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It’s something I’ve pondered since I moved to Colorado almost four years ago. I’ve seen Denver omelets on menus my entire life. How did it get that moniker?
Does Colorado have a surplus of green peppers? Is onion the state food? Nope and nope.
Were we the first to mix this concoction together? Maybe.
Matt Masich with Colorado Life magazine researched the history of the omelet quite extensively for an article last year.
Read his article! It’ll fascinate you. I’ll briefly sum it up here.
It all began with something called the Denver sandwich. References about that sandwich start appearing in the early 1900s in newspapers across the country.
The Denver sandwich is basically a Denver omelet on bread. It was served mostly as a dinner and lunch food. Masich says in the 1970s, he started to see a transition from the sandwich to the omelet and people started ordering it for breakfast.
As for the history of the sandwich, accounts vary. Some people say chefs added meat and vegetables to rotting eggs to disguise their flavor. Others suggest Chinese rail workers put egg foo young on bread and the sandwich evolved.
Masich says a lot of his research seems to point that the sandwich was created in the Midwest and dubbed as an omelet with western ingredients.
The North Denver Sandwich still exists in Colorado, in at least two places in the metro area, Lil Nick’s Pizza in Wheat Ridge and George’s Café in Arvada.
Bob Quintana, owner of Lil Nick’s, created his own take on the sandwich working from his roots growing up in North Denver. Instead of green peppers, he uses green chile, to bring some Hispanic culture into the sandwich. Then he adds mozzarella and offers marinara sauce to dip to bring some Italian culture into the sandwich.
He dubbed it the North Denver Sandwich. The recipe, as published in Colorado Life Magazine in 2016 is below:
NORTH DENVER SANDWICH
- 2 oz. ham, diced
- 2 oz. onion, diced
- 2 oz. bell peppers, diced
- 2 eggs
- 2 slices mozzarella cheese
- 1 roasted green chile (Li’l Nick’s uses canned Ortega brand)
- 1 6-inch French sandwich roll
- 4 oz. marinara sauce
- Vegetable oil
In a small frying pan, saute onions in oil for a minute, then continue sauteing with bell peppers and ham.
Break eggs into pan, scrambling into the mixture of ham, bell peppers and onions.
Slice roll, leaving one side hinged, and spread on griddle to toast.
When eggs are done, place egg mixture on roll.
Lay roasted green chile across eggs, then top with mozzarella slices.
Place on oven-proof plate and put in oven at 450° until cheese is melted.
Serve with side of warm marinara sauce in a small bowl for dipping.