I enjoyed spending the weekend with my friend Bec and her family, but on Monday I was back on my own again. I had booked two nights at The Curtis hotel in Downtown Denver.
The Curtis (on Curtis Street) was my favourite out of all the hotels I stayed at during this trip. It’s a Doubletree by Hilton with its own unique style. I stayed at a Doubletree in Los Angeles, which was lovely, but nowhere as fun and memorable as The Curtis. Each floor at The Curtis has a theme from popular culture and is decorated accordingly. The 8th floor is Sci-Fi; 9th floor is Big Hair; 12th floor The Dance Floor; 14th Floor is TV Mania. I was on the 13th Floor, listed as the “dun, dun, dunnnnn!!” floor – the staff member who checked me in referred to it as the Horror Movie Floor (see the list of themes). Every time the lift reached the 13th floor, you’d hear Jack Nicholson saying his famous line from The Shining: “Here’s JOHNNY!!!” Thankfully, my room wasn’t scary at all (I had no problem getting to sleep).
I love ordering room service. I didn’t feel like going out for dinner on my second night; I ordered Korean style chicken wings with cucumber sesame salad (hidden under the wings) and cavittappi bolognese – tubular corkscrew pasta with slow cooked pork and beef ragu. Both dishes were delicious and I enjoyed my meal. I didn’t order a drink, but a glass of iced water was kindly included on the dinner tray, along complimentary candy – a Lemonhead and sour apple Wonka Laffy Taffy. I set up camp in bed with my dinner and the TV remote and had a great night in watching Food Network shows.
The 16th Street Mall is a short walk from The Curtis. There’s a free electric shuttle bus that travels up and down the 1.25-long (around 1.6 km) otherwise pedestrian mall, stopping at every corner – I caught the shuttle a few times for fun but mostly walked. When I told friends I was visiting Denver, a few of them commented on Colorado being one of the states where recreational use of marijuana is legal, not that I was personally interested; but I noted there’s a medical and recreational marijuana dispensary on 16th Street Mall right next to 7-Eleven and a sports memorabilia shop. Couldn’t see that happening back home!
The Curtis – A Doubletree by Hilton
- 1405 Curtis Street (across from the Denver Center for Performing Arts), Denver, Colorado USA
- Hotel amenities include: free wifi, gym and 24-hour business centre, 5 & Dime gift shop, onsite Starbucks, The Corner Office restaurant and martini bar, room service.
- Pets are welcome ($25 per day cleaning fee, $50 per stay maximum – 2 pet maximum)
I’d stay at The Curtis again without hesitation.
I really liked Sam’s No.3. A bustling diner with efficient service and hearty fare. I could see Sam’s from my hotel window; it was just a five minute walk away. I dropped in for a frothy root beer float after checking in at my hotel, and the next morning, enjoyed a counter breakfast: a strong cup of coffee and a juicy chicken fried chicken breast smothered in country gravy with eggs and potatoes, and toast with butter and (yes, again) lots of grape jelly.
Sam’s No 3
15th and Curtis, Denver, Colorado USA
I went to Sam’s Downtown. There’s also Sam’s Glendale (435 S Cherry Street) and Sam’s Aurora (Corner of Parker and Havana)
I grabbed a sandwich for lunch at Etai’s (pronouned “ee-tie’s”) Bakery Cafe. I must’ve been feeling vitamin-deprived, as I uncharacteristically ordered a fresh juice called Liquid Sunshine – made with kale, apple, orange, ginger and lemon. It tasted as green as it looked, with a throaty bite from a touch too much ginger. I ordered the Vietnamese Pork (US$9), made on buttered ciabatta bread with shredded pork, lettuce, cilantro (coriander – I still don’t love it), jalapenos, pickled carrots and jicama, served French dip-style with a sweet and sour sauce and a choice of side (quinoa, mixed greens, hummus, chips or potato salad). I chose potato salad, which was semi-mashed like Japanese potato salad and served by the scoop. The jalapenos made every bite burn, but in a good way (a more pleasant sensation to the fresh ginger burn). I love French dipped sandwiches, though in this case, careful drizzling was a better choice to dipping (and risking losing sandwich contents in the sauce).
