Hi, friends! Happy almost August. I truly can’t even believe the summer is almost over and to top it off, this is the first summer where I won’t have to worry about going back to school in the fall. What a weird feeling. Last summer, I was so wrapped up in two jobs and family matters that I didn’t have the opportunity to travel anywhere. I knew that this summer I definitely wanted to at least get out of the state to see my brother, Jack, in Colorado.
Two weeks ago, I was expecting something completely different out of this weekend. One of my best friends was supposed to come here to photograph me for the blog but plans fell through and I thought… I need to do something. With a day off in my calendar, I didn’t want to let it go to waste by walking around my neighborhood killing time. While I love Chicago and my days off in Chicago, nothing beats exploring a new (or old favorite) city. Case in point: Denver.
So last weekend, I asked Jack if I could fly out, he agreed and BOOM – the tickets were booked. I’m usually not one for spontaneous trips and I plan things out at least a month in advance but my view on the world lately is if you know someone in a city and have somewhere to stay… book your ticket and go.
I had been to Denver once before (back in January) and knew relatively some of the places I wanted to go to this time around and re-visit but with only two full days in the city, I had to choose wisely.
I’ve got to say, in a little over 48 hours, I executed my trip SO well. I wanted to share with you guys all of the spots I managed to squeeze in and include some of the places I have bookmarked for my next trip!
To begin, I flew into Denver on Thursday night after one of the busiest days of the week. I literally woke up at 5am for a SoulCycle class, headed to work straight after, dealt with the worst traffic en route to the airport and somehow made it to my gate with 15 minutes to spare.
Jack suggested that I take the train from the airport to Union Station which I’m so happy I did. If you have to get from the airport to the city, use the train if you can! A one way ticket is only $9 and from there to Jack, it was about a $7 Uber. Not too bad. Union Station was recently remodeled and it holds tons of restaurants, a new hotel and has the prettiest vibes during the night. This scene reminded me of a Disney movie that I couldn’t put my finger on so if you know it… let me know.
Friday was my first full day in Denver and it was so perfect and somewhat unplanned. I usually plan out all of my restaurants and coffee shops but this trip, everything was done kind of on a whim. I loved it. Totally put me outside of my comfort zone.
Jack and I decided to walk to a coffee place on South Broadway in Baker called Metropolis Coffee which was such a cute little corner spot. Jack told me their cold brew is some of the strongest he’s had in Denver – for those who like their caffeine strong – but I decided to go with an almond milk latte. It wasn’t on the super sweet side nor was it on the strong-coffee-flavor side. So, I’d probably give it a 6/10.
After coffee, we headed over to Olive & Finch Eatery and Bakery. This place you guys. My freaking heaven! My friend, Lauren of Lakeshore Lady, recommended it to me and at first I thought it’d be just another average breakfast spot but I actually really, really loved it. They have sandwiches, hashes, pastries, juices, coffees… so so much!
P.s. Their menu online is so tiny compared to their menu in real life. They also have gluten-free options, dairy-free milk alternatives for coffee, juices and $6 cocktails!
I ended up ordering the Bogota hash which was two cage-free eggs, chorizo, roasted sweet and white potatoes, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, kale, served with fruit and either a buttermilk biscuit or beignet. It was the PERFECT portion size, not too huge, and instead of the biscuit or beignet I asked for gluten-free toast. I was kind of surprised when they gave me these little mini gluten-free baguette slices but honestly, they were SO good! I would have eaten 50 of them if I could.
After we got breakfast (near Cherry Creek), we walked back to Jack’s neighborhood and decided to pick up bikes to ride around the city. Honestly – if you can do this – DO it. As a lover of SoulCycle and stationary bikes, I can’t even tell you the last time I rode a real bike but it is one of the most amazing feelings.
We used BCycle which is a bike service in the city (multiple locations all over Colorado) where you can pay $15 a month (or $9 for 24 hours) for your own city bike. You can pick one up anywhere in the city and the catch is you just have to drop it off at another bike station in the city within 30 minutes (or you’re charged $5 extra for every extra 30 minutes).
Through the afternoon, we ended up biking about 10 miles and I was surprised at how close everything is via bike! It was such a beautiful day too – 90º, super hot and super sunny – so biking felt amazing. Jack took me through the Lower Highlands (locals call it LoHi), Downtown Denver, Capitol Hill and back to Cherry Creek. Through walking, we found a ton of cool spots that I would have loved to check out include Barre Forte, Habit Doughnut Dispensary (the biggest cinnamon roll I have ever seen in my life) and Little Man Ice Cream.
