Best of Denver featuring street tacos, ice cream and mojitos.
I think its safe to say that here in Denver, summer is officially upon us. The temperature is soaring, the pool is open, the days are long.
While we may be first and foremost outdoor adventurers, we are also crazy foodies and have made it our mission to scout out the best dishes in Denver. Throughout the summer I’ll be sharing our best of list, for you to check out or challenge.
I’m a big street taco person, like, verging on an obsession lately. I’ve tried street tacos all over the Metro area and can say on good authority, that Tacos Tequila Whiskey is the place to go to get your taco fix. After sampling almost their entire menu over three visits in as many weeks (I mean, summer nights just scream tacos and a tequila soda…) we’ve settled on the carnitas as the favorite; there’s just something about those addictive pickled onions that pairs so perfectly with the crispy pork. Close runners up are the Asada, Barbacoa and Pescado. The queso cannot be missed, as well.
You will get endless pointed remarks in your direction while waiting the hour in line at Little Man Ice Cream, but those folks commenting, “I would never wait that long for ice cream” have never tried their Salted Oreo. Deliciously salty and creamy, peppered with Oreo bits, this flavor will make you crave that line. Even better in a waffle cone, when a jazz band is set up outside. Bring some friends and you won’t even notice the wait. (Don’t lame out and go to Milk Man, they don’t have Salted Oreo, despite serving Little Man Ice Cream)
Best Summer Cocktail and Place to Drink It Coconut Mojito – Mynt
While best summer cocktail is one of those categories that I’m not sure anyone could possibly have authority on, Mynt’s Coconut Mojito is my personal favorite and mixed with its killer rooftop patio, I think I might be able to convince you. Share a pitcher with friends and pour liquid summer into glasses adorned with sugar cane. Enjoy the views on their rooftop patio and it’ll be the only memorable stop on your LoDo bar hop.
If you’re a wanderluster at heart like me, you start getting cabin fever within two weeks of getting home from your last trip.
Unless you’re lucky enough to be a permanent adventurer, your heart will never be truly satisfied with the ho-hum of every day life. I can’t take off and travel whenever I get a wild hair and although we do a good job of planning day trips and road trips, sometimes I need a closer-to-home solution.
I give you; how to be a tourist in your hometown, a step-by-step guide to fighting cabin fever.
Step 1: Find adventure buddies. Like your family. They may not be up for driving all night to Moab, but they will certainly be up for a two hour adventure across town.
Step 2: Calendar it so nobody has any excuses. Text your dad the day before because he never accepts calendar appointments.
Step 3: Choose a part of your city or town that you’re not familiar with and do some research (if you live in a small town, find another nearby town)
Step 4: Pick a food venue and an activity that will simultaneously satisfy your wild sister and not send your parents rolling their eyes (your parents are probably up for being more adventurous than you think; mine were surprisingly up for black light yoga and wandering alleys to look at graffiti)
Make sure you pick a really good restaurant or coffee shop so that if your activity totally flops, at least the food will be good.
Step 6: Dress up, take lots of pictures. Let your fiance insult you for being the cause of gentrification when you insult alley stank.
Step 7: Leave as soon as everybody feels over-enlightened and starts to get grumpy. The great thing about stay-cations is that you can go back to your own house and avoid drama that always comes with being too close to your relations for too long!
My current favorite place to be a tourist in Denver is the River North District, aka, RiNO. Last year’s Colorado Crush festival released tons of street artists on the former warehouse district to turn every wall and alley into a masterpiece. Check out RiNO Yoga Social for the coolest black light yoga and Stowaway Coffee and Kitchen for breakfast/brunch that will make you go all heart-eyes emoji.
You may have seen my blog post from last weekend about the Questival we were participating in hosted by Cotopaxi. Now that I’ve sort of caught up on sleep, I wanted to share our experience with you and encourage you to sign up for a future Questival in a town near you!
Cotopaxi is a really amazing outdoor brand that I actually discovered on Instagram. They have a really cool philosophy, make unique and functional outdoor products and are very engaged with their customers. I am a total convert!
They host adventure weekends all over the country that are part scavenger hunt, part adventure race and 100% crazy fun. Last weekend, Topher, his sister, her boyfriend, Kenzie dog and I participated in Denver’s Questival.
Need some coffee inspirations? We worked our way through 303 Magazine’s list of best coffee shops in Denver. Check out our thoughts!