There are lots of restaurants in the precinct known as Larimer Square, also within walking distance of The Curtis, but the one I chose was Bistro Vendôme, where I had a lovely 3-course French dinner on my first night in Downtown Denver. I started with a delicious citrusy mocktail. First course was Crêpes Vendôme (US$8.50), a savoury crepe filled with roasted chicken, Roma tomato, olives and herbs, topped with a fried egg, fried capers and béarnaise sauce. Main course was Truite avec Raisins (US$21) – a beautifully pan-seared skin-on fillet of Idaho trout served with caramelised fennel, haricot vert and grape sauce vierge. For dessert, I had the Banana Crepe (US$7, not pictured) with banana-cream cheese mousse, Ansac cognac caramel sauce, housemade granola and a well brûléed half banana. This was top-notch bistro dining and amazing value. My mini vegetable soup amuse bouche and hot mini baguette were complimentary. Service was excellent. With tax, my bill came to US$42, plus tip.
Larimer Square, 1420 Larimer St, Denver, Colorado USA
Civic Center Eats
I checked out Civic Center Eats, a gathering of food trucks and carts at Civic Center Park in Downtown Denver. It was a warm day (more so from all my walking and being on the pavement where the trucks/carts were all parked) and I grabbed a papaya lime popsicle from Aiko Pops to help cool me down. I also took my shoes off briefly and walked on the lawn for a bit. I was on my way to lunch at The Buckhorn Exchange, so tempted as I was, didn’t want to eat here and risk filling up.
Civic Center Eats
At Civic Center Park, Downtown Denver, Colorado USA
Civic Center Eats was on in 2014 on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 20 May to 9 October.
Civic Center Eats 2015 is on now (started 7 May) until 8 October 2015 – 11am to 2pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The Buckhorn Exchange
The Buckhorn Exchange first opened in 1893. It is Denver’s oldest steakhouse and a designated historic landmark. Its first customers were miners, railroad builders and other colourful characters of the Old West. The founder of the restaurant rode with Buffalo Bill Cody’s band of scouts and was a friend to the Native Americans, including the legendary Chief Sitting Bull.
With all of this in mind, it’s more like dining in a museum than a saloon; on the walls and in display cases are hundreds of trophy heads and taxidermied animals – bears, birds, buffalo, foxes, rattlesnakes, rabbits, raccoons, countless deer and moose, and more – this definitely won’t appeal to everyone. There is a collection of antique guns on display, and vintage photographs, including of autographed pictures of celebrity patrons, among them Charlton Heston, Roy Rogers and several American Presidents. I couldn’t help thinking this place must be a dusting nightmare.
The restaurant is known for serving exotic game meats (including fried alligator tail, smoked rattlesnake, elk steak and Cornish game hen; ostrich and yak are sometimes available) as well as more standard steakhouse fare (steak, prime rib, pork ribs, Colorado lamb chops). Oh, and you can get Rocky Mountain oysters (bull or bison testicles, served with horseradish dipping sauce).
The menu resembles an Old West newspaper and you’re encouraged to take it home as a souvenir. I was keen to try a meat I’d never eaten before (no, bull balls didn’t appeal). I chose elk steak, with a choice of baked beans or Saratoga chips (I chose the chips, which were like home-made Kettle crisps) and a token salad garnish. To be perfectly honest, I was a little disappointed with my food. The chips were quite good, but the garlic butter-topped elk steak was tiny and had been sliced unevenly so it was noticeably thicker on one side. Unfortunately, this meant half was cooked rare, the other half overdone and tough.
Despite the unimpressive meal, I don’t regret taking the time to go to The Buckhorn Exchange. I appreciated the history and unusual ambience, if not the cooking.
