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Lunch at DEN, [activity] on light rail, dinner near [activity]

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I'll be arriving at Denver airport around lunchtime next Sunday on Jet Blue (don't know which terminal), taking a SuperShuttle to my tech center hotel, and then taking the E line from there to ?? for a nice afternoon and a great dinner. Can you suggest:

-Good counter-service places to grab lunch at the airport, and which to avoid.

-Where to go on the E line (and whatever connects to it easily) for a great afternoon followed by a delicious dinner?

I like walking around nice/interesting residential or shopping neighborhoods and parks, and visiting a museum or other sight IF it's outstanding -- I've lived near NYC (and Boston) long enough to have become a little elitist on that front. For dinner, delicious is what counts most. I'll be dining alone. I'm open to cheap to expensive, but not uber-expensive. I like almost all cuisines, and if there's something that Denver does especially well, that's ideal. I've heard there are great pubs, but I'm not really a drinker.

The next day, I'm going to Snooze for breakfast and Root Down for dinner, so not there. But recommendations on choosing from those menus would be a great bonus.

Thank you!

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  1. (1) When the new West line opened and light rail was free all weekend, we used this link below on Google Maps and clicked on each station then Search Nearby to plan our bar crawling and appetizer nibbling. Note that there is not a G line anymore and this map doesn’t include the new W to Lakewood/Golden. We found that walking to destinations from the light rail stations outside of downtown versus climbing in a car wasn’t really considered, so you might not have a direct path. There are better dining options in the core than the ‘burbs, so you might just take the line all the way to Union Station. Once you are in downtown Denver, besides easy walks you can take the free 16th Street Mall shuttle, B-cycle bike sharing, Uber, or find a taxi sitting in front of a hotel (they don’t circulate like in SF).
    https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UT...

    A few examples of walk-able items from some E stops:
    --County Line--
    Bonanno Brothers Pizzeria - This is from the chef who owns local favorites such as Mizuna, Osteria Marco, Bones
    Cru
    --Dry Creek--
    Street Kitchen Asian Bistro
    Marco's Coal-Fired Pizzeria
    --Orchard--
    Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House
    Pizza Republica
    --Belleview--
    Shanahan's Steakhouse
    --Louisiana-Pearl--
    Sushi Den
    Izakaya Den
    --10th & Osage--
    El Taco de Mexico
    The Buckhorn Exchange
    Domo
    --Union Station--
    Museum of Contemporary Art (besides the art, they also have a rooftop café – new building opened in 2007).
    Note that a bit further away is the Denver Art Museum (new Hamilton Building opened in 2006) and Clyfford Still Museum (opened in 2011) around 13th, as well as the History Colorado Center on Broadway (new building opened in 2012).
    Zengo and Al Lado are just over the bridge
    Walk or B-cycle across the park to Sushi Sasa, Colt and Gray, Eat Drink
    West beyond that over another pedestrian bridge is the Highlands where Root Down and many other great options like Old Major and Z Cuisine are located

    Further east of the stop you have lots of faves of locals like Rioja, Euclid Hall, Squeaky Bean, Twelve, etc.
    Later this summer, The Source is opening in RiNo with Denver outposts of Boulder County favorites Comida and Oak (called Acorn) to keep in mind for your next trip.

    (2) At Snooze, you have to at least split a sweet potato pancake. I ordered a chocolate chip one once and ended up leaving it and eating a good portion of my better half’s sweet potato because it was far superior. You said you’re not really a drinker, but one of the things I liked most was their spicy bloody mary option with pepper-infused vodka. I have not been to Root Down in a while, but if they still have the carrot curry soup that is a delicious way to start.

    (3) At DIA, no matter which gate you arrive at (A, B, C), you might want to take the train and eat in one of the concourse options for lunch rather than the sad main terminal before you exit security. Might be better to slip into a bar seat somewhere like local options 5280 Lounge or the new Elway’s in B and eat than line up for the fairly mediocre to-go options. If I had to grab-and-go I’d probably get some tamales at La Casita in C or a sandwich from the New Belgium Spoke in A or the Hub in B (although the latter is WAY down a concourse). If you are really in a hurry, you may have to settle for a passable chain like Quizno’s. For wine and snacks, there is a Cru (which also has a nice line of outlets for recharging along the banquette) and Vino Volo. You don’t want to settle for Pour La France (which is about as French as Jeff Foxworthy), Wolfgang Puck, or Burger King. Soon we are supposed to have a branch of Root Down and Steve’s Snappin’ Dogs at DIA. Check flydenver.com to see the current options.