Mikaela: Right around last New Year’s I read an article by 303magazine, “Best of 303: Denver Coffee Shops, 2015 Edition”. As one of my personal resolutions was to spend less money on Starbucks; we made it our 2016 new year’s resolution to visit all 16 on the list and we sipped our last latte of the year at the last coffee shop on the list Saturday morning, New Year’s Eve. (I still drank way too much Starbucks in 2016)
Topher’s Top 3
1. The Molecule Effect
3. Maria Empanada
Here’s the rundown of what we thought of each shop on the list:
Two Rivers Coffee – Arvada
I hit this shop with a friend and did not deem it worthy of bringing Topher back to check it out. The coffee was meh, the baristas were uptight and the breakfast burritos sucked. And, tbh, who wants to go to a hipster coffee shop in a strip mall in Arvada!?
Amethyst Coffee Co – Golden Triangle
This shop just barely didn’t make my top 3. The aesthetic was my favorite of anything on the list, their croissants were to die for and they served their iced beverages in purple mason jars. Does it get any better?
Good coffe nice atmoshphere. The pastry cabinet left a little to be desired I am but a man after my confectionary goods. Also is in a part of town I quite like. Close enough to be in town far enough out to not smell the homeless camps in Civic Center Park
La Belle Rosette – DU
A cute, neighborhood coffee shop. Cozy atmosphere, good coffee and food, but lacking the hipster vibe that brings coffee shops near and dear to my heart. Fun fact; La Belle Rosette used to be in the spot Overt is now.
While Mikaela does miss the hipster aesthetic I quite like the local coffee shop feel. Had a very comfortable couch and one of those toys you’d find at the Dr’s office as a kid with the little wooden beads on the wire bent in various roller coaster like shapes. I liked it. Coffee was also good and I got a cookie.
The Molecule Effect – Art District on Santa Fe
Super creative drinks, bomb food and a cool atmosphere, this place was definitely one of my favorites!
Excellent coffee, tasty burrito, properly adjusted heat. I liked this coffee shop a lot and is likely one I will be returning to to spend days working. Located in the art district of lower downtown on Santa Fe (My least favorite road in the state) it is in a really cool part of town with lots of character.
Europa Coffee House – Wash Park
Windows overflowing with plants, a sprawling patio, a neighborhood gem. Loved the space and the breakfast burritos were killer (you can see where my heart lies, huh?)
One of the best breakfast burritos I had anywhere. Coffee was very good though nothing to write home about. I really liked how open the space was and the easy going neighborhood vibe.
Whittier Cafe – Whittier
Going back and reading 303’s article again, I realize we may have missed the mark here by not attending their traditional Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony, but for the other 6 days of the week, this coffee shop is nothing special. Uninspiring, unoriginal, the coffee sleeves were advertising Estes Park. Yeah, move along.
Had to put sugar and cream in my coffee. Did not have breakfast foods.
Maria Empanada – Platt Park
This place only gets 3/5 because I would disqualify them as a coffee shop. Their coffee was nothing to write home about and their atmosphere was not really a coffee shop in my opinion, but the empanadas! Man, that’s a different story. This is high on my list of recommendations for restaurants to visit, but let’s be real and call it a brunch spot.
While it didn’t really feel like a coffee shop they were in fact a shop that sells coffee. As a bonus they have these great things called empanadas. They are like hispanic dumplings filled with all manner of goodies. I liked them.
Stowaway Coffee + Kitchen – RINO
Stowaway was my #1 favorite find this year. Super aesthetically pleasing interior and situated in RINO (my current favorite neighborhood) with a really neat patio, this place is a gem. The table service makes it feel just a notch fancier than your average shop and encouraged conversation rather than people being buried in their laptops. The food was incredible as well.
Tasty coffee and tasty food but the atmosphere to me felt more like a restaurant and less like a neighborhood place to hang out at. It was however a very nice place to go and I won’t discount them on account of me not liking other humans.
Bellwether – E Colfax
What a cute joint. Normally, I have no love for Colfax, but this place alongside the neighborhood grocery next door is giving me hope for the street’s future. Great music, really neat vibe and the glasses and mugs drinks were served in were art in themselves. Plus, who doesn’t love drinks being iced with a singular giant ice cube?
I think I’m starting to convince Mikaela that the older parts of town can be just as nice as the newer ones. Great coffee super friendly staff and a really cool location. Also is in a cool part of town.