The Buckhorn Exchange
1000 Osage St, Denver, Colorado USA
My final meal in Denver was breakfast at Syrup, named after its specialty – handcrafted syrups. I ordered coffee, orange juice and ‘Three little pigs in a snuggie’ (US$5.99) – dollar pancakes stuffed with maple sausage patties. With my dish, I had the choice of two signature syrups (buttermilk, strawberry, blackberry, maple vanilla, butterscotch, apricot or Kahlua cream) plus one of the handcrafted whipped butters (pecan, peanut butter & jelly, nuts & berry) or traditional butter. I didn’t need two syrups – I just went for maple vanilla syrup and plain whipped butter, and was pleased with my choices. My dollar pancakes were much larger than what I expected dollar pancakes to be, but they were fantastic – and certainly, if they were smaller, I’d have needed more than three.
I went to Syrup Downtown – 999 18th Street, Suite 105, Denver, Colorado USA
There’s also Syrup Cherry Creek – 300 Josephine Street, Denver, Colorado USA
Denver public art
I spent a good while walking around in search of Denver’s interesting and unique public art.
The blue Mustang statue at Denver International Airport is a controversial figure, detested by many Denver locals. Nicknamed ‘Bluecifer’, it’s been described by some as demonic and nightmarish, thanks to its zombie-like, skeletal appearance. Its sculptor, Luis Jiménez, was killed when a section of the statue fell on him in the studio. The Mustang stands 32 feet (9.75 metres) high.
After reading the story of the Mustang, I was intrigued and determined to get a photo, but it isn’t in a place you can easily stop your vehicle and get out to take pictures – so I asked the driver who took me to the airport if he could let me know as we approached. I used my 55-200mm lens, the longest one I have, and rested my camera on my backpack on the car seat to help stabilise it. I set the camera on Continuous High mode and as soon as the mustang appeared, pressed the button and fired off a series of shots, hoping at least one would be in focus.
I could’ve probably squeezed more into my 2/3 days in Downtown Denver, but I was nearing the end of my trip and my energy levels were starting to wane. I had a great time in Denver and would love to return someday… I’d really like another chance to photograph the Mustang.
My solo USA trip (2014) – about this series
I travelled alone to the United States from late July to mid-August. This trip covered California, Wyoming and Colorado. The primary reason for the trip was to attend a couple of workshops, one on hot air balloon photography and the other on photographing wild horses and cowboys. I also caught up with an old school friend.
- Santa Paula, California, USA – Part 1
- Chasing Balloons, Part 1 – Citrus Classic Balloon Festival
- Chasing Balloons, Part 2
- Santa Paula, California, USA – Part 2
- San Francisco, Part 1 – Golden Gate Hotel (checking in), North Beach by Night walking tour, Sam’s (burger)
- San Francisco, Part 2 – Golden Gate Hotel (breakfast), Hop-on hop-off bus tour. Golden Gate Bridge, Haight-Ashbury, The Pork Store, Painted Ladies, Hearts in San Francisco project, Jardiniere
- San Francisco, Part 3 – breakfast in Chinatown, Ferry Building, sea lions of Pier 39, In-N-Out Burger, Fisherman’s Wharf and dinner with strangers at House of Nanking
- San Francisco, Part 4 – walking around Chinatown, Bacon Bacon truck, Mission District murals, Bi-Rite Creamery and Katana-Ya ramen.
- Wyoming cowboys and staying at K Bar Z ranch
- Wild horses and dining out in Cody, Wyoming
- My first day in Cody, Wyoming
- Denver, Colorado – Part 1 – Mizuna, Cherry Creek North Food & Wine festival, Chihuly exhibition at Denver Botanic Gardens, Argyll Whisky Beer, Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs
- Denver, Colorado – Part 2 – The Curtis, Sam’s No.3, Etai’s, Bistro Vendome, Civic Center Eats, The Buckhorn Exchange, Syrup, Denver public art – this post