Denver, My Heart

imageWe recently returned home from a whirlwind trip to my second favorite state (after my home state of CA, of course) of Colorful Colorado to watch my BFF and the beauty at the left (Heather) marry one heckuva cool guy (Nick) at the most picturesque place on the planet.

I met Heather while we simultaneously earned our graduate degrees in International Human Rights from the University of Denver.  While there, I absolutely fell in love with the city and miss it constantly (though I am happy to be back in CA and near my family and at a job I love).

This most recent visit was only the Husband’s second time to the Rocky State and I’m pleased to report that he loves it as much as I do.  Do I see a potential retirement home in our future? Hmmmm….

Here are a few snapshots from the quick trip.  Enjoy!

The Husband enjoying a ride on RTD light rail.

The Husband enjoying a ride on RTD light rail.

A Place to Stay & Getting Around

The La Quinta Inn Cherry Creek on Colorado Blvd and Buchtel is a favorite place to stay.  It’s very reasonably priced, a block away from the Colorado Station light rail stop and right off the 25, excuse me, I 25 (can’t let my CA dialect offend the locals).  Despite being next to a freeway and major roadway, it is surprisingly quiet.

While living in Denver, I used the top-rated public transportation system known as the RTD or drove my super awesome scooter (oh, I miss you Baby Blue!) to get around.  The RTD is a combination light rail and bus system and is extremely user friendly.  Unless one is planning to drive out of the main metro area when visiting Denver, I recommend relying on the oh-so-easy to use public transportation.  During my tenure as a resident, I loved hopping on the bus or train, opening a book or just looking out the window, until my stop – stress free travel all the way.

Dinner Time

"It's what's for dinner." Animals line the walls of the Buckhorn Exchange.

“It’s what’s for dinner.” Animals line the walls of the Buckhorn Exchange.

Denver is full of culinary treats and each time I visit, I try to make a point to hit my favorites.  On Sunday night, however, we made reservations at an eatery new to both Darrin and me.  The Buckhorn Exchange, famous for being the first restaurant in town, was established in the 1890’s and continues to operate in the same location.  It’s conveniently located at the 10th and Osage light rail stop, making dinner cocktails a safe choice.  The Buckhorn specializes in game and meat in general; the walls are decorated with the history of the kitchen’s conquests.  Vegetarians and anti-hunting activists should shy away from this place.  However, as carnivores, Darrin and I found the food to be delicious, though slightly overpriced.  I ordered elk with garlic mashed potatoes and they were both fantastic – the elk cooked perfectly.  The menu features great anecdotes of the restaurant’s colorful history including a robbery gone awry in the early part of the 20th century.  Wild West, indeed!

No filters are used on the photo of this delicious dessert from Le Central.  Profiteroles, ice cream, real chocolate, and almonds.  What could go wrong?

No filters are used on the photo of this delicious dessert from Le Central. Profiteroles, ice cream, real chocolate, and almonds. What could go wrong?

The Perfect Lunch

The next day, we had a deliciously long lunch at my favorite French restaurant, Le Central on 8th Avenue.  Touting itself as the “affordable” French restaurant, Le Central specializes in mussels but also offers a weekly changing menu.  As a reference point, we ate and drank more at Le Central than we did the night before at The Buckhorn and our bill was 1/2 as much at the French restaurant.  We started with cocktails and a charcuterie plate which was plenty to fill us up.  However, we ascribed to the “when in Rome” philosophy and decided to push forward in our tasting tour.  A few bites of my entree later (a delectable panini) and I asked for a box in order to save room for dessert.  And boy, was I glad I did.  Profiteroles, sliced open to make room for ice cream, and swimming in real chocolate was enough to send me over the edge.  But, of course, I insisted on tipping myself over by ordering a glass of champagne.  Darrin’s brioche pain perdu (bread pudding) in warm caramel sauce, was nothing to scoff at.  The wait staff was fabulously patient with us as we slowly made our way through the menu and let things settle before venturing back out into the light of day.

Other Stops

If you find yourself in my beloved Denver, there are a few other places I’d recommend – some new, some old, and all I visited on my most recent trip.

The Old Standby - The Stadium Inn

The Old Standby – The Stadium Inn

  • Wash Park Grille is located in one of the first little sub-neighborhoods I discovered while living in Denver.  On the corner of Gaylord & Mississippi, this spot has a nice happy hour and a great ambience both inside and out.  The patio is dog friendly – an important value for a town overrun by dog-lovers.
  • Highlands Cork & Cafe is nestled away in the (you guessed it) Highlands neighborhood on 32nd Avenue in an old renovated home.  I made my first visit to this combination coffee house and wine bar to connect with Erin, my old college roommate, and I really enjoyed the atmosphere.  The staff was especially friendly and Erin’s breakfast tacos looked delicious.
  • Trompeau Bakery was originally located down the street from the University of Denver while I was a student (a dangerous fact, indeed).  It has since relocated to S. Broadway in Englewood and is well worth the detour.  I highly recommend the almond chocolate croissant (if you can get there before they sell out).  I’m pretty sure they are what heaven would taste like, if heaven had a taste.
  • Last stop on this short tour is The Stadium Inn.  Also located near the DU campus on Evans, “The Old Standby” is the original dive bar for my introduction to Colorado dive bars.  And I love dive bars.  Darrin and I got a beer and whiskey sour for $6 and enjoyed a sweet game of pool for $1.  How’s that for budget travel?  I prefer to visit the Stadium earlier in the afternoon before the undergraduate crowd settles in (I’m talking about the early twenties crowd), but that’s my personal preference.  During the school season, I recall the place picking up just before closing as it was a favored “last-stop” of students before walking home.

So, there you have it folks.  That’s my take on my latest trip to one of my favorite American cities.  It won’t be the last word on the town from me as Darrin and I make trips back to the Mile High city on a fairly frequent basis.

-mjh

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