Since well before we left for Europe last summer, I’ve been dodging emails about doing a guide to Denver because THIS IS A BAKING BLOG, GUYS. But I finally gave in and compiled a list of all my favorite spots in the Mile High City. Having lived here for five years, I pretty much know this place like the back of my hand but am always so excited to stumble upon something new – which is why this guide will be a work in progress (meaning when I find an awesome coffee shop or a great dinner spot, I’ll update this post to reflect new discoveries).
One of my favorite things about Denver is that it’s a highly walkable city, meaning a car isn’t all that necessary unless you’re opposed to mass transit or biking to the grocery store. If you’re coming to the city from DIA, skip the rental car and take the A-line to Union Station. From there you can get around using the (fairly reliable) public transit system, B-Cycle, or Uber. We rely on all of the above but prefer biking now that Denver’s installed a number of bike lanes. 99% of the places on this list are within walking or biking distance of the city center, which is important considering we don’t have cars and only rent one when we absolutely need it (like when we go to the mountains).
Unfortunately we don’t have any experience with local hotels, but we’ve heard great things about The Oxford, Teatro, The Brown Palace, The Crawford, and Hotel Monaco. If you’re looking for something a bit more affordable, there’s a Sheraton, Embassy Suites, and Hyatt downtown but, if I were you, I’d skip the hotels and just find a place on Airbnb. We used the service for 95% of our accommodations in Europe and can’t imagine traveling any other way. I recommend staying in the Business District (upper downtown), LoDo (lower downtown), LoHi (lower highlands), Capitol Hill, or Cheesman Park (where we live). Baker, Washington Park, Five Points, or RiNo (River North) would be great options if you have a car.
If you’re looking for a solid date night, dinner and a movie (at the Mayan or Esquire) is always a fantastic option. Or the Clyfford Still Museum followed by dinner and drinks at Cuba Cuba. If you’re looking for something a little more relaxing, go for a stroll downtown (through Larimer Square) and then for a drink at the MCA rooftop cafe or for happy hour crêpes at Crêpes ‘n Crêpes. You could also go for a walk through Cheesman Park then make a stop at Cafe Max for drinks and dessert. If you’re looking for a wild night out, the Cruise Room, Thin Man, and P S Lounge are all good spots for drunken shenanigans.
A less extensive [weekend] guide can be found here.
I should note that only a couple of these restaurants (City O’ City and Native Foods) are 100% vegan. All the others are more than willing to accommodate a vegan diet even when there isn’t anything sans-animal products on the menu. To help make your life easier, I’ve broken these down into categories (early morning grub, comfort food, etc.). Although many of these places fit into more than one category, I’ve placed them in the one that I feel is most fitting.
EARLY MORNING GRUB
Snooze – As a local, I don’t really care for Snooze (it’s way overpriced) but everyone and their mom will tell you to go for breakfast. So you probably should.
Jelly Cafe – If you’re staying in or near Capitol Hill, Jelly is a great breakfast/brunch spot with a few vegan options.
Bar Max – Part cafe, part bar. Great place for a swanky date night.
New! Stowaway Coffee + Kitchen – A stunning space with an absolutely delicious menu, but the coffee is definitely not worth writing home about. Head up to Crema to get your caffeine fix.
Weathervane Cafe – The owners are the sweetest people you’ll ever meet and the food is downright delicious (oatmeal, chia pudding, sandwiches, etc.) and reasonably priced.
Wooden Spoon – Delicious coffee and top-notch sandwiches. Thom says they make the best breakfast sandwiches in town.
ON THE FLY
Biju’s Little Curry Shop – Quick, affordable, delicious. The veggie bowl is one of my favorite meals in Denver.
The Market – This is one of my favorite places in town and, when we lived downtown, I used to go here damn near every day. Their coffee isn’t anything worth writing home about (in fact, stay away from it) but they have a chocolate selection that makes my inner fat kid go crazy. They also have delicious deli style food and their hummus sandwich (add avocado spread and spicy mustard) is pretty much the sandwich of my vegetable-heavy dreams. Look for Stefan, dude knows how to make a mean sandwich.
New! Ohana Island Kitchen – Delicious Hawaiian-inspired eats.
Bubu – Quick and healthy rice bowls (brown rice, white rice, or rice noodles) right in the middle of Larimer Square. The SoCal bowl is my favorite.
Vert Kitchen – Easily one of my favorite spots in town. They serve breakfast and lunch, but at $4 for a hearty portion of almond milk oats with fresh fruit, I’m a huge fan of their early morning eats.
True Food – I always (ALWAYS) get the TLT. I dream of their kale salad. And kale-aid.
New! Avanti F&B – A modern food hall for omnivores and vegans, alike.
Ethiopian Restaurant – Not the most creative name, but this place cooks up some of the most delicious and authentic Ethiopian food you’ll find this side of the Rockies. The restaurant itself is outdated and can be rather warm in the summer, but the food more than makes up for it.