Towards 2pm we ended up at Subculture where my brother got the Mr. Woo sub with roast beef and pastrami. I definitely would recommend this spot to anyone looking for a good sandwich – it’s like Potbelly’s but so much better. Their menu is so expansive and they offered NUMEROUS vegan and vegetarian options, including multiple sandwiches with tempeh.
After the subs, we walked down the street to Hudson Hill, a spot that my friend Jackie recommended to me. You guys. If you can go here – YOU MUST. I feel like I’m saying that about all of these places but I mean… damn they’re all so good. They offer cocktails, coffee and light snacks and the decor is to die for. It’s a hipster’s paradise and the perfect spot if you’re meeting someone for a coffee date, or even happy hour! Their cocktails are so creative. If you’re looking for a snack – get their marcona almonds with sea salt. I’ve never tasted better almonds.
Since I didn’t really eat lunch on Friday, we got dinner early at Tacos Tequila Whiskey. I don’t think it’s possible to do a #chickpeatravels adventure without getting tacos. They have an expansive taco list including tacos with pulled pork, scallops and shrimp, and even beef tongue. My brother ordered the beef tongue taco and I tried it… honestly you guys, GAME CHANGER.
I also loved the environment of TTW, they played a lot of jams and if you know my love for music… you’ll know a dinner spot with good music AND tacos is a win/win in my book.
By the time Jack and I got home from tacos, we basically just crashed since I had an early morning planned Saturday.
When Saturday came, I met up with my good friend Jackie, who I’ve known for over a year and have never met in real life, at Vital Root. We instantly acted like long lost best friends and I absolutely ADORE her. So many people had recommended Vital Root to me and it was one of my staples last time I was in Denver. It is so so good for a vegetarian/vegan meal but to be honest I wasn’t TOO crazy about their breakfast. Jackie ordered their avocado toast with roasted chickpeas on a homemade sunflower seed bread and it was actually really delicious. I ordered their blueberry acai smoothie with almond butter, bananas, blueberries and bee pollen – it was delicious but very thin… and if you guys know me, you know I need my smoothies EXTRA thick.
After we got breakfast, we ventured across the street (Tennyson Street) to one of my favorite coffee shops EVER – Allegro Coffee Roasters. Yes, the same coffee that is sold at Whole Foods’ across the country! Super cool. They only have a few select storefronts and Denver is one of them. It is one of the most spacious, beautiful coffee shops and their almond milk latte is so perfect. I ordered an avocado toast here with pickled onions and radish. It was very, very basic. Would probably not recommend as it could have used more avocado and the bread wasn’t the best but it was a nice addition to my iced coffee for a photo… classic food blogger move.
Next up, Jackie was kind enough as to drive me around the neighborhood and show me the Highlands, a few shops and then… American Cultures! Oh. My. God. This place wasn’t even on my list this weekend of spots I wanted to hit but I’m so happy we passed by. Jackie was the absolute cutest as she told me it was very “on brand” for me… since I love kombucha and all.
American Cultures is essentially a café/bar that serves more than 15 flavors of kombucha. You can order a glass or get a flight of 4 different flavors for $7! I tried the pineapple turmeric, ginger peach, rosebud and grapefruit citra. They were all so delicious but I have to say the pineapple turmeric was my favorite. Another gem of Colorado is Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha. They are pretty lower in sugar in comparison to other kombuchas, they have amazing branding and delicious flavor varieties!
Also can we talk about how they offer overnight oats, tamales, burritos and ice cream at American Cultures? So if you need to work here from morning to night… you’re covered on the food/drink front.
By the time we finished our kombuchas, it was time for me to meet my friend JJ for lunch down the street at Just BE Kitchen. You guys….. this place. Major heart eyes. I had been eyeing it for a few weeks from other bloggers and their menu is absolutely incredible. The whole restaurant is gluten, grain, and dairy-free in addition to refined sugar-free and PALEO. The closest thing we have to an all paleo restaurant in Chicago is Kitchfix so you know I was in heaven.
