Denver Guide

08/02/2012 — Leave a comment

It’s been a few years, but some of you may recall the days when I lived in colorful Colorado. Over the last few months, a number of colleagues and fellow travelers have sought Colorado and Denver-specific recommendations with surprising regularity. So in the interest of simplifying things, I’ve begun assembling a more complete list of Denver food and entertainment recommendations. For those unacquainted with the city, here are a few quick ideas in a few neighborhoods before the list:

Capitol Hill
Spend an afternoon strolling through the Denver Botanical gardens admiring flora from around the globe or settle into their cafe for a hot beverage and free wifi. Not a garden person? Stroll through Cheesman Park for a little exercise and people (and dog) watching or admire the striking pavilion at the top of the park’s hill. Stop in at Wyman’s No. 5 along 13th Avenue for a pint or a deep dish Chicago pie. Or cool off a few doors down at Liks for a scoop of fresh local ice cream or a thick milkshake. A few blocks across Colfax, St. Mark’s Coffeehouse offers a neighborhood hangout with a wide assortment of teas and coffee drinks, sandwiches and pastries. Stop in next door at the Thin Man for a cocktail and good conversation; be sure to try their house infused vodkas or seasonal cocktails.

Congress Park
Further east down Colfax, just across from Eastern High, resides the Tattered Cover (its new location since moving from Cherry Creek) in the old Lowenstein Theater. A Denver legend, the Tattered Cover is a temple to the printed word with a staff and inventory to prove it. A trip downtown to LoDo offers an even bigger Tattered Cover. Continue a few more blocks east on Colfax and stop in at Mezcal for dinner or Happy Hour (or even brunch on the weekend) or next door at the Goosetown Tavern for a burger and a round of pool. Cross the street for a show at the historic Bluebird Theater; then kick back for a beer at the Atomic Cowboy.

Lower Highlands
Not a far from LoDo, at the confluence of Cherry Creek and the S. Platte River lies lush Confluence Park, just at the base of the Highlands. Stroll through the park for people and dog watching or spend an hour picnicking or flying a kite. Cross the bridge and you’ll find yourself along Platte street which offers light shopping and a few local eateries. Pull up a chair at a popular bohemian coffeeshop, Paris on the Platte or visit its neighboring wine bar for a more quiet evening. A few doors down is the local hit, Savory, which offers the freshest herbs and spices from around the world, ground fresh weekly in small batches on the premises. Continue down Platte Street and visit Denver’s REI flagship store for outdoor gear with a view, or stop in at My Brother’s Bar for a relaxed burger and pint. A few doors down, Mona’s offers a popular spot for weekend brunch.

FOOD & DRINK

Argonaut—(Capitol Hill) 760 E. Colfax at Clarkson
The only liquor store you could ever need, Argonaut seems to have it all. With a knowledgeable and helpful staff, this palace to man’s favorite poison offers obscure and familiar selections alike. Looking for more unconventional Colorado souvenir? Toddle down the whiskey aisle and pickup a bottle of Stranahan’s micro-batch handcrafted Colorado whiskey. Like the Argonaut, it won’t disappoint!

Atomic Cowboy—(Congress Park)3237 E. Colfax at Adams
Fun all around bar for locals and visitors alike. Don’t let their Flash website deter you, they’re fun and friendly at the Atomic Cowboy.

Buenos Aires Pizzeria1307 22nd & Larimer
Savory pizzas and heavenly empanadas delight at this quiet spot tucked in the shadow of Coors Field, home to the Colorado Rockies.

City o’ City206 E. 13th & Pearl
Welcoming local bar, sister to Watercourse Foods. Local coffee and pastries available to go or pull up a chair in the bar and order some light fare. Their Mediterranean sampler is great.

The Cruise Room—(LoDo) 1600 17th St
Located in the old (reportedly haunted) Oxford Hotel, the Cruise Room is not to be missed on any visit to Denver. Whether for a single cocktail or a festive night with friends, the Cruise Room serves classic cocktails executed masterfully by professional mixologists in a perfect reproduction of a lounge on the Queen Mary. Food from McCormick’s next door is available as well, simply ask your bartender.

Delite32 S. Broadway
Inventive top-shell cocktails and tapas in a cool package prepared by the same chef/owner as neighboring Deluxe.

Deluxe30 S. Broadway &
Chef owned and operated American bistro serving up imaginative dishes. Reservations are not required but highly recommended at this local hot spot.