    The beautiful surrounding mountains are one of the things that make Denver so appealing, so if you don’t have a car you might miss out on seeing Red Rocks, Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Flatirons…

    1 Reply
    1. re: rlm

      Wow, thank you so much for all these choices! Gives me lots to read up on.

      Yes, I won't get to experience Snooze's bloody mary (tho I do enjoy those) or the areas around Denver on this trip since I'm really just coming in for a Monday workday -- so I only have that half of Sunday to do something fun.

      I'll write back in with what I ended up eating...

    2. Ok, I think with rlm's help and some websurfing, I've got a plan -- care to critique it?

      E line to Union
      Walk to the Tattered Cover
      Shuttle down the rest of 16th to the art museum 'til it closes at 5
      Amble back up 16th
      Dinner at Rioja
      Back to hotel shuttle from Union? Or is the walk from Rioja to Pepsi, Sports Auth, or Auraria W pleasant (as it's a different few blocks than I'll already have seen) after dinner?

      That's it. Should I sub in City Park (and then a different dinner spot) instead? Or...?

      Any Sunday dinner prix fixe deals I should consider instead?

      1 Reply
      1. re: fleenshop

        The walk from Rioja to the Pepsi Center or Mile High is not far, but it's not really picturesque, if that's what you're looking for.

      2. Just to circle back...

        I brought snacks from home and skipped eating at the airport. Walked up and down 16th, along the river, and by the capitol building. Intended to make it to the art museum, but with their 5PM close, ran out of time.

        I was thinking I'd go to Rioja unless I came across a super-appealing food truck or restaurant to unseat that plan, and I didn't - though I gave some serious consideration to the Hey PB&J truck. In the end, I stuck with my initial plan and I'm very glad I did. I got there pretty soon after opening, and was the first one seated at the chef's table, and they treated me like royalty. I asked which of two appetizers to go with, and the waitress immediately suggested she get me half of each. I asked my question (this one: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/912567 ) about the artichoke torteloni and truffle oil, and she suggested I start with just a taste of one -- and then ended up serving me the portion of three instead, while still charging for just one. Another waiter judged that when I got my half-portion of consommé, enough broth hadn't been poured in, and had another pitcher added. A third noticed that I hadn't selected the lavender bread that the chef feels complements that consommé best, and offered me that. Needless to say, I felt super well-cared for, which along with great food and an entertaining place to sit, made for an excellent experience.

        In all, I ended up having:
        Several different breads
        Amuse bouche of a riff on a BLT
        Fresh bacon
        Corn-coconut consommé (1/2
        )Marinated melon salad (1/2)
        Artichoke torteloni (3)
        Chocolate & orange dessert (with flourless cake, meringues, orange custard and ganache, dried oranges, and supremed oranges)

        I thought all the food was really well-conceived and beautifully prepared, and it all tasted great. The bill (no drinks) came to just $33 or so, which I found an absolutely exceptional value for what I experienced.

        The next morning, I enjoyed breakfast at Snooze, where I had two of their eggs benedict variations and a complimentary sugar-bomb of a pancake-of-the-day. Then, last night, we went to Root Down and got the Devils on Horseback, lamb sliders, gnocchi, duck tacos, and the bread pudding. This was less high-concept and artful than Rioja, and less of a striking value, but edged Rioja out on sheer deliciousness. I think the single thing I found most delicious out of all of it was the butter that accompanied Root Down's bread! I couldn't identify what made it so good and asked -- they mix in miso and vanilla. You only get bread and butter by request there, so it's definitely worth asking for it.

        In any case, Denver did itself proud as far as I'm concerned, and I may not eat for a week! Thanks again rlm for the help!

        1 Reply
        1. re: fleenshop

          Thanks for sharing your report. Glad to hear you had some good meals in Denver.