Coffee Shops in Denver

I’ve been hanging out in a lot of coffee shops. They are warm, they have (mostly) free WiFi, they smell good. I’m a more productive writer of blog posts and grader of student papers while in coffee shops. There is no TV to distract me and I can’t take a nap. Here are some of my favorites:

Common Grounds in West Highland

You know how most coffee shops have one big room full of people clustered around outlets on their tablets and Apple computers? Common Grounds has five little rooms full of people (and full of outlets) on their tablets and laptops. The front of the coffee shop has two big rooms with huge windows looking out over the cuteness that is Denver’s West 32nd Ave. There’s a piano, tons of plants, and oddly sized tables strewed around these two front rooms. Some tables are dining room sized, perfect for study groups and writers meetings. Some tables are tiny, leaving just enough room for you and your laptop. The three back rooms are divided with partial walls and bookshelves. Magazines, board games, and used books are available if you plan on hanging out here. While it is usually crowded, I’ve always been able to secure myself a little table and an outlet, even on weekends.

In the middle of the shop is the bar when you can get your baked goods, tea, coffee, breakfast burritos, ice cream, and sandwiches. The coffee is pretty good, sometimes served in huge mugs with cute foam designs. When I came with my camera, I of course got a boring disposable cup. The food is okay. I’ve had a sandwich here which was pretty basic and not worth the money. Stick to coffee. Make sure to get a receipt when you order because the WiFi code is printed on the bottom.

Common Groups is open daily from 6:30am until 11pm daily. It is located west of Denver at 32nd and Lowell. There is also a location in LoDo on the corner of 17th and Wazee.

The Tattered Cover Bookstore Café

This has quickly become my favorite place in Denver. Not just the café, but the two story bookstore that it is housed in. This local bookstore has a HUGE magazine selection, book inventory to rival any Barnes and Nobel, plenty of used books, and tons of cozy seating throughout the store. They have a great Children’s and YA section downstairs, which is nice because kids can run around downstairs without disturbing the quiet book-store atmosphere throughout the rest of the store. Check their website for frequent author signings and special events.

The actual coffee shop consists of the order counter and a long line of bar seating. But then there are additional tables spilling out into the bookstore. WiFi is usually available here, but when I was there last week it was down for security issues…so no promises on that. Outlets and free tables can be a bit challenging to get access to on weekends and evenings.

The Tattered Cover is open Monday – Saturday from 9am until 9pm. They close at 6 on Sundays. There is a free parking garage attached to the bookstore. There are also Tattered Cover locations in LoDo and the West Highlands.

St. Mark’s Coffeehouse and Brewery

Not my favorite for ambiance, but definitely the best food. Their sandwiches are served on crusty slices of bread which are just delicious. Coffee is good too. St. Mark’s is essentially one long room, and they sure pack people in here. Be prepared to share a long table with several other laptops if you can’t get a little table. Most people here are working (or studiously checking facebook), but there are some friends and couples just hanging out.

St. Mark’s has a nice outdoor patio space, where you can check out the huge lamps hanging from the trees that line the sidewalk here. There are several shops and restaurants in the few blocks surrounding St. Marks, so the people watching is pretty good. The coffeehouse is open daily from 6:45 to midnight. Check out their infuriatingly intricate website here for entirely too much information about their “history,” film series, art gallery, and other such things.  

Paris on the Platte

One of the more famous places in Denver to get a cup of coffee, I am actually posting this review on site. Paris is not overlooking the Platte River as I’d hoped. It is on Platte Street. That’s okay too. This is the northern edge of the revitalized LoDo, so there are a few shops and other restaurants around. However, Paris is not really in the middle of things. Even though they claim to have been at the forefront of the revitalization, they are currently on the outskirts of all the action. This is actually handy for parking. I easily found a spot and….completely forgot to pay. (I just ran outside, paid, and now I’m back. I am so in love with Denver’s 50 cent per hour rates, by the way.)