Go Fish1 S. Broadway & Ellsworth
Cheap, fast and friendly is the name of the game at Go Fish. Curl up with hot saki and buckwheat noodle soup on cold days, or enjoy a sushi happy hour.

Goosetown Tavern—(Congress Park) 3242 E. Colfax at Adams
A popular neighborhood bar with solid bar foods and friendly bartenders. Crowds can get overwhelming with shows at the Bluebird.

The Hornet76 Broadway & 2nd
Hip bar with a wide beer selection and well delivered American bar foods. In the mood for a snack? Try their nachos. Not a night owl? Come back on the weekend for brunch complete with a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar.

The Horseshoe
Laid back and a little divey, the Horseshoe offers drinks and cheap eats with a side of pool and darts. Some nights they crank up the party with live music.

Liks Ice Cream—(Capitol Hill) 2039 E. 13th at Race
Family-owned small batch creamery serving up tasty treats with complex flavors to delight all ages.

Little Ollie’s— (Cherry Creek) 23 E. 3rd & University
Arguably some of if not the best asian food in town. Everything is super fresh at this local eatery which delivers big on style and taste.

Lucile’s275 S. Logan at Alameda
After a weekend visit to Lucile’s for brunch or breakfast, it’s hard not to fantasize about eating here daily. Celebrate the weekend with a bloody mary or just relax with the best creole comfort food you’ve ever had outside of Louisiana.

Mezcal—(Congress ParK) 3230 E. Colfax & Adams
Worth the trip to the east on Colfax for this local gem. Choice Happy Hour specials and a nice spot for dinner or even brunch. Great cocktails and probably the biggest tequila selection in town. If in the mood for cocktails, try a Mojada or Dark & Stormy. Don’t miss their spiced coffee if you’re in for brunch.

My Brother’s Bar—(Lower Highlands) 2376 15th & Platte
Largely unchanged since the ’50s, My Brother’s Bar is a safe bet for a relaxing burger and reasonably priced pitcher of beer. Don’t miss their patio on warm evenings.

Pablo’s Coffee630 6th Ave at Washington
First-rate Indie coffee shop serving up tasty baked goods and playful coffees.

Paris on the Platte1553 Platte & 15th
A popular destination among locals, Paris on the Platte seems to be a bit of an indie institution. Not a big coffee drinker, or in the mood for something more quiet? Stop in next door at Paris’ wine bar for a nice selection of domestic and international wines and light fare; their cheese boards are a perfect complement to a glass (or two) of wine.

St. Mark’s Cafe2019 E. 17th & Race
One of the ultimate local hangout bohemian coffeeshops. Right next door to The Thin Man, both owned by the same local family.

Sam’s #31500 Curtis & 15th
Arguably the best classic diner in Denver, serving up the massive portions you’d expect from a classic American diner. Cozy up for leisurely breakfast with friends, or try one of their rich milkshakes.

Snooze2262 Larimer St & 23rd
Fantastic brunch spot, offering clever interpretations of breakfast favorites. Using high quality ingredients from conscientious producers, brunch at Snooze isn’t the cheapest, but it’s worth the long wait.

Sputnik 3 S. Broadway & Ellsworth
A funky neighborhood bar with an artsy side offering a broad assortment of food including lots of vegetarian options (consider the Vietnamese sandwich or sweet potato fries). Check out the rotating display of work from local artists or stop in for a drink before a show at the Hi Dive.

Steuben’s—(Capitol Hill) 523 E 17th Ave Pkwy at Pearl St.
Heavenly food always served–comfort food for grown-ups. Open late and a favorite among locals for brunch. Wait ’til after 3pm and try their wonderful mashed potatoes.

Steve’s Snappin’ Dogs3525 E. Colfax at Monroe
In the mood for quick, easy comfort food? Steve’s has you covered. With authentic Chicago hot dogs, burgers, fresh squeezed lemon- and limeade, golden fries and a host of other goodies, this spot is great for travelers with little ones. Try the green beans for a something a little different with your dog.

Table 6603 E. Corona at 6th
Don’t miss this upscale American bistro. A nice spot for a “fancier” dinner without the fuss of a “fancy” restaurant.

The Thin Man —(Capitol Hill) 2015 E. 17th & Race
Great neighborhood bar with lots of character. Try their house infused vodkas or seasonal cocktails. Food is typically available from St. Mark’s next door, just ask the bartenders.

Tommy’s Thai—(Congress Park) 3410 E. Colfax & Cook
Family owned and operated, Tommy’s cooks up fresh Thai favorites at modest prices. Their simple, clean and modern interior makes for a pleasant lunch or a fast but tasty dinner.

