LoDo Lowdown 

Drinking in Denver with jumbo margaritas, The Boss’ crew & Cucumber Jones.

A quick weekend trip to Denver to see The Boss in concert (that’s Bruce Springsteen to the uninitiated) provided the pleasant opportunity of also eating and drinking to excess. Specifically, that meant the re-energized area of the city called LoDo (lower downtown), home to Larimer Square, Coors Field and many vibrant restaurants, bars and shops.

First stop—before checking into the Hotel Monaco in LoDo—was lunch at Patzquaro’s, a funky, friendly Mexican restaurant I used to frequent 30 years ago. Although the Highland neighborhood around it is now thoroughly gentrified, Patzquaro’s remains virtually untouched. Even the prices seem reminiscent of 1979. Along with its heavenly green chile and a torta sandwich, we enjoyed an ice-cold bottle of Negra Modelo and “jumbo” margarita, which was truly massive and a mere $5—a good start to what would be a great weekend.

One of the benefits to staying at Monaco hotels is the nightly Wine Happy Hour, where guests are greeted with free wine, snacks and massages. As it turned out, some of Springsteen’s crew was also camping out at the Monaco. We shared toasts and stories with some of our new friends, especially Paul Quiroga whose birthday it was; he’s been on the road with The Boss for 10 years now. The Monaco’s bar also hosts a 3-6 p.m. happy hour with $3 beers, $4 wines and $5 cocktails. Yee haw!

Before dinner I thought it prudent to visit The Wine Loft on Wazee Street, where glasses of Domaine Lafage Cote Est struck our fancy—a racy little white wine bursting with white flowers and citrus flavors, but with a good minerality and a hint of smokiness. Best of all: You can buy it here in Utah!

Then it was back to the Monaco for dinner at Panzano, where chef Elise Wiggins’ superb Italian cuisine and server Michael Eoannou’s close, professional attention made for a lovely evening. Among the highlights was Eoannou’s recommendation of Candoni Prosecco: Honeyed, but dry on the tongue and with good acidity; this is a food-friendly bubbly that worked with everything from a Panzano selection of local cheeses to chef Wiggin’s superb grass fed veal scallopine with lemon, capers and sun-dried tomatoes. Still feeling just a tad parched after dinner, I strolled over to the Rock Bottom Brewery on the 16th Street Mall for a nightcap—a killer, crazy-with-hops IPA that pushed all the right buttons.

If ever in LoDo, make sure you visit Osteria Marco, a wonderful Italian eatery on Larimer Street. I knew I wasn’t in Utah when, at lunchtime, every table was occupied and wine or beer was being sipped at virtually every table.
A kick-ass appetizer called ciccioli (tender, shredded, juicy braised pork) and sliced bresaola was terrific with Osteria Marco’s $5 house red. And Kellerei-Cantina Tramin Montan S├╝dtirol Sauvignon Blanc totally rocked with Marco’s sensational grilled shrimp salad with ceci beans, arugula, pesto and toasted flatbread. Service was impeccable. Then, at Wines Off Wyncoop, I purchased my first-ever wine in a plastic bottle: Yellow Jersey Sauvignon Blanc.

Dinner at Bistro Vendome felt like Paris, as we tucked into mousse de foie au Calvados, delicious duck confit and grilled scallops Saint Jacques while also discovering the wine wonders of Jean Marc Brocard St. Bris. Finally, after seeing The Boss, we wandered into a funky bar called Herb’s and met Jay, aka “Cucumber Jones,” our favorite bartender of the entire weekend. There was B&B, Patron tequila and Guinness Stout involved.

Beyond that, it’s a tad hazy …

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