The Mile High City

April 29, 2015
When planning for Denver, I thought I would book on Airbnb. I figured a rental would be less than two hotel rooms and many of the lofts have roof top decks and such, which sounded like a nice perk. Ordinarily, that would be the better option. However, for our time period, I kept getting quotes that were astronomical. Finally, I was clued in that the Cannabis Cup was driving up rates and left very little to chose from. When I turned to hotels, rates didn't improve. Thankfully, about two months out, Hotwire ran a sale and I was able to secure a decent rate at 4.5 star property in LoDo. I was surprised to learn that we'd be staying at the Oxford, it's the #3 rated hotel on Tripadvisor. It has superb location. You can't get closer to Union Station. It was a shame that no games were scheduled at Coors Field, because we were less than three blocks from the ballpark.

Upon check in, I was told no king rooms were available but we'd have queens. I understood it as two queen beds in each room, but no, it was only a single queen. Of course, they were sold out so there wasn't much to be done about it. Frank and I just would have to deal with three restless nights. Restless they were! The bed was elevated far from the floor, I was terrified I'd fall out. I clung to the edge like my life depended on it, which prevented me from ever falling into a deep slumber. Plus, the pillows were tiny; comfort was impossible. Especially, with my neck and shoulder issues. To make matters worse the bed was so bouncy, every time Frank turned, I was practically tossed out. Thank goodness I honed my death grip. Needless to say, it was exhausting. All the rooms are different; our bathroom had a ginormous tub that I literally had to climb into. I fared okay, but Frank slipped and broke a toe. Jake & Alysha's room had no tub, shower only with no curtain or door so containing moisture and heat was a chore, but their stay was more restful and injury free.

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The rooms have humongous key chains that I've only encountered traveling outside the country. They don't expect you to carry at all times, so you can check your key when you leave. We kept with tradition, and named it, Snowy. The parking rate was insane at $40/night we opted to park for $15/day at the lot around the corner. The location, though, is really fantastic. When it comes to historic hotels you often sacrifice convenience for charm, I get that. Hotwire only guarantees the room will accommodate the number of guests, not the room type, so I wasn't upset. I just wouldn't book again unless I had a guaranteed room type at the Oxford.

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Denver is known for many things, but people aren't flocking there for the food scene. When I started researching food in Denver, I turned up a lot of breakfast joints. Do you know where else that occurred? Albuquerque. You might remember, we had a great time in Albuquerque seeing the sights and Breaking Bad filming locations, but the eats were rather disappointing (exceptions being Rebel Donut and the Doghouse). The two cities also have green chili in common. I tire of green chili quickly. Denver was more promising and there are a handful of restaurants I'd like to try in the future. Our friend's aren't as adventurous as we are, but we still sought out highly recommended places and found quite a few duds.

The best of the bunch was Odyssey Italian Restaurant. A father and son team welcomed us as if we were guests in their home. We wanted for nothing and everything was fantastic from the caesar salads to the pastas, lamb and fish. Oh, and don't miss the arancini! Seriously, this place is a gem.

Backcountry Delicatessen was pretty solid. We didn't realize it was a franchise, we later saw a bunch more. It turned up in a search for deli sandwiches and we had a good laugh when we spotted the sign out front. Frank and I shared the Reuben. It was pretty good. Definitely better than we anticipated. Frank enjoyed the black bean soup too. Their chocolate chip cookie hit the spot and I loved the pomegranate ice tea.

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An unexpected find was Sliceworks, we were hungry and wanted a bite before retiring to bed. We found this place (open after last call) near the hotel. It started to rain so I wussed out and went back to the hotel, but Frank brought back three slices: Sicilian, white and green chili. The first two were average, but the green chili was damn good. We went back for more the following night. It was perfect with a side of ranch. Yes, you read that right. There was once a time I never thought I'd utter that sentence, but there you have it. It has its place.

On our first night, we were in the mood for Mexican we chose D'Corazon for dinner. It didn't live up to the reviews, but there are so many types of Mexican it can be hard to find the type that meets your expectations, especially when traveling. We thought the guacamole was weak, but otherwise our entrees were satisfactory. It fit the bill... what I'd consider your typical rice and beans type place.

Our first stop in Denver was Sam's No. 3 it's been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Breakfast seems to be the best option. I had chili relleno with pork green chili. The pork green chili was pretty good as far as green chili goes, but the chili rellenos were like bricks filled with yellow cheese. Nothing like what I'm used to. Omelets, skillet and French toast all seemed to be A-OK. I'm happy there was no wait. I wouldn't suggest seeking it out, but it can satisfy an appetite.

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The next morning, our first choice for breakfast was Snooze. It's a cute space in Union Station, but the wait turned us away. We ended up choosing Jelly Cafe as an alternative. Again, we were met with a long wait - 45 minutes. Against better judgement we stuck it out. They have a great app that tells you how many people are ahead of you so you're able to keep tabs on your place in line. In the meantime, we went to Wax Trax. It was neat to see all the vinyl. It reminded of my dads collection, it was fun to reminisce about my first albums. After, we followed signs for an open house. Denver's real estate market is booming. I couldn't believe this small old 1 bed, 1 ba third story walk up was going for what some houses go for in Vegas. And it had multiple offers. Good time to be a seller in Denver. We returned to the restaurant and still had 15 minutes to kill. We contemplated bailing, but again chose to see it through. Finally, we were seated.