Watercourse—(Capitol Hill) 837 E. 17th & Emerson
A local favorite for vegetarian fare, nice for a leisurely weekend meal. Great fries, try the French Dip Sandwich.

Wazee Supper Club—(LoDo) 1600 15th & Wazee
Known and celebrated by locals for their pizza, Wazee Supper Club is the perfect spot for a casual night out with friends. Their kitchen is open late and they feature a late night happy hour from 10-Midnight.

Wyman’s No.5—(Capitol Hill) 2033 E. 13th
Chicago deep dish pizzas in the Rockies? Oh yes. This warm and friendly neighborhood bar delivers on their promise of Chicago deep dish and familiar bar foods.

Wynkoop Brewing Company—(LoDo) 1634 18th & Wynkoop
Small batch beers, attentive service and one of the city’s best pool halls all make the Wynkoop a favorite brew pub among locals and travelers alike.

Zengo1610 Little Raven St.
Interesting Latin-Asian fusion with flavorful cocktails. Generally noted as a bit pricey so perhaps best for happy hour or celebrations.

ACTIVITIES & ENTERTAINMENT

3 Kings60 S. Broadway
It’s always a party at Denver’s answer to a raucous rock bar.

The Bluebird Theater—(Congress Park) 3317 E. Colfax between Adams & Cook
One of Denver’s favorite venues, the historic Bluebird offers an intimate setting for live music. Overwhelmed by the crowd? Try a little more breathing room in the balcony upstairs.

The Denver Art Museum (DAM)100 W. 14th at Bannock
Admire the new(ish) Hamilton wing from inside and out, or browse their collections of contemporary and historic art. Don’t miss the DAM’s impressive collection of Native American art.

Denver Botanical Gardens—(Capitol Hill) 1007 York St. between 9th & 11th Avenues
With 43 individual gardens and hundreds of species from around the globe, the Denver Botanical Gardens has something for everyone (even free wifi).

Denver Zoo—(City Park) 23rd between Colorado Blvd. & York
Sick of museums, bars and cafes? How about an afternoon at the Denver Zoo? Whether you’ve got kiddos in tow or not, the zoo is a fun break, boasting 3,500 animals from over 650 species most in lovely updated, naturalistic habitats.

El Chapultepec—(NW LoDo) 1962 Market & 20th
Around since the ’30s, this jazz club still serves up drinks to wake the dead legends who’ve played here. Don’t forget, they’re still a cash-only bar!

The Hi Dive7 S. Broadway & Ellsworth
Denver’s favorite little venue for live music. A little worn in but always a party. Be prepared for a crowd. Stop in next door at Sputnik to refuel with a snack after the show.

The Kirkland Museum1311 Pearl St. at 13th
The mothership of late 19th–20th Century decorative arts located in the heart of the west. An amazing collection of thousands of artifacts from Arts & Crafts to Bauhaus to Pop Art.

The Mayan Theatre110 Broadway between 1st & 2nd
Funky historic theater showing the latest indie flicks. Head upstairs for a cocktail from their full bar to complement your popcorn. Still hungry after the movie? Just cross the street to the Hornet for well-done bar food classics.

The Skylark — 140 S. Broadway at Maple
A trip back in time to a relaxed bar with live music most weekends and great jukeboxes upstairs and down. Head upstairs for pool and shuffleboard!

Tattered Cover Books—(multiple locations)2526 E. Colfax & Columbine OR in LoDo at 1628 16th & Wynkoop
Time generally ceases to exist in this local temple to books. Browse through your favorite book sections, or find help with their knowledgeable and friendly staff. Refuel at their coffee counter.

Twist & Shout—(Congress Park) 2526 E. Colfax & Columbine
Like its neighbor, the Tattered Cover, Twist & Shout seems to be enjoying the extra leg room in its new locale. Offering movies, music (on all manner of media including, yes, vinyl) and a host of toys and merch Twist & Shout is a popular spot to browse for gifts or replacements for the obscure albums you lost moving to your first real job after college.

The Walnut Room—(RiNo) 3131 Walnut St
Some people know it as a nice music venue, others recognize it as a fun spot for unique pizzas; either way the Walnut Room is worth a trip to RiNo (River North Art District).

Need more ideas and haven’t time to ask? Checkout Design*Sponge’s Denver Design Guide! This fantastic list goes in to greater detail about shopping than I have here.

Think something’s missing or want some thing more specific not included on the list? Just email me and I will add it into a follow-up post!

Happy Trails!

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