First, we strongly advise you to blow off the rest of the day and rent a scooter. ScooTours Denver Scooter Rental will be much more fun than the “Six Ways Social Media Can Transform Your Business” lecture. If you are with your spouse, we hope he or she is already zooming around exploring.
You are at the Colorado Convention Center and it is time for lunch. Get outside.
Is it a Tuesday or Thursday during the summer? Run, don’t walk, to Civic Center Eats to enjoy the ultimate open-air hyper-local food court. I say run because you have a half mile to travel and there are often lines at the food trucks. Let’s be honest. You can walk in a little late to your afternoon session, right? Walk out of the Convention Center and turn right. Walk southeast on 14th Street until you get to Civic Center Park. Pick your favorite of the food trucks set up there. Eric Lazzari who runs the event for the Civic Center Conservancy has already done the filtering; there are no duds. Sit down with a real live Denverite at any table and enjoy the sunshine, flowers, the view of Denver’s City and County Building and the Colorado Capitol. The 15-minute walk back will be the perfect way to return to your convention.
Bubba Gump Shrimp Company is the most obvious place to eat when you walk out of the Colorado Convention Center. This place is ideal if you are not planning to walk far. If you have a group, this place can accommodate you, particularly if you have called ahead. This themed restaurant from the Houston-based Landry’s chain specializes in seafood, particularly fried. If nothing else, sit on the bench outside next to the chocolates and the suitcase and wait for Jenny. As an aside, I actually recommend this restaurant more for the happy hour from 3:30 to 6:30 everyday. I suggest you go upstairs to sit at the bar or the big open second story windows to enjoy some discount fried calamari and their drink specials. Later, as you finish your day, consider having one drink at the Peaks Lounge on the 27th floor of the Hyatt Regency at the Colorado Convention Center. Beautiful view.
Another super close location if you are not planning to walk is Stout Street Social. Exit the Convention Center at the north corner at 14th and Stout to find this large, new Denver-based restaurant across the street. The lunch menu has a wide variety and you’ll find fresh ingredients prepared with care. It will not be super cheap but you will get an excellent meal. It is a very very very short walk.
For the secret insider best lunch choice, which means the highest quality food for a very reasonable amount of money, turn left out of the Convention Center and walk across Stout, past Which Wich, to 14th and Champa. Sit down at the bar or a table at Pizza Republica. Scan the delicious menu but select the last item which is the lunch special. For $9.95 (let’s say 13 with tax and a nice tip), you’ll start with a soft drink. Then you’ll enjoy a salad that contains lettuce, really good parmesan cheese, and a couple tomatoes that look like the chef selected them for his own lunch. Then they’ll bring a personal pizza, a soft drink, and a cookie for dessert. You’ll be pleased with the handmade food, very fresh ingredients and that they are served to you by someone who smiles. Instead of this special, they are probably hoping you’ll order from the rest of the menu. If you are going gluttonous with a couple other people, consider the Vesuvius. It is a pizza with a calzone embedded in the center.
You may want to grab a sandwich at Which Wich at 14th and Champa. It will be fine. It is a chain and you probably have one at home, so that adds to the comfort factor. If instead, you turn right on Champa, one half block away is a local sandwich shop that I like better. Snarfs has excellent bread and ingredients. If you want a bit of spice, include the hot peppers on your sandwich. They probably have soup and other items and some tables. I have only grabbed a sandwich to go. I have never been disappointed.
Walk one block along Stout Street in the direction of car traffic to arrive at 15th and Stout. There are three options here. My favorite is Mici, a local, family owned, three-store chain of order-at-the-counter Italian restaurants. My favorite item is the meatball sandwich which they cleverly disguise on the menu by calling it Polpetta. Next door is Tacos y Salsas where you’ll find dependably tasty Mexican food brought to you someone who speaks Spanish at home. Across the street is Orange and Brew. You might like it. I haven’t.
Of course you might walk past Bubba Gumps to the 16th Street mall where Jason’s Deli is a chain that serves soup and sandwiches. You have one at home. It is fine. You can hop on the free 16th Street Mall Ride to select other chain restaurants that will be familiar to you. If you want something locally owned, consider the Appaloosa Grill. Pro tip: he Palomino is more tender than the Appaloosa. Yes I am joking; they don’t serve horse.
The absolute least expensive way to eat is to walk to 16th and California to grab a $1 hot dog from the street vendor. The main benefit here is that your wallet remains nearly intact. We can’t guarantee the same for your long term coronary artery health.
Last summer, A Taste of the Philippines was on the 16th Street Mall. Kathy’s scrