A hint of seediness has been part of downtown Denver’s brand since its Wild West days—something current locals wear as a badge of pride. The Mile-High City was, afterall, a dusty, dodgy Vegas in the 19th century. But downtown’s RiNo (River North) district is rapidly transitioning from tumbledown to enticing as the creative crowd descends on the area. Here are five new spots to put on your itinerary.
The first outpost of New York’s East Village institution is more than twice as large as the original, having appropriated nearly the entire beech wood-floored lobby of the new 50-room boutique hotel, The Ramble. (The mezzanine’s more intimate 22-seat bar, Suite 6A, channels the vibe of the original.) Served in a clubby setting courtesy of L.A.–based Avenue Interior Design with an assist from AAmp Studio, the drinks are every bit as inventive as what you’d find in Manhattan, though these local variations nod to the sort of exploits once experienced in Colorado’s Front Range—the No Paddle cocktail with bourbon, blanc vermouth, Campari, raspberry brandy, and grapefruit being a potent example.
Technically abutting RiNo in LoDo (lower downtown), this Victorian–inspired subterranean lounge—opened in May—is worth the short trek for note-perfect classic cocktails. Designer and owner Steven Waters, formerly of New York’s NoMad, hid all barware and some 1,200 bottles from view inside the multi-room space outfitted with floral print wallpaper and weathered white-brick walls, putting the focus on what’s in the glass. You can’t go wrong with the Algonquin, a mix of pineapple, dry vermouth, and rye.
This 18-seat restaurant set around a walnut chef’s counter and bounded by local artist Sandra Fettingis’s pixelated mural on the walls is traditional menu-free, but patrons are in good hands. Recent multi-course tasting menus by Chef Duncan Holmes—whose done stints in Napa and Scandinavia—have included dishes such as quail with bing cherry and porcini, and aebleskiver (Danish apple puffs) with lemon aioli and caviar sided by a rhubarb chamomile soda made in-house.
Dynia Architects and Wunder Werkz infused this new 100-room hideaway with a Scandi-meets-Japanese aesthetic (note the polished concrete floors and Baltic birch casework). Ask for a room with an operable garage door that transforms the space into open-air and be sure to head to the roof at night to steep in the hot tub with a (plastic) glass of Voodoo Ranger IPA from New Belgium, the small-batch brewery in the lobby.
Among Denver’s many markets and food halls, this double-height addition is unmissable thanks to Colorado cult-favorite restaurants and shops abuzz in the 25,000-square-foot space. Get the pork loin banh mi at Vinh Xuong Bakery—owned by the Vietnamese expat family Huynh—and stop by Made in a City, a rotating treasure trove of wares from global hotspots. During a recent takeover themed around Reykjavik, goods included skincare products crafted from Icelandic herbs by Angan and unisex jewelry from Orrifinn. Mexico City is currently underway, then L.A in November.