Hundreds of bird lovers took part in a Mile High City fried chicken competition again and to no one’s surprise, participants indulged in plenty of whiskey, wings, tequila and fun at the second annual Chicken Fight. More than 40 Denver restaurants and bars showed to participate in the shenanigans yesterday afternoon, setting a precedence for outdoor food festivals to follow.

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By sunset, the River North Festival Grounds filled to the brim with eager festival goers and poultry connoisseurs. Food and drink were served for the masses by returning competitors such as RiNo Yacht Club, The Regional, Max’s Wine Dive and Birdcall as well as newcomers like American Grind, FNG, Tupelo Honey and Smōk — all doing their best to entertain a unique twist on America’s favorite bird.

The Drink

While chicken drives the car at this fight, whiskey and bourbon sit shotgun and are represented in full. Larceny, Jim Beam, Bulleit Bourbon, Jameson, Birddog, Fireball and Wild Turkey make up the inner circle of covered vendors. Each alcohol sponsor partners with a respective food vendor to give guests an opportunity to swing the dance between mixology and gastronomy.

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Tequila also made a mark at this year’s fried chicken celebration.  Fire on the Mountain partnered with 1800 Tequila to bring a three-part submission: a smoked bone-in wing with a side of bourbon chipotle dipping sauce and a miniature waffle cone finished with Nashville chicken tenders and maple syrup. The cocktail to pair resembles an elevated sunrise and is dubbed Fizz on the Mountain — a mix of silver tequila, blood orange San Pellegrino and grenadine. Brider — an award-winning competitor last year — partnered with Milagro Tequila to pair a secret sauce, a rotisserie smoked wing and a spicy pineapple margarita. Lola and Codigo Tequila went for a battered fried chicken and agave mole paired with a straight shot of wine barrel aged reposado or añejo tequila.

The Winners

Winners were awarded merit in three different categories: best fried chicken, best wing, best creative cocktail and VIP creative chicken dish — a people’s choice and a judges choice are decided in each category. Judges’ choice for best fried chicken this year went to Old Major — followed closely by J Street Kitchen and LOW Country Kitchen who took second and third. People’s choice for best-fried chicken was given to newcomer Tupelo Honey this year. Judges’ Choice for best wing went to Denver Deep Dish this year, closely followed by SMōK and 10 Barrel Brewing who took second and third place. People’s choice for best wing went to Fire on the Mountain this year.

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Judges choice for best cocktail went to West End Tap House this year, who partnered with Peach Street Distillers. Highland Tap and Burger and Mizu Izakaya took second and third. Peoples choice for best cocktail went to Tupelo Honey who partnered with everyone’s favorite Texan, Tito’s Vodka. First and second place VIP creative dish awards went to returning competitors Butcher’s Bistro and Biju’s Little Curry Shop who both placed in last year’s competition.   

Alongside the friendly competition amongst culinary competitors, Chicken Fight brought out the best in the Mile High food connoisseur. The lines at this event were short, but when one finds themselves waiting, it seems common practice to make fried chicken conversation with the poultry pounding patron beside you. Hot food, craft cocktails, tasty jams and good company helped the Mile High city raised the roof last night at the second annual Chicken Fight.

All photography by Emma Pion-Berlin.

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