Govinda’s – Krishna-vibes, FYI. Some people are freaked out by that or pissed that the food is essentially Indian without the spices. It’s delicious and that’s all that matters.
Tacos Tequila Whiskey – Formerly Pinches Tacos and, like their original name states, they have delicious fucking tacos so you should go.
Crêpes ‘n Crêps – One of our favorite places for an impromptu afternoon date. Happy hour crepes are the perfect size and only $5! Their normal batter is not vegan, but the gluten free variety is.
New! Sushi-Rama– CONVEYOR BELT SUSHI! Go at happy hour for the best deal otherwise it’s expensive as fuck/not worth it.
PUT ON A NICE SHIRT
Mercantile – Easily one of the best restaurants in town. The “vegan plate” isn’t on the menu, but they’re always willing to whip up something delicious for us plant-based folks.
Cuba Cuba – A lot for the carnivores and a few options for us plant based eaters. No lard in their beans, ye-yeaaaah!
Root Down – Lately this place has been hit or miss. I used to love it but half the times we go it’s way too salty. Their drinks are great, though!
The Nickel – They don’t have many vegan entree options, but they have more than a few delicious starters (hummus, olives, etc.) and small plates that can be combined to make a delicious meal.
Potager – Slow food right in the heart of Capitol Hill. Vegans, call ahead. And be prepared to drop some $$$.
Uncle – RAMEN.
The Populist – Their menu isn’t vegan friendly but if you call ahead they’re usually more than happy to to accommodate dietary restrictions.
Vine Street Pub – Burgers and beers and community style seating.
Lucile’s Creole Cafe – Not much for vegans but if you’re down with grits, collards, and oats, you’ll be golden. Also: Bloody’s.
If you look up a guide to the best coffee shops in Denver, you’ll notice I left more than a few of them off this list. That’s because a) some places try way too hard and b) I don’t need to be reminded that pour over is superior to filter when I just want some motherfucking caffeine. Snobby coffee ain’t cool, y’all.
The Bardo Coffee House – This is my go-to coffee shop in Denver. The atmosphere, coffee, and employees are all fantastic. And their website is the jam.
Crema – This place is a hipster mecca but I can’t deny the fact that they serve a damn good cup of joe. The baristas are always so pleasant.
Steam Espresso Bar – One of the most delicious cups of coffee you’ll find in the city. Located south of town, but it’s more than worth the trip.
Europa Coffee House – Bring your favorite book and stay a while.
Novo Coffee – The 6th Avenue location is my go-to (but the downtown location is great, too). The coffee is top notch and the tunes are always pleasant.
New! Lula Rose General Store – Kickass little space and even better coffee.
Huckleberry Roasters – They roast some mad-delicious coffee beans. The location in the highlands is my fav (the RiNo location is NO BUENO).
New! Bellwether – They use Califia Farms almondmilk SO OF COURSE I LOVE THEM.
Hooked on Colfax – A great place to get shit done.
Sweet Action Ice Cream – Insanely creative ice cream flavors and they always have a couple of options for the vegans.
New! Temple Bakery – Baked goods AND pizza. Heads up: there’s not much for the vegan folks.
Little Man Ice Cream – Not as good as Sweet Action but they have some damn delicious vegan options (chocolate salted oreo, anyone?).
New! Sweet Cooie’s – Little Man’s sister shop in Congress Park. It just might be the cutest ice cream shop EVER.
Milkbox Ice Creamery – BOOZY MILKSHAKES.
Beet Box Bakery – Delicious vegan baked goods made from scratch erryday.
City O’ City – Their breakfast kicks major ass but their desserts are where the magic happens.
Bonnie Brae Ice Cream Shop – Vegan soft serve. ‘Nuff said.
Voodoo Doughnuts – The line is ungodly long and not worth it (in my opinion) (Thom says otherwise), but if you can squeeze in early morning (before 9AM), get yourself a pink box filled with doughnuts and savor the shit out of them.
Thin Man – This is probably my favorite place to grab a drink in town. Thom says the red lights are offensive but I dig the vibes and the bartenders and the fact that they infuse their own liquors.
Williams & Graham – Don’t be surprised if there’s a two hour wait. It’s worth it.
Work and Class – It can be loud and packed like sardines, but their drinks are top notch and not overly sweet.
New! Bar Fausto – The staff is knowledgeable (and witty as fuck), the space is beautiful, and the drinks are easily some of the best in town.
New! Epic Brewing – One of Thom’s favorite breweries.
P S Lounge – Totally divey and funky. If you find yourself on East Colfax, pop in for a drink or three.
The Cruise Room – Go during the week as it gets pretty loud/packed during the weekend. Enter through the Oxford Hotel.
Our Mutual Friend Malt and Brew – Good vibes and even better beers.
Three Lions – Futbol pub with a great beer selection. Thom says don’t eat the food.
Great Divide Brewery – Non-traditional beers in an interesting neighborhood. Food isn’t available but there are usually food trucks outside.
Prost – German biergarten with homemade brezeln (!!!!!).
The 1up – Strong drinks and cheap arcade games.
