When I moved to Denver from New York City, I knew I’d be getting easy access to the mountains and over 300 annual days of sunshine. What I didn’t realize was that I was heading west at a pivotal moment in the city’s food scene. In particular, I’ve become a convert to the coffee culture here––and don’t tell, but I actually prefer it to that of Manhattan.
One of the neighborhoods that has seen the most development is the River North Arts District (locals call it “RiNo”). In particular, Crema Coffee House has been a pioneer in this part of town, opening in 2009 and remaining one of the most popular cafés in Denver. The shop is known for featuring a rotating cast of roasters in its eclectic but inviting space, including locals Huckleberry and Boxcar, as well as Counter Culture and Intelligentsia.
Just across the river from RiNo is the ultra-hip TAXI, a former yellow cab depot turned mixed-use community. Since acquired in 2000, this creative housing complex—crafted from repurposed materials—has expanded to include restaurants, small businesses, and cooperative workspaces. The community caffeinates at Black Black Coffee, a shop run by Crema alum Josh McNeilly. As indicated by the name, Josh’s philosophy is to select the best roasts and serve them black. Of course, if you must have milk, the cortado is top notch.
Closer to downtown, Lower Highlands offers Black Eye Coffee, a favorite on any local coffee lover’s list. Nestled in this quaint residential neighborhood, Black Eye boasts an exceptional aesthetic; exposed brick, a distressed wood bar, and a roll-up garage door highlight the distinct Denver flavor of the space. What’s more, the shop is home to co-owner Gregory Ferrari’s Walled In Magazines—a curated display of publications from all over the world.
Among these serious temples of caffeination, Huckleberry Roasters stands out as one of the friendliest shops in town. Their two locations—one in RiNo and one in Sunnyside—are similar, but each has its own identity. The shop pictured is the original in Sunnyside, opened by Koan Goedman and Mark Mann in 2011. Huckleberry roasts their own coffee at this location and their attention to quality is unparalleled, as evidenced by their tagline, which encourages customers to “Enjoy Slowly.”
Newcomer Amethyst Coffee Co. may not have the street cred of the longstanding shops in town, but owner Elle Taylor has burst onto the scene with full force. Her prior experience at established cafés like Novo Coffee and Little Owl Coffee have informed her evolution from barista to proprietor, and Amethyst is quickly becoming a downtown haven. The mostly white space features geometric lines and light maple furniture from local woodworker, Twig Wdwrk.
Farther from the city center lies Steam Espresso Bar, arguably one of the most beautiful coffee shops in Denver. With a large patio, garage door-style windows and fresh flowers on the community table, it’s one of the more productive workplaces for freelancers––so much so that it can sometimes be hard to find a seat.
Denver’s coffee scene is just one example of the boomtown growth I’ve seen over the past two years. Communities like RiNo, the Highlands and Baker are quickly becoming a hub for creative types that might once have felt stranded outside Brooklyn or San Francisco. From design to art, restaurants to bars, it seems that anything small, artisanal and authentic flourishes in the Colorado sunshine and clean mountain air, and I can’t wait to see what creative movement will spring up next.