In June, I had the opportunity to go back and visit my hometown, a quaint little suburb of Colorado located between Boulder and Denver. I currently spend most of my time in New York and Los Angeles, so I hadn't been back to Colorado in nearly five years. What I discovered was truly unexpected...
Business has been booming in Colorado. With tech companies like Google sprouting new offices in Boulder and Amazon launching a new robotic fulfillment center in Denver, many areas in and around the Mile High City have been undergoing some major hipster face-lifts. New neighborhoods with names like like "RiNO" and "LoHi" have suddenly cropped up and a fresh selection of interesting restaurants and cafes have followed.
neighborhood looks more like Williamsburg in New York City
...complete with a Car2Go.
It was fun seeing family and friends and I actually ended up extended my trip, which gave me a lot of time to unearth some culinary and cultural gems...
Here are my 5 Go-To Places for the next time you visit the Rockies:
1. Union Station
As far as I'm concerned, the design team at AvroKo in New York City can do no wrong. I love this company so much and I was fortunate enough to actually work for them as both a freelance Creative Strategist and a Project Manager for about a year.
When I first moved to NYC, AvroKo's establishments were some of my favorites. The Stanton Social, Beauty & Essex, Saxon & Parole, and Public (now sadly closed) were restaurants that changed the face of hospitality in New York City when they ushered in (as Khai Lee describes) the "Rough Luxe" style.
While I was eating and drinking my way through AvroKo's New York, I would have never dreamed that the company would be bringing their brand of "old-meets-new" to Denver. With their reboot of the city's historic Union Station, this incredibly gifted design team has proven once again that their multi-disciplined approach just plain works.
AvroKo does everything— as they say— "soup-to-nuts." Not only does their in-house architecture group design the structure, their hospitably branch also collaborates with the chefs and mixologists to create unique menus, and their Brand Bureau handles all the branding of the entire space.
Union Station is an endless maze of eateries, cafes, public spaces, and bars. My favorite was the Terminal Bar, with its lively atmosphere and budget-friendly happy hour. Set aside a good chunk of time if you plan to visit this bustling social hub. Grab a bite and a drink and then go exploring— just don't miss your train!
2. Denver Central Market
Seems like Food Halls have become de rigueur for every major city now, so it is no surprise that Denver has its own contender. Housed inside the H.H. Tammen building— a company that created mining souvenirs in the 1920's— and nestled in the new hipster district of RiNO, Denver Central Market plays host to a wide variety of local food vendors. My favorites are: Crema Bodega for damn fine coffee, Izzio Artisan Bakery for some of the best breakfast burritos and pastries you'll ever have (order something called a Cherry Queen and never look back), and the Green Seed Market for a salad called, "Kale Yeah Mother Brussel." Um... yes.
3. Williams & Graham
As soon as my plane landed in Denver, I went to work on finding a good place to get a cocktail and a late nite snack. Williams & Graham was the perfect place to make that happen. This bar is one of the prohibition-style speakeasies that emerged as a trend in cocktail culture about five years ago, but they truly stand on their own with a unique approach to the concept.
The presentation style of everything from the surprise entrance, to the complimentary aperitif and meticulous mixology helped make my first night in Denver really special.
4. Royal Rooster at Old Major
Oh man, I am still thinking about this fried chicken sandwich from Royal Rooster. Not knowing where to go for lunch on an idle Thursday afternoon, I saddled up to the bar at this LoHi eatery and indulged in their signature Classic Rooster sandwich. It was the best decision I made all day. Royal Rooster is actually the afternoon name for the bar nestled inside a restaurant called Old Major, whose dinner menu looks equally as incredible. Both concepts are part of the Brunson & Co restaurant group, which also includes: a butcher shop, a delicatessen, and cheese store. Yum.
5. Port Side
Speaking of sandwiches... the drool-worthy Duke breakfast sandwich at Port Side in RiNO is truly out of this world. Scrambled eggs, aged cheddar, pickle, arugula, and PULLED PORK all beautifully piled on a brioche bun. I'm also a sucker for a good cold brew served in a branded can glass, so...
Alpine Modern Café
When I wasn't guzzling down Stumptown cold brews on tap from Crema at Denver Central Market, you could probably find me at the cute Swedish and Scandinavian-inspired, Alpine Modern Café. Located in a restored Chautauqua cabin in Boulder, this literal coffee house is walking distance from the University of Colorado and it was a perfect place for me to bring my laptop to get some work done. I ate the Six-Minute Egg Tartine from their breakfast menu a few times and the Italian bread they serve it on is incredible.
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