By Ali Basye
Photography by Ben Rassmusen
Cowboy “ambassadors” greet Denver airport arrivals with a howdy and a tip of their ten-gallon hats. Tumbleweeds blow in from the surrounding high desert and bounce through Larimer Square, the city’s oldest street. But locals have embraced the cultural revival of this onetime frontier settlement. The trendy RiNo neighborhood is home to a thriving arts scene, good restaurants, and, as of this year, prospering marijuana dispensaries. Don’t miss the First Friday Art Walk in the Art District on Santa Fe, which houses more galleries (40 and counting) than anywhere else in Colorado. The Clyfford Still Museum (1250 Bannock Street; 720/354-4880) thrilled the art crowd when it opened in 2011 and unveiled the collection of works by its namesake abstract expressionist.
Ease into the mile-high altitude with hot espresso, fresh pastries, and mammoth breakfast burritos at The Market at Larimer Square (1445 Larimer Street; 303/534-5140), a bakery, grocery, and deli. Colorado is famed for its steaks, but traditional sirloin seems pedestrian compared to the game sausages (reindeer, rattlesnake, and antelope, for example) at Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs (2148 Larimer Street; 720/746-9355). Rioja’s (1431 Larimer Street; 303/820-2282) James Beard Award-winning menu finds inspiration in Mediterranean flavors, but chef Jennifer Jasinski won the hearts and stomachs of Denverites – and Top Chef Masters judges – with locally sourced ingredients.
The stadium district’s refurbished warehouses have their share of sports bars. But Trillium (2134 Larimer Street; 303/379-9759) takes craft cocktails for a Scandinavian spin, mixing infused aquavit, bitters, and herb syrups. Enter Green Russell (1422 Larimer Street; 303/893-6505) through the tiny Wednesday’s Pie shop, skip the drink-menu offerings, and request a “bartender’s choice” – and order a slice of house-made pie while you’re at it.
Cherry Creek (3000 E. First Avenue; 303/388-3900) is the city’s go-to shopping center for haute name brands. But Larimer Square’s independently owned boutiques offer everything from cowboy boots and upscale Western wear at Cry Baby Ranch (1421 Larimer Street; 303/623-3979) to modern housewares at Element (1426 Larimer Street; 303/825-3770) and chocolate and salted caramels at Chocolatier Blue
(1423 Larimer Street, #80; 720/287-2836).
Originally appeared in Virtuoso Life magazine, May 2014.
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