June 12, 2014

Scenic Hikes and Tasty Bites: Denver’s LoHi District

Being the largest city in a state known for its world-class skiing, hiking, and climbingamongst many other mountain sportsit should come as no surprise that Denver, Colorado, plays home to a youthful, exuberant crowd. Its true that the Mile-High City is chock-full of runners and even the occasional recumbent biker, but perhaps a bit under the radar is Denvers up-and-coming restaurant scene. A secret not so well kept is its craft beer, which is second-to-none.  Denvers Lower Highland (LoHi) district offers up the citys best in all three categoriesand beyond. 

Monas (2364 15th St.; 303-455-4503; monasrestaurant.com) The most important meal of the day (according to mom) can be enjoyed to the max at Mona’s, a quaint breakfast joint on the south end of LoHi. Crowd favorites include the huevos rancheros and blueberry flapjacks, but don’t sleep on the corned beef and eggs, and definitely don’t skip the Leonardo-Mosa, a combination of champagne, cranberry and O.J.

Breakfast all day, whipped up with fresh produce from nine local suppliers? We’re awake now.

Time to work off that breakfast and bubbly with a cruise down Denvers popular Cherry Creek Trail. Hop on a B-Cycle, Denvers wonderfully convenient bike-share program, just outside of REI (1416 Platte St.; rei.com/stores/denver.html). Ride south along the (you guessed it) Cherry Creek, which will lead you to the Cherry Creek Mall and eventually the Cherry Creek Reservoirbut well head back to LoHi before reaching either, as we have far more city to explore!

Hop on a bike (yours, or a Denver B-cycle) for a smooth and scenic ride past idyllic country clubs and historic city parks on the Cherry Creek Trail.

Wilderness Exchange (2401 15th St #100; 303-964-0708; wildernessexchangeunlimited.comAlthough hidden in the shadows of the much larger REI just down the street, Wilderness Exchange offers enough killer consignment deals to justify a regular stop inside. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly; if they don’t carry what your upcoming adventure calls for, they are happy to point you in the right direction (no compass purchase required). 

Stock up on affordable adventuring gear at LoHi’s indie-run Wilderness Exchange.

Ale House (2501 16th St; 303-433-9734; alehousedenver.com, (303) 433-9734). It’s lunchtime. You need to relax and grab a bite. Where do you go? Answer: Ale House. The food is good, but the draw to Ale House (formerly known as Amato’s) is for the city's best view of downtown, paired with a local craft brew. Climb the stairs straight through the pub’s main entrance to reach the beautiful rooftop patio, complete with fire pits. For lunch, you won’t go wrong with the Mile High Burger, piled high with with duck bacon, jalapeño goat cheese, caramelized pomegranate arils, and fried onion strings on top of a bison burger. The menu changes daily and is sure to please.

Ale House boasts delicious local cuisine and breathtaking rooftop views. (No wonder it snagged a 2014 OpenTable Diner’s Choice Award.)

Black Eye Coffee (3408 Navajo St.; 720-287-0546; drinkblackeye.com). For a mid-afternoon pick me up, make a stop at Black Eye Coffee shop. What this place lacks in size, it makes up for in charm, with reclaimed wood decor, throwback neon signs, and ample light pouring through the large garage-door opening. Grab a smooth-tasting pour-over coffee, cappuccino, or espresso—and don’t forget the scone! Then meander over to Confluence Park, where gold was first discovered in Denver back in 1858. Today, the park makes for some of the city’s best people watching, complete with organized ultimate frisbee games, joggers, and several dogs.

Lulus Furniture and Decor (2050 W 30th Ave.; 303-756-2222; lulusfurniture.com). The tagline More than a furniture storea store of ideasis a fitting description for Lulus.  Whether youre looking to furnish your home or just interested in picking up a quirky gift, this funky, picturesque shop has something for everyone. From cheese platters to chandeliers, tapestries to tables, Lulus is worth the trip, if for no other reason than to absorb the creative energy. 

Forest Room 5 (2532 15th St.; 303-433-7001; forestroom5.com) Dont be fooled by the ordinary appearance of Forest Room 5 from the outside; what lies within is a mix of log cabin, Alice in Wonderland dreamland, and Portlandia. This bar has character like a dying star has mass. After sitting down on the tree-stump bar stool, you look up and notice the black and white avant garde flick projected on the wall behind the counter, underneath the enormous selection of artisan liquors, surrounded again by more random-yet-thought-provoking decor. This is merely the main room of the bar, which is easily the most ordinary part of this establishment.  Theres plenty of character for you to uncover in the back patio, upstairs, downstairsand even the bathrooms. Grab a cocktail, some truffle fries (nom nom!), and commence the worlds greatest game of eye spy.

Veggie sliders, live music and theatre, and drool-worthy décor make Forest Room 5 everyone’s neck of the woods.

Linger (2030 W 30th Ave.; 303-993-3120; lingerdenver.com) Sample appetizers alongside breathtaking views of downtown. Although the menu varies depending on season, menu staples include the bacon-wrapped dates and duck buns, both of which result in involuntary food-induced moaning. Luckily, no one will hear you over the loud ambient crowd noise. (Linger is popularfor good reason.) 

Linger has fresh air, fresh views, and fresh food? Guess we will stick around.

Little Man Ice Cream (2620 16th St.; 303-455-3811; littlemanicecream.com) When you arrive, you will be greeted by a sizable line. Dont be dissuaded; this ice cream is worth the wait. Pro tip: Try the salted Oreo (youll be kicking yourself for eating cookies ncream sans sodium all these years) and convince someone in your party to order the Mexican chocolate. You will not be disappointed (though you may be a tad full).

You can’t miss Little Man Ice Cream’s 28-foot-tall cream-can shop stand. You shouldn’t miss their heavenly, handmade treats, either.