In mid-June I was invited to speak at a digital marketing event in Denver. This gave me the opportunity to combine a few of my favorite pasttimes:
- Exploring a new city
- Advancing my career
- Getting the heck out of Phoenix in the Summer
As this was my first trip to Denver, and I didn’t have any friends or colleagues in the area, my approach to exploring the city was entirely unorganized. What ended up happening was a 36-hour trip that resembled a less-debauched version of Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover.
Since the hotel I was booked in was just down the block form the conference venue, there was no need to rent a car. This meant that my travels were restricted to walking distance, mostly around the Union Station and LoDo* areas. Here are some of the highlights.
Ink Coffee on Cadence
After a 5am flight and a hour long coach ride from DIA to Union Station, I headed out on foot to see what I could find on the mile or so stroll to my hotel. While much of the Union Station neighborhood is clearly in a rampant state of growth and on-going construction projects, I was able to find a path down Cadence that led me to Ink Coffee.
Inside, Ink Coffee looked like the kind of place you’d see in the brochure for a new residential development. Very modern, slightly upscale but not off-putting for a potential neighborhood place. If I wasn’t looking forward to dropping my carry-on at the hotel, I could easily see myself sitting here for a while and reading through some kind of slightly-serious book while taking notes in a crisp new Moleskine.
As for the beverage service, I saw good reviews about their White Chai, so I got the Ginger Spice White Chai to take on my walk-about. Not knowing how long it would be until I got breakfast, I didn’t want anything too serious, and this frothy, smooth drink had just enough tang to keep things interesting as I headed out.
Caution: The Earl @ Lucky Pie
Caution: The Earl paired with Duck Confit Poutine
That afternoon, I sent out a tweet about meeting up for beers or tea before my presentation, and got a great tip from some locals about an earl grey craft beer that might be found somewhere around town. Taphunter to the rescue, I was lucky to discover that Caution: The Earl was on tap at nearby pizza “bar” Lucky Pie.
Caution: The Earl was thoroughly an experience worth searching out. Described as an “English Mild” in the menu, this drink smells exactly like an expertly brewed cup of Earl Grey as you lift it to your mouth. The best way I can describe the mouth feel is something like a Boddington’s pub ale, but less malty and more crisp.
If I was a more experienced craft beer drinker, I could probably talk about how the bergamot in the earl grey interacts with the brewing process and provides lift without distinctly floral notes, but really I’m just guessing. Bottom line, if this is on sale somewhere near you, go out and try it. You might be drinking your regrets, but Caution: The Earl won’t be one of them.
Euclid Hall Sausage
House-Made Bourdin Noir Sausage with Kennebec Fries and Crazy Mountain Amber Ale
At most marketing conferences, the organizers provide a box lunch and everyone sits around massive tables, either making awkward small talk, or sitting far too close together and never once speaking. Looking to avoid this conundrum, I headed out and made my way to Euclid Hall, just off campus from University of Colorado Denver. The lure here was a recommendation about house-made sausages that were can’t-miss (plus the ability to take off my lanyard and get some fresh mountain air).
As advertised, the sausage at Euclid Hall did not disappoint. On any other day, I might have gone for two or three of their house-made sausages on offer, or the pad thai pig ears, duck confit poutine and brat burger. As it was, I had a presentation yet to give, so I opted to just go for the Boudin Noir, mainly because the menu said “avec curry e aubergine” and I was intrigued.
The sausage comes with a tour of various mustards, ranging from sweet to spicy to coarse. In the end, I ran out of sausage before I could firmly decide which mustard paired best with the Bourdin Noir, so a return trip is probably needed for research purposes.
Pigtrain Coffee Shop & ACME Burger & Brats
The delicious wing of Union Station: ACME Burgers and Pigtrain Coffee
Even though the coach depot is underground and not inside Union Station, this 100 year-old building is not to be missed. The station itself brought back memories of some of my favorite train stations in Europe, and I was sort of blown away that such a great, curated place existed and most of the Denver locals I talked to seemed to dismiss it’s appeal.
Just inside the front doors, Pigtrain Coffee has a stunning 270-degree coffee bar set-up. While the staff seemed a little disorganized about their pour-over program, the product I ultimately received was well above commuter quality, and helped improve the hour long wait I had after I missed the first coach back to DIA.
Equally fulfilling was the classic-style burger I got from ACME Burger & Brats. Similar to some of my favorite Phoenix burgers, ACME’s offering was low on frills, high on quality ingredients and well-seasoned.
Between the ambiance of the train station, the awesome burger and unexpectedly cool coffee bar, I would highly recommend checking out Denver Union Station if you’re in town. Or if you live there. Or if you just have several hours to kill between flights in Denver.
Also in LoDo, I enjoyed my time at Backstage Coffee, Sam’s No 3, and Illegal Pete’s. For more on those spots, check out our Instagram. I’m sure I barely scratched the surface, and with all the construction going on, this neighborhood is going to be a great destination for future trips away from the desert.