When I go to restaurants like Just BE, I feel like I’m eating at home because everything tastes SO fresh – especially when the oils used to cook the food are something I would use at home. I found out that the kitchen cooks in the animal fat from the meat they use daily and when they run out of animal fat, they go to coconut oil. Truly incredible. The dish I ordered – titled “Simplicity” – had two eggs sunny-side up, a shredded sweet potato hash, homemade sausage patty and a gluten-free tortilla made of almond and coconut flour that was the size of my head. I ordered a side of veggies, too, which included the best roasted carrots I think I’ve ever had. JJ ordered the Fulfilled burrito with scrambled eggs, pulled pork, sweet potato, a veggie green chili and jalapeños in a gluten-free tortilla which looked equally as delicious.
At the end of our meal, the owner came by our table and gave us a strawberry mint muffin and you guys… DREAMY. It was so dense but the inside looked like it just came straight out of the oven with fresh strawberry chunks bursting at the seams. I loved it.
I would 100% go back.
My brother and I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing before heading out to dinner on Pearl Street. We were going to head to Linger – one of our favorites from my previous Denver trip – but wanted something much more low key. We ended up at Park Burger which was the ideal solution! Sometimes you just need to sit at a bar and enjoy a basic burger and fries. My brother got their lamb burger which was a 10/10 and I ordered my own creation: a turkey burger with homemade guac, caramelized onions and mushrooms on top of a bed of lettuce (no bun) and a side of sweet potato fries. It was so so good and super affordable!
To round out the Denver trip, we headed back to Jack’s apartment and then walked to Sweet Action Ice Cream. This has been on my eye for quite some time and Jack kept raving about their crazy, unique flavors to me so I figured… When in Denver, let’s do it!
The line for Sweet Action will always be out the door no matter when you go at night, especially on a weekend, but it’s worth it. They give you HUGE scoops, let you sample tons of flavors and always have at least 2 vegan options. Some of their crazy flavors when we went included bleu cheese walnut, honey jalapeño pickle and nerds. Seriously, how do some people come up with this stuff?!
I stuck with one scoop of vanilla (my go-to) and one scoop of cherry almond in a waffle cone, while Jack got a milkshake with their banana strawberry flavor. Whenever I go to ice cream shops, I always get 2 scoops: vanilla on the bottom and a fruity/richer flavor on top – that way your palate is kind of balanced out after the first crazy scoop! Pro tip of mine 😉
With the weather being relatively cooler on Saturday and having it be my last day in Denver, it was so nice to just hang loose with my brother, come home early and get a few hours of sleep in before my 6am flight.
It just goes to show, you can hit so many spots in just a little over 48 hours and it’s enough time to not throw you completely off your regular routine in your hometown/city.
Since I clearly did not make it to all of the spots I wanted to (but for sure I definitely nailed a ton), I have a list ready for next time (and for any of you who are venturing to Denver soon!):
- Wooden Spoon Denver
- Stowaway Café (this place looks absolutely beautiful – must go)
- Salt & Grinder (sandwiches)
- Beet Box Bakery (favorite GF/vegan donuts I’ve ever tasted)
- Moxie Eatery (they have acorn squash tacos for $3!)
- Morning Collective (massive breakfast menu)
- Corvus Coffee (my brother’s roommate used to work here and I love their cashew almond milk/cold brew blend – to die for)
- Amethyst Coffee (homemade nut milk, creative drinks and gorgeous vibe)
- Patxi’s Pizza (supposedly delicious GF pizza)
- Sweet Cow (ice cream on Pearl Street next to Park Burger!)
- Beatrice & Woodsley (my brother and I already book marked this place for our birthdays in January – their brunch though… SWOON!)
- Jelly (breakfast, cute environment, vegan options)
- City ‘O City (people have raved about this to me and I have yet to go but they have cauliflower tacos so… hello!)
- Root Down (there is one in the Denver Airport and it’s the only airport food I trust and their burger is phenomenal and their coconut milk ginger fizzy drink… I die.)
- Stella’s (coffee shop located on Pearl Street – it looked SO cute from the outside)
- True Food Kitchen (Cherry Creek location – if you’ve never been in your life but if you have… please go somewhere else to explore what the city has to offer! This is an excellent back up though for healthy eats)
- Whole Foods (I had to. The Whole Foods’ in CO are un-freaking-real. So many cool local products to Denver/Boulder)
I think I’ve hit ‘em all but if there are more that you’d recommend, let me know!
I hope you guys enjoyed my Denver guide/recap as much as I enjoy/love Denver. It is one beautiful place and I can’t wait to visit more in the coming year.