How to eat and drink your way through the NBA Finals with the Nuggets

Football has wings and nachos. Baseball has hotdogs and Cracker Jacks. But basketball? It’s not really associated with any particular food. Not only that, but the Denver Nuggets have never been to an NBA Championship, so Colorado doesn’t really have any game-watching traditions.

To help, we’ve come up with a few suggestions for what to eat at home if you are having a watch party — and what to have on the road if you’re planning to hit a restaurant or bar for the games. By the way, the first game is at 6:30 p.m. today, June 1. See the rest of the schedule here.

At home

Blue and yellow tortilla chips

Celebrating at home? At a minimum, you’re going to need chicken nuggets and some Nuggets-themed blue and yellow tortilla chips. Both chip colors can be found at any grocery store, but if you want to get into the hyper-local Denver spirit, pick some up at Pochito’s Tortilla Factory, 4431 Tejon St., which made some special edition Denver Nuggets chips. While you’re at it, grab a dozen tamales and some salsa to-go from Pochito’s, one of our favorite spots.

Eastern European specialties

European Gusto, at 4015 Arkansas Ave. in Denver, is a food importer and distributor that sells meats, cheese, cookies, crackers and other hard-to-find specialties from the Balkan nations — including Serbia, home to Nikola Jokic, and Slovenia, home to Vlatko Čančar.

Taco Bell

“Taco Bell, really?” Yes, and here’s why. One of the best inside jokes about the Denver Nuggets is the fact that superstar and two-time MVP Nikola Jokic was picked 41st in the 2014 draft during a Taco Bell commercial. ESPN didn’t even bother to air the pick because it was underwhelming to them. You can watch the commercial (above) and check out the scroll below, which announces Joker’s selection. As a result, we can celebrate his rise to becoming one of the best players in the world with Quesaritos from Taco Bell.

On the town

Highland Tap & Burger, 2219 W 32nd Ave. in Denver, and its sister restaurants in Sloan’s Lake, the Denver Tech Center and Westminster, are featuring chicken nuggets with “Heat” sauce so that the Nuggets can “dunk on” the Heat, according to chef Chet Henderson. Four nuggets with Heat sauce (a housemade combo of sweet chili and Buffalo sauce) and fries cost $10, and they will be offered only during games. Tap & Burger also sells shot-and-a-beer combos.

Rakija is a high-alcohol, fruit-based spirit that is popular in Balkan countries, including Serbia, and is Nikola Jokic’s celebratory drink of choice. But it’s not easy to find in Denver. In fact, the only place we could nail it down was at the DNVR Bar, where you can do shots or get it in a cocktail. DNVR, a popular local sports bar, will be charging $10 for entry for its Nuggets watch parties (that includes a free pour of a Breckenridge Brewery beer), but it will also have Rakija specials.

More watch parties

Every sports bar in town will likely be showing the games — and we’ve put together a list of where to pre-party if you are actually going to the game or just want to be near Ball Arena — but a few watch parties will be bigger than others.

As it did during the NHL finals in 2022, McGregor Square, 1901 Wazee St., will host a series of huge watch parties. Outdoors, you can catch the games on the 66-foot LED screen in McGregor Square’s plaza; there will be food from Milepost Zero. Or you can head inside to Tom’s Watch Bar, which will be showing the games on its 115-plus TVs. All events are 21+.

Punch Bowl Social, 65 Broadway, Denver, will host a watch party for every game, starting at 5:30 p.m. Chicken nuggets (with gold barbecue sauce) are on the menu for $6, along with Gold Rush shots for $5. Punch Bowl also has bowling, arcade games, ping pong and more to play during halftime.

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