Hey, full disclosure: I'm always "just gonna get a cup of coffee." I have fought the battle of the bulge all my life. So when I'm drawn into a coffee shop or restaurant with friends, in my mind's eye, I'm savoring a cup of coffee while my friend's sample the menu. Fortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. In honor of Denver Restaurant Week, I'd like to share some notes on nibbles and sips that I've enjoyed in the RiNo Art District neighborhood -- where I create events and programs for Denver Public Library.
Stowaway -- This bright space, like many food and drink spots in RiNo, is replete with eccentricities: the menu comes on a clipboard, some of the menu items are served on planks of wood (when did this happen?), and they are closed on Tuesdays "for adventures." Okay, that last one, though a wee precious, makes the rebel in me kinda happy. But here's the thing about Stowaway: even though I just went in for a coffee, I found out the food is really amazing -- thoughtful, seasonal and surprising. And, honestly, they serve the BEST cashew milk latte I have ever tasted.
Crema -- For real, sometimes, I am just determined to get a coffee. One day in Crema, while waiting for a friend, my hunger overcame me and I decided that I'd get a little something from their pastry counter. I asked the clerk if there was anything for a vegan. She pointed to a clunky looking granola bar and said, "but it has honey in it." I said, "I'm not that kind of vegan." She laughed as she plated that bar for me and replied, "Yeah, I hear that a lot in reference to this bar." It wasn't pretty -- it looked a little like building material. But it was delicious. Full of dried fruit, a generous amount of nuts and perfectly spiced, it was like eating Christmas fruitcake out of season. And, yeah, I love fruitcake.
Biju's Little Curry Shop -- Wandering around in the RiNo neighborhood one day, a friend and I stumbled on Biju's. It was a hot afternoon and Biju's seemed like a good stop for something cool. But the menu and the aroma of the wonderful food overcame us both. I had a vegan curry bowl and my buddy had some amazing looking bowl with chicken. Sitting there enjoying our food, I kept eyeing other things coming out of the kitchen -- all of it has a very 'street food' look to it and every item had eye appeal. I have been back to this gem to sample other dishes.
Dio Mio -- I'm not a fan of eateries that specialize in small plates for sharing. In fact, one night when I took a visiting author of international repute out to dinner at a notorious small plate restaurant here in Denver, I order thusly, pointing to the menu: "I'd like this item and I have no intention of sharing it with anyone." Our waiter looked perplexed and my guest looked relieved and added, "I'd like this item," pointing out something on the menu, "and I do not want to share either." But Dio Mio, (as in, "My God, this pasta is good!) is an exception! Share everything here, so you can make your way through the ever-changing menu of fresh pastas and other delights. On my first visit I shared the Castelvetrano Olives with Candied Orange and Whipped Feta and the Warm Beets with Cashew Butter, Apples and Mint. Go find this fab place soon.
The Preservery -- Again, I was really just after the coffee. But after hanging out here for about an hour while waiting for friends, the beautiful boards (yep, those precious planks again) got the best of me. I order the Sourdough Board -- a simple repast of perfectly toasted sourdough bread, whipped butter and homemade jam. As I noshed on it, I got a text from one of the friends who would be meeting me there. I confessed to her that I had ordered food on a plank and I texted that, "Dang it, it is really good!" It's a wonderful RiNo outpost and I look forward to returning for brunch.
Click on each restaurant name to learn more about these eateries. Wander a bit this week to discovery the incredible restaurants and gathering places that RiNo Art District and Denver offer. And explore the library collection for great books on food.