love of this city and the incredible tapestry of communities that call Denver home. Best of all, episodes are just long enough to ease that I-25 commute.” 

— Paul Karolyi, City Cast Denver Producer

Paul Den

🎧 LISTEN: It’s Casa Bonita Week at City Cast Denver! The Denver thing we just might be the most thankful for? Casa Bonita! The fate of our favorite Mexican eatertainment venue had us on the edge of our seats all year long. And we covered it on the City Cast Denver podcast… a lot. But it’s officially here to stay, its future looks bright, and to celebrate, we are revisiting our favorite Casa Bonita episodes of the year. Enjoy!
Today: The Casa Bonita Saga, Part 1: Andrew Novick in a Monkey Suit