Paris on the Platte is more restaurant than coffee shop. You sit down, they bring you a menu, etc. This is exciting though, because there are cheese plates on the menu!! For ten dollars J Besides the cheese, and the beret on the head of the guy who told me to sit down, not much here is French. They are currently playing Irish music. Soups, sandwiches, and pizza round out the menu. I went with the bacon-chicken-avocado sandwich and was thrilled to learn that I could get it on focaccia with a side of fruit. I haven’t had strawberries in months. The sandwich was tasty. The bread wasn’t quite as good as St. Mark’s, but the overall sandwich was better.

This place is half people-working-on-laptops, half people-hanging-out. There are only about 13 tables, less than half of them near an outlet. It’s pretty quiet today (a weeknight), but I hear things get much more crowded on the weekends. I won’t be returning then in hopes of securing a space to work.

Paris on the Platte is between 15th and 16th on (remember?) Platte St. It is open daily at 8:00am. They don’t close until one in the morning on weeknights, and stay open until 2am on Saturdays and Sundays. However, the kitchen has recently decided to close early – ten on weeknights and eleven on weekends.

Freedom Trail Food

I’m kind of a history person, so I was excited to walk the Freedom Trail in Boston. My friend and I dubbed ourselves as “Freedom-ers” and set off along the painted red line from the Boston Commons. (We went backwards, by the way. I think you are supposed to start in Charlestown). We were ready for museums, Paul Revere’s House, and Bunker Hill.

We had barely passed our first historic cemetery when we stepped onto School Street and our conversation turned to food. At 60 School street sits the Omni Parker House Hotel, historic site of the first Boston Cream Pie. The glamour shots of the dessert in the window did look tempting, but we decided to keep our distance. We had planned a full-on touristy day are were dressed for the part. We did not want to stroll into the fancy hotel in our get-up of walking shoes, rainproof jackets, and cameras bags. We later found out that we could have avoided the lobby and stopped in the attached hotel store for a cream pie to go. Oh well.  

We dutifully checked out the Boston Massacre Site and the Old State House, but when we got to the markets across from Faneuil Hall, history was put aside. We strayed from our crimson path and found not only more Boston Cream Pie, but fudge, fish and chips, clam chowder, and other Boston fare. It should be noted that we did not eat ALL these things. Yet.    

After our market lunch we got back on track and headed to the North End. Any hope of following the trail was over at that point. The North End deserves to be wandered though. This Italian hub of Boston is way better than New York’s Little Italy. Every tiny street was packed with pizza-by-the-slice shops, bakeries selling over-sized cannolis, adorable restaurants with red checkered tablecloths, and dark inviting pubs. My friend and I started studying menus instead of historical information markers. We poked around wine shops instead of museums. We made dinner plans.

We ditched the Freedom Trail, headed back to our hotel to change, and returned for dinner the Florentine Cafe. We had some wine. I had the chicken-pork special. We had some more wine. Denise had pasta. And more wine. And more. Just as our waiter was hoping that we would pay him and leave, we decided to order bruschetta. And more wine.

“Seriously?” he’d asked, incredulous. Yeah buddy, we’re serious. Keep that food coming.

After our post-meal appetizer, we finally left the restaurant and realized that we hadn’t had dessert yet.

To Mike’s Pastry we headed.   The post-dinner crowd was loud and happy here, and we fit right in. I highly recommend the red velvet whoopie pie.

The next day we started at Bunker Hill, determined to finish the Freedom Trial. We made the 294 step climb up the Monument, thus working off 1/20th of our meals the day before.

We were about to head back to the North End and check out Paul Revere’s House and the Old North Church when my Dad called.

“Are you in Boston yet?” he demanded. He and my mother had been here a couple years ago (during baseball season, which made me jealous), and they talk constantly about how much they love the city.

“Yup.”

“Isn’t it great?” he asked. “Have you gone to Warren Tavern yet? They have the best clam chowder…” Dad went on for awhile, about how it was a bar that George Washington frequented, how the fish and chips were great, and what beer had been on tap.

My Dad has had a lot of clam chowder in his day. And he usually doesn’t gush. If he says the chowder was good, it was probably REALLY good.

Plus, Warren Tavern is really close to the Bunker Hill Monument. So off the trail we strayed again. The chowder was so delicious, I ate it all before I could take a picture of it.

