If you happen to be in Denver and like mezcal, here’s a little roadmap.
From the moment I saw the citrus, frangipanis, pineapple slices and cinnamon sticks floating in the glass bowl like a tropical punch kaleidoscope, I knew Finn’s was going to steal my heart. Come for the punch and the extensive agave spirits program. Let the picnic tables and the food trucks in the large patio keep you for longer.
Curio is located inside the Denver Central Market, where you can find timeless market anchors (fish market, butchery, bakery), a few eccentricities and one of the best chocolate stores I’ve come across. The convenient part about it is you can order food from anywhere in the market and then sit at the bar. Curio feels like an inviting neighborhood bar— but in the neighborhood food hall, which I guess is a staple of most cities now. They have a list of seasonal standard cocktails for $9 (man, I love drinking in other cities), house cocktails, local beers and wine. I was there during Mezcal Week and they made a white rosita with Vago Elote, Cocchi Americano, Carpano Bianco, and Salers. If you see something similar on the menu, go for it. Brass Tacks is by the same owner and has similar vibes.
If there is something that I have a weakness for it’s expensive artisanal dark chocolate bars, but they are healthy for you anyway, right? Temper has an excellent curation of bars from all over the world and will give you samples, so at least you know you’re good putting down $11 for a 62% dark chocolate bar with dates & fennel made in Dubai. They also make inventive truffles in collaboration with local businesses, like the O’Dell Brewing Co cucumber lime gose dark chocolate. In the same food hall as Curio.
Come here for seasonal neighborhood bistro fare, and definitely for the cocktail menu run by Jesse Torres. There are a lot of drinking options divided into categories like “fresh & lively” and “complex & adventurous” and “boozy & alluring,” similar to my typical mood progression on a date (just missing “sleepy & ready for netflix”). My favorite drink was The Brave: mezcal espadin, tequila blanco, averna, dry curaçao, bitters, served at room temperature. Because of the way it’s served with nothing cold to dilute or mask the flavors, you can easily taste each the ingredients. It was a new cocktail experience for me, and I’m trend forecasting room temp cocktails for 2020.
This is a Denver version of a Oaxacan mezcaleria, with brick walls and Mexican leather barrel chairs and agave-dedicated art crawling the walls. Come here for a great selection and knowledgeable staff.
There are so many great burrito traditions from California to the Southwest, and one of them that I was eager to try is a smothered burrito in green chile. I grew up on the tightly wrapped mission-style burritos of my hometown and remain partial towards it for my go-to, but I’ve come to appreciate each burrito experience instead of comparing them. I was directed to this counter-service restaurant that probably hasn’t changed since it was opened by Mexico City natives in the 1980s. It’s the kind of menu I love: simple, affordable and many types of pork. The green chile is peppery and sweet but not particularly spicy, and poured over a forearm-sized burrito of your choice (the special is a green chile pork) and sprinkled with melted cheese. I’m not sure if the green chile had anything to do with making a burrito of that size seem light, but I somehow ate that whole thing. It was the perfect hangover cure.