DENVER NEIGHBORHOOD SPOTLIGHT: RiNo (RIVER NORTH) ARTS DISTRICT
Denver been the birthplace, destination, or stopover for creatives and vagabonds from director David Fincher, to beat poets Neal Cassady and buddy Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Hunter S. Thompson and more. Denver maintains a certain “crunchiness” driven by an allure that draws artists, outdoor types, and now, sophisticated yet casual metropolitans in equal measure. Caught between the coasts, Denver is indeed representative of its place somewhere in-between, in the all the best ways.
RiNo (River North) Arts District best captures this spirit as one of Denver’s trendiest and fastest growing neighborhoods. From startups and creative agencies tucked into old warehouses, to galleries, music venues, conveyor belt sushi and classy cocktail lounges balancing out dive bars, RiNo brims with personality and offers a little something for everyone. Let’s explore how to plan a day out in RiNo, whether you’re looking for the rugged or refined or something in-between.
Larimer Street is one of the anchor points for RiNo. Get started with a cup of coffee from one of Denver’s most cherished caffeinators, Crema Coffee House at 29th and Larimer. It can get busy, and with good reason — whether you’re craving a fair trade pourover, cappuccino, latte or french press, Crema will be sure to please. If you’re grabbing a bite for breakfast, Crema has daily pastries, but we recommend getting the daily quiche with greens or waffles. And, try the back patio if the weather permits!
You can’t miss it wandering around RiNo, but there’s more to the story of the graffiti dotting the neighborhood. This is thanks to the Colorado Crush — a late summer celebration with artists spraying graffiti art and murals in the alleys, on garage doors and business fronts. It’s one occasion where taking a stroll down the alley isn’t advice nearly as dubious as it sounds... just be sure to do so during the daylight hours to enjoy the art and avoid stranger danger. The best spot is the alley between Larimer St. and Walnut St., from 26th to 30th Street.
Next, grab a beer at Our Mutual Friend. OMF sources almost all of their grain, hops, and specialty ingredients in Colorado. Always spinning good tunes to match the friendly vibes, enjoy the cozy taphouse or grab a seat on the patio. With new beers introduced frequently, we suggest going with one of their porters, IPAs, or currently, the Fixed Blade barleywine aged in Laws bourbon barrels.
If you’re getting hungry, head across the street to the colorful fence behind which lies Finn’s Manor — a New Orleans-inspired cocktail bar and food truck pod. Explore the food trucks in the patio area serving up steamed buns, burritos, jerk chicken or if you’re feeling carnivorous, don’t miss Owlbear Barbecue and tuck into a plate of barbecue sure to defeat the most rugged man’s appetite. Featuring 16 rotating taps and hundreds of spirits for expertly concocted cocktails, it’s a great stop in the neighborhood. If you’re having trouble choosing, ask for a surprise cocktail… the bartenders will ask for your spirit and you’ll get something off-menu, that’s exciting and delicious.
RiNo also features some great venues for music. Check out the calendars for the Walnut Room or Larimer Lounge, both venues featuring national and local artists. They’re smaller venues where you can see intimate shows with great upcoming indie bands. Or if you’re ready to get your dance on, swing by The Meadowlark late night. Look for the staircase along 27th Street to descend into dance, and check out the back patio if you’d like to catch your breath!
If you’re still going and looking for a nightcap, swing by Pon Pon, a cozy and quirky cocktail bar and art exhibition space. You can find a DJ spinning most weekends, but you’ll be able to grab a loveseat and lounge, or tour the art gallery in the back.
Feeling like a classy night out in RiNo? The neighborhood offers a refined experience as well.
We recommend getting started at the new Denver Central Market at 27th Street and Larimer. Featuring specialist vendors, you can grab a coffee from the Crema Bodega, get your greens at Green Seed, featuring healthy fresh juices, veggie bowls, and morning snacks, or grab a bite from SK Provisions, pastries from Izzio, or just explore the market featuring everything from chocolates, to fresh meats, fish, ice cream, and more.
A walk down the street gives you an opportunity for some upscale shopping. Check out Kit + Ace for fashion-forward technical activewear… what could be more Denver than clothes just as fashionable in the city as they are functional in the mountains. Then, swing by Studio 2b for a dose of modern furniture, art, and design. If you need to get equipped for some mountain adventures, TOPO Designs features apparel and wonderfully designed bags and packs, whether you’re an urban bike commuter or compulsive camper.
As you’re getting hungry for brunch, stop by Stowaway Coffee + Kitchen for inventive, healthy food in a gorgeously designed space with lots of natural light. We recommend the Dukkah Eggs + Trout — grilled asparagus, smoked trout, tzaziki and dukkah-rolled poached eggs on Babette’s pullman loaf. With an often-changing and seasonal menu, this ain’t your typical eggs and toast brunch.
Never far away in this neighborhood, you can find art openings and events at DATELINE gallery at Larimer Street and 30th. Check their website for openings and hours.
The Infinite Monkey Theorem is “back alley winemaking at its finest.” Located at Larimer Street and 32nd, this urban winery features romantic indoor and outdoor seating to enjoy company with your friends or man.
As you’re getting ready for dinner, consider the gorgeous, rustic backyard patio at The Populist. The Root Vegetable Gratin is a delicious, hearty fall dish. Or we love the ‘Snake Rive’ Flank Steak. You can explore the Chef’s seven course tasting menu — $80 for two and be treated to the sort of adventurous cuisine Denver is becoming known for. As for libations, try the house gin with your favorite spirit — it’s uniquely refreshing and delicious.
Bar Fausto, caddy corner The Populist is a no-fuss yet refined cocktail lounge featuring small but mighty Italian plates. But this isn’t grandma’s Italian — lobster, soft-scrambled eggs, chives and caviar bruschetta may leave you speechless. But once you get an expertly crafted cocktail with a side of Denver whit. Read the cocktail descriptions carefully, they’re entertaining and bring some levity to the seriousness with which the drinks are crafted.
To end your evening, don’t miss a hidden gem in the neighborhood. Nocturne Jazz & Supper Club features live jazz Tuesday through Saturday. A popular date destination, you may want to make a reservation in advance to secure your spot. Featuring local and national jazz bands, you can grab a table up close to hang on every note, or find a seat around the perimeter or upstairs if you’d like to converse to the soundtrack of deft jazz masters covering everything from big band bayou to classic quartets.
Rugged or refined, creative or comfortable, rollicking or relaxed, RiNo has something for everyone.