We did finish the Freedom Trail eventually. Good thing, because the Old North Church was my favorite stop on the tour. Well, my favorite non-culinary stop. A few days later I was digging through my purse and found a half eaten red velvet pie wrapped up in a Freedom Trail Map. Ahhh, good Boston memories.

Savannah Pubs

My friend and I followed a rainstorm from Miami to Savannah. We’d planned on continuing on to Charleston, but decided it was wiser to wait out the storm where we were rather than follow it up the coast. Plus we liked Savannah. So our one night stay turned into a three night stay. Since it was raining for the majority of our time there, we had to find indoor activities. Due to our general dislike of museums, art galleries and touristy shops, we settled on hanging out in pubs. Luckily there was a pub plethora in Savannah.

Our first night began at Moon River Brewing Company. We sat at the bar and had fried green tomatoes (which were good! They tasted like fried onions, but juicier), crab cakes and beer. We especially liked this place because the bartender spent most of his time bitching to us about his other customers. In between commiserating with him we learned where we should eat pizza (Vinnie Van Go-Go’s), where we should hang out the next day (Bull Street), and the best place to watch Monday Night Football.

He told us to watch football at a bar up the street called Wild Wing. Thinking he had directed us to a Buffalo Wild Wings, we dismissed the suggestion (we can go to b-dub’s at home, thank you very much). However, when time came to watch the game the next night we followed the crowd to Wild Wing Café. The wings were fine and the spinach artichoke was above average, but the game festivities were the real highlight.

The folks at Wild Wings host a Monday Night Football Bingo session for each game. Bingo cards feature some football activities (RB goes 10-15 yards, QB sac, Point scored after touchdown), some fan highlights (“strahan teeth” “hot skanky chic,” “fanatical fan,” “shirtless moron”) and other during-game bonuses (“erectile dysfunction commercial”). A guy narrates the game via microphone so everyone is on the same page on what plays to cross off and what counts as a hot skanky chic. The first three winners get a bucket of beers, and the game starts over at halftime.

 

As someone who meticulously keeps track of the pitch count during baseball games and player fouls during basketball, I like paperwork with my sports. Football bingo was exactly what had been missing in my pigskin appreciation. Blue crayon in hand, I enthusiastically crossed off bingo squares as the Detroit Lions trounced the Chicago Bears.  

There was no football the following night, so we went to Molly MacPherson’s Scottish Pub and Grill. As a Scottish pub, they obviously had soccer on the big screens. Luckily, there was no haggis on the menu, so we had two rounds of spinach artichoke dip and then decided to join a group of tourists on a haunted pub crawl.

There are a couple haunted pup crawl options in Savannah. The pub tour that we joined was through Cobblestone Tours. It was $10 and actually started at the Moon River Brewing Company.

The haunted pub crawl was pretty fun, if only for the other pub crawlers with us. Among the crowd of ten increasingly drunk people, we met a pair of loud Canadian moose-hunting/ice-fishing/curling-enthusiasts, and an adorable newlywed couple from Huntsville, Alabama.

As we ventured from Molly MacPherson’s to Pour Larry’s to Hang Fire (37 Whitaker Street, Savannah, GA 31401. Call 912-443-9956), we learned a bit about Savannah. First and most importantly, we learned that Savannah allows it’s revelers to drink outside. Yay! I thought that was only legal in Las Vegas. Plastic beer glasses in hand, we stood outside of pubs as our period-costumed tour guide regaled us with stories about fake-suicides-gone-wrong (in the apartments above Molly’s), illegal shipments of African slaves (who were imprisoned at what is now Pour Larry’s), and Hang Fire, the place where one-legged/one-armed/pregnant strippers went to dance their final dances. The tour guide’s funniest one-liner was his quip about Savannah Queen Paula Deen: “she thinks she invented the word y’all and she wants to kill you with butter.”

 On a non pub-related note, Paula Deen’s gooey butter cake is fabulous.  

We did not see any ghosts on our haunted tour though. No siren spirits sang through the hanging trees, and we witnessed no paranormal activities in the rain showers and thunderstorms. Maybe we should come back to Savannah closer to Halloween.

In the meantime, here’s to pub crawls, drinking outside, above ground cemeteries, and the most haunted town in America.

Cheers to Savannah, y’all!