Denver: The Lohi Letdown

Our first full day in Denver began with a visit to an exhaustively self-important, overpriced LoHi neighborhood coffee shop, Black Eye coffee, where $30 bought us a yogurt (albeit, with berry compote), an avocado toast hidden under an oppressive layer of nuts and seeds, and four coffees. The caffeine materialized somewhat quickly; something to sip on during the interminable wait for the food portion of our order.

It all proved to be as unsatisfying as we’d worked it up to be during said wait; over thought and overworked; our yogurt, while it looks just the opposite in this photo, ended up being bland and dry, due to an aggressive hand at the poppy-seed station

Denver Yogurt

The avocado toast fell victim to the same variety of ruin, utterly destroyed by seeds, unsalted nuts, and lack of seasoning. To be fair to Black Eye, it was a tough morning, and I’m not sure there was anything they could do properly attend to our needs. Elevation is a helluva drug.

Denver Toast

Per usual, we fell into the trap of going to a hideous restaurant suggested by a local friend; this time, Recess Beer Garden, another fratty sort of joint, half indoor, half out (it turns out, that’s an absolute Denver thing)

Being at Recess Beer Garden was much like sitting in traffic; I was bored, impatient, and surrounded by strangers who filled with me with existential angst.

We sat and remained unacknowledged for a good half hour, as friends of ours trickled in and took their spots at the table. I’ll give Recess this concession; when we were finally able to place an order, I dialed up smoked wings, and they were, in fact smokey.


Our friends ordered themselves burgers, all of which arrived dry and overcooked, though to their palate, they were a fawn worthy event.  We threw in a round of regrettable sliders and a slab of ribs, but alas, the ribs never made it to our table, and, nobody cared

Denver sliders

Continuing our LoHi crawl, we walked a few short blocks to Avanti Food & Beverage, yet another warehouse style, two level, multi-bar operation, where I had read that the food court was outstanding The concept is certainly admirable; a showcase of new and unestablished eateries, looking to gain traction, and, god willing, a brick and mortar. I had done some advance scouting and knew that the chicken salad arepa was the hot dish du jour, but the unfortunate result was a mediocre, mealy dough, filled with unidentifiable filling (two in our group asked if I had purchased tuna).

Also worth mentioning, in keeping with the college town vibe in LoHi, literally every single place we visited up to this point in the trip was assholes to elbows to crowded.

We were feeling kind of low, kind of, dang, we chose a lame city. Four meals in, and each and every one, a crushing disappointment. We strolled, defeated, back towards our place, past the odd mix of blight ridden bungalows and ultra modern residences that make up LoHi, when we stumbled across a dive bar so divey, I am still unsure as to whether or not it was just some guys living room. We had to knock in order to gain entry, and once inside, we knew we had finally found a Denver gem. Zitro’s (the owners name, Ortiz, spelled backward) had all of the markings of an old, gritty, Mexican gang hangout, decorated with signs threatening to call the cops if a drug deal was witnessed and old, Mexican polka on the jukebox. I was positive that Machete was going to appear at any moment, weapon in hand. Heaven.

Denver zitro

Old Mr. Ortiz warmed himself a mug of sanka in the microwave, served us, then settled into a lawn chair at the end of the bar, to watch “Back to the Future” on one of the two 1980’s era bar TV’s. When we needed water, we were presented with glasses from none other than Dill Dill Carr Stonbraker & Hutchings, P.C., a local criminal defense firm (no doubt, a number saved in the Rolodex next to the rotary dial phone behind the bar)


We played food Russian roulette once last time that night, staying in hood with a visit to Linger, another one of Denver’s greatest hits, which would qualify as any other big city’s greatest embarrassments The menu at Linger was an experience in time travel, an outdated, Asian (code for candied, if you did not read the last post) fusion disaster, separated into sections thusly: Bao Buns, Europe and Eurasia, Americans and Caribbean, Asia and South Asia, Africa and Middle East. PUH-LEASE.

Our friends were dazzled by the options, and it wasn’t on my agenda to piss in anyone’s Cheerios, so, with a polite, you guys go ahead and choose, I forfeited my opportunity to order something that would inevitably ruin my own night.

Our collection of international disasters: Mongolian bbq duck bao, Lemongrass pork potstickers (again, with sauce so sweet it made my tongue ache. Lay OFF Denver!), Jamaican Jerk Spot prawns, Korean BBQ tacos, Thai fried rice with tofu, Vietnamese crepe, and Devil’s on Horseback, and a Cricket and Cassava Empanada. Kay.

One bonus, Linger has an ice cream stand outside

Denver ice cream stand

and, i needed something to save me, so, banana split. Of course, the ice cream flavors were indistinguishable.

The takeaway, from a day spent almost entirely in LoHi, was that it’s not quite the end of the food rainbow, as many websites/locals, etc. would have you believe. LoHi is the sprawling neighborhood equivalent to a cheesecake factory, or, say, the kind of place that would surround a greek row. It tries too hard, and as such, comes across as desperate, and pedestrian, and very, very milquetoast.

At least we had the warm, welcoming arms of Zitro’s to crawl into before bed.




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