Jelly is a cute space on the surface, very retro with cereal boxes from our childhood lining the walls. Once you sit, you see the wear and tear. But whatever, we were there to eat. Our friends ordered french toast and a breakfast burrito, Frank had the corned beef hash and I had the tres leche pancakes. We sampled four donut holes to start, each picking our favorite flavor. As long as we waited anything should have been tasty for as hungry as we were, but I didn't even finish my lemon custard donut. The first bite tasted like a grease bomb, I had no interest returning for a second. Unfortunately, the disappointment didn't end there. The french toast was so soggy, it was inedible. The hash was sad looking, with a few dry corned beef scraps. The accompanying biscuit was dry as bone. With a name like jelly you'd think there would be a variety of jellies, but no, our waitress said there was only the mango pineapple. Frank doesn't care for pineapple so it was a lost cause. My pancakes were edible, but I wouldn't recommend it and its certainly not worthy of a 45 minute wait. The breakfast burrito appeared to be the best choice, but even that was pretty lackluster. From start to finish it ended up being a two hour ordeal. Never again.

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The worst meal, though, was at The Broker. This restaurant has such potential, but it ended up being a complete flop. It is located in the old Denver National Bank Building. There is intimate dining in the vault and their wine cellar was the original cash vault. We met our friends, and their family here for dinner. We should've known something was off when no one else was there, but we gave it a chance. Service was incredibly sluggish, there's no excuse when we were the only diners. You would think ordering a steak here would be a home run, but the NY strip was undercooked - served blue not medium rare, under seasoned, tough and just terrible. I didn't even want to bother with another, but I was convinced otherwise. The second steak was no better, it wasn't as raw, but it still didn't qualify as medium rare. By then, I threw in the towel. Other entrees were unsatisfactory as well. I think only a couple were actually edible. It was a real shame. They did refund a good portion of the dinner to help remedy the situation so I give credit for the gesture, but oh my, what a dud.

Denver is better known for its beer. There are many breweries in Denver that do not distribute to Nevada so we had a field day trying new brews. We attempted to go to Great Divide Brewery, but it was so packed we stood at the bar without drawing any attention so we bailed. Across the street is the Lobby. They were finishing up bottomless mimosa service. It seems to be hugely popular because the place was trashed as the drunken crowds cleared. They had a decent beer selection. I learned I was a fan of Great Divide's Titan IPA, but I really don't care for the others I tried. We did visit an out of the way brewery, Wit's End. That had a solid selection. Everything was quite good. Breckenridge was a bust, we didn't like anything there. We stopped for drinks at Marg's Taco Bistro, but that was a dud too. The margaritas and mexican mule were pretty terrible. Terminal bar had some of the worst service we encountered - wow. We came upon City Grille with no expectations, chips and salsa were a flop, but drinks were good and priced right. Service was friendly too. Bars line the streets by the ballpark, many have rooftop patios. We checked out the Tavern downtown and braved the cold to enjoy the roof top views. It'd be a great spot when its not so cold.

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Near the capital building was Sancho's Broken Arrow, a Grateful Dead dive bar with good beer and strong cocktails. We spent an afternoon here. Great vibe, air hockey, foosball and pool in back. Turns out I'm a big fan of New Belgium's 1554 Black Lager. My cousin and her boyfriend met us here. She's lived in Denver a little over a year and seems to enjoy it. It was fun catching up with them. She took us over to 1UP bar to play Pac-Man. They had skee ball too which was a riot. Good times!

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When researching things to do, I found the Upstairs Circus. They offer a full bar and a variety of crafts to create while visiting with friends. It seemed like a neat concept so we decided to check it out, we went during Friday happy hour so projects were $25. The nice thing is everyone can choose their own craft. I almost decided against it, because I worried about getting my project home. I'm glad Alysha convinced me to stay. It was fun, even if my hands grew tired as I grew frustrated. Thankfully, Frank and Jake pitched in to help me finish.

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We used Uber and Lyft to get around. Our drivers were fantastic. Other than no legroom for Frank, flights in and out on Frontier were uneventful. Which is always good, I get nervous when checking bags (cheaper than carry ons). The airport might be the least convenient of any city I've visited - 20 miles to downtown. But all in all, we had a great time in Denver - even if it was cold, brrrr! We also visited Golden and Fort Collins. So, there are more details to come.

Odyssey Italian restaurant and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon Odyssey Italian restaurant and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon Sliceworks on Urbanspoon D'Corazon on Urbanspoon Sam's #3 on Urbanspoon Jelly on Urbanspoon The Broker Restaurant on Urbanspoon

4 comments:

KathyinNY said...

I just love your reviews. We have a bar in our area called Wit's End. Good place and fun times and also close to the golf course my husband and I frequent. I too love to find a good Mexican restaurant but where I live I have to go down South and even then I'm told it is authentic. Keep coming with your posts. Happy Thursday my friend!

Kellee said...

It's a good name! Gotta love when you find gems, especially when they're places you can frequent. As always, thanks for reading & commenting. Have a great weekend!

Deb Mueldener said...

I came across your blog by accident when looking for reviews on the Odyssey restaurant in Denver. After living in Denver for 35+ years, I felt the need to comment.

First, you should be honored that you stayed in the beautifully restored Oxford Hotel. At almost 125 years old, it is a gem. With a little research beforehand, or even on your phone right there, you would have known all about the rooms, beds, etc. And yes, you're lucky you got a room!

Second, if you call yourself a foodie, why did you eat at some of the most touristy places? Again, a little research would have been wise.

Denver IS known for its food. You obviously just didn't know where to look!

Kellee said...

The hotel was booked on Hotwire, they do not provide the hotel name until you make the purchase and they don't guarantee room types so there was no way to know what you get until you check in. The hotel had a lot of charm, but I believe that sacrifices comfort and convenience.

Please offer suggestions of restaurants to visit. I do hope you enjoy Odyssey it was a real gem.

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