Habit and Carbon – Confluence
I was really excited about this place. A doughnut shop attached to a super cool hipster coffee shop with mac & cheese on the menu? Yes, please! I gave this spot a shot as a morning coffee spot and a shot as a bar and both times the food and beverage was disappointing. I ordered two misses on drinks, the dinner service was painfully bad and the donuts were solidly meh both times. Points for the interior, but that’s about it.
Coffee not as good as elsewhere, Doughnuts not as good as elsewhere. I’m not a huge fan of this part of town and see no reason to go back.
Alpine Modern – The Hill, Boulder
What a charming spot. Not situated on the Hill proper, but tucked away up in the neighborhood across from the cemetery, Alpine Modern is a total gem. Fabulous coffee, great food and a charming, bright interior space, this place feels like a spot you want to slow down and stay forever in.
I like it. Mikaela wants our apartment to look like this. I think Boulder has an inflated opinion of itself but there are some genuinely good places up there. Good coffee and a cool contraption on the wall that think is brewing cold brew coffee. So that’s neat.
Lula Rose General Store – Bluebird
A super quaint little neighborhood joint, the big windows make it feel like a 50’s diner. Good coffee, great atmosphere. Not a whole lot of room, you’ll be lucky to snag a seat, but that’s part of the charm. Bonus points for their Instagram feed always being full of fresh flowers.
I Like Colfax, a lot. Good coffee and small little place with lots of windows. And they have planes on their cups. I like planes.
Black Eye Coffee – Capitol Hill
Black Eye Coffee is the total opposite of most of these shops I’ve loved, aesthetically. Its dark, its sleek and its sophisticated. It’s definitely worth a visit.
Surprised Mikaela liked this one; nothing in it was painted white. They have good coffee, comfy booths and serve food if you need more than caffeine. Very cool place to be.
Overt – Wash Park
Overt’s score may be slightly inflated, because I worked two doors down from it for most of the year. I grabbed a coffee on opening day, stoked I never had to walk to Wash Perk (bleck!) again for a mid-afternoon buzz. I was dissapointed. The coffee was overpriced, the space was tiny and lacked any seating at all. A die-hard Vert (their restaurant next door) fan and a lover of close proximity coffee that doesn’t come out of a Keurig, I continued to visit Overt through the year. Their staff has always been charming, their coffee got better, their grab and go selection saved my life more than once and I was satisfied. Then they opened their patio and I fell in love. You’ve never met a more charming space. I started religiously spending my lunch breaks their, reading on the steps or one of the beautiful tables. If I had stopped after my first visit, I may have rated this a 1/5, but as the spot has grown and matured, its definitely a winner. Wait for warmer weather and enjoy!
Never had coffee here but have had the pork belly sandwich next door several times. Its amazing and on a short list of my favorite food items in the city.
Allegro Coffee Roasters – Tennyson
Allegro is a name familiar to most who drink coffee in Denver. Many local shops serve it, hell even Whole Foods serves it. Its quality coffee and so I was super excited to visit their actual coffee shop. It did not disappoint. Huge and open, with windows into the roasting room, the shop itself was pretty slick. I love coffee, I really do, but I also really appreciate fun coffee drinks, aka Starbucks. When I walked into Allegro and saw their menu not only included more than drip, pour over, latte and cold brew, but also had a gingerbread latte and maple cold brew, I figuratively almost died (sorry, that’s my inner white girl talking). Cool neighborhood, great interior and great drinks, whether you’re a coffee connoisseur or a Starbucks girl.
Tasty coffee innovative drinks and a staple in the Denver coffee scene (wow that sounds pretentious) I like how much seating they have and the part of town they are in. Did not have food or remember if they serve any. (Mikaela: They do, you wouldn’t let me order a croissant because we’d already had breakfast >.<)
Purple Door Coffee – Five Points
A coffee shop with a great purpose, there’s not a lot to dislike about Purple Door. Cute interior, decent coffee, friendly, neighborhood vibe and hey, they sponsored a Gilmore Girl’s Luke’s Diner pop-up. 3/5 because the place was a little un-original and Five Points is not my favorite, but a solid addition to the list.
Think coffee shop. Yup probably what this place looks like. Nice local place but nothing outstanding.
Mikaela: Moral of the story is Denver is a pretty hip, up and coming city. Get out there and explore it! Grab coffee from somewhere other than your corner Starbucks, pop into that boutique that’s always looked neat, grab a reservation at a restaurant you’ve never tried before. To many more cups of coffee in 2017-