STUFF TO DO
Clyfford Still – This is one of our favorite museums.. of all time. The paintings are incomparably stunning and the space itself is out of this world beautiful (fine lines and poured concrete, anyone?). Go during a weekday because there’s a chance you might have the place to yourself.
Museum of Contemporary Art – The art can be a bit eccentric, but that’s ok because the rooftop cafe more than makes up for the art that sometimes has you scratching your head, wondering what the fuck is going on. But isn’t that the beauty of it?
Museum of Nature and Science – Because science is cool. Go to the planetarium. And then go to the rooftop and have a look at that sweet view of Denver.
Jazz in the Park – Limited to the summer months, but if you’re visiting June-August, grab a blanket and bring a bottle of wine.
Mayan Theatre – This is one of my favorite theaters in town. It doesn’t show a lot (err, any) of the Blockbuster films, but they’re always showing a couple of good flicks. Not to mention, their popcorn is delicious and they have nutritional yeast topping.
The Esquire – Another fun place to catch an indie flick. They sell Divine chocolate at the concession stand. Just sayin’.
Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret – If you’re not put off by boobie tassels or half-naked, dancing women, I highly recommend a night at the cabaret.
First Friday – Various art districts put on an event every first Friday, year around. Wine is available, usually for purchase, but if you go to the right galleries it’s free. The Santa Fe Art Walk is our favorite.
Epic Escape Room – You get locked in a room and have an hour to get out. It’s more fun (and less scary) than it sounds.
Tattered Cover – My favorite book store in the city. They have two locations, one in LoDo and the other in City Park. You should visit both.
Kilgore Books – Lots of signed novels from notable authors. Penned after Kurt Vonnegut’s alter-ego, Kilgore Trout.
Bookbar – A bookshop for wine lovers.
Capitol Hill Books – Don’t be put off by the sketchy location/exterior because there are some gems inside.
Fahrenheit’s Books – A great used book store on Broadway. The employees are always super helpful and down to chat about their favorite reads.
Hazel & Dewey – For your kitchen/housewares fixings.
New! Talulah Jones – Gorgeous housewares and awesome stuff for the little ones.
Garage Vintage – Vintage galore. Their sister location is across the street, so make sure you don’t miss it.
Ironwood – Plants, jewelry, crystals, etc. Despite being small, Ironwood packs a punch – I could snoop around for hours.
Fig + Yarrow – For your fancy skincare needs.
Goorin Bros. – Fancy a good quality hat? Look no further. Most hats are $100+ but the quality and service are worth it. Say hi to Larry.
Sub Rosa Mercantile – Jewelry, housewares, etc.
Meek Vintage – Hit or miss, but that tends to be true for all vintage shops.
MARKETS AND STUFF
Natural Grocers – Whole Foods quality, King Soopers prices. We do a majority of our shopping here.
New! Denver Central Market – Booze, coffee, grub, dessert, etc.
Farmer’s Markets – May through the end of October (Union Station, Le Jardin Secret, Esplanade are my favorites).
Christkindl Market – German Christmas market downtown from 21 November-23 December.
Pacific Mercantile – The place to go for all your Asian food necessities like nori, mochi balls, and coconut milk.
EVOO Marketplace – Outstanding selection of olive oils. Their butter oil is almost always in our pantry.
Savory Spice Shop – Hella spices, sugars, vanilla beans, etc. Their Indian spice section cannot be topped.
If you plan on getting your ganja on, make sure you consume it before you leave as it cannot be taken out of the state (and law enforcement doesn’t fuck around if they catch you trying). Denver dispensaries close at 7PM. Also, if you haven’t done them before, I do not recommend trying edibles here – just smoke that shit (Ingrid is my favorite).
Fox Street Wellness – (Semi) ORGANIC POT.
Native Roots – Heads up: the wait on the weekends can be insanely long.
Good Chemistry – Funky place off Colfax with helpful employees and a straight forward menu. I always go with one of the Ingrid joints because I’m too lazy to roll my own.
LoDo Wellness – One of the most popular (and affordable) spots in town.
You’ll probably want to get out of the city for a bit and explore the mountains. Mt. Elbert is the highest 14er in the state and also the easiest to climb – so if you’re been looking to do a 14er (and are acclimated), that one will be right up your alley. If you’re looking to summit two 14ers in one day, you can do Grays and Torreys if you hit the trailhead by 7AM. We arrived around 8:30 but are pretty quick getting up the mountain and don’t recommend arriving that late unless you know you are, too. St. Mary’s glacier has a pretty rewarding view and only a moderately steep incline. You can’t go wrong with any of the hikes in Boulder or Rocky Mountain National Park.
The San Juans and Sangre de Cristos are my favorite mountain ranges in Colorado. They’re a bit of a drive but are more than worth it. If you’re looking to do a 14er in the San Juans, I highly recommend Handies as it’s a class 1 with one of the most rewarding views. As for the Sangre de Cristos, skip the mountains and climb the sand dunes. Just make sure you bring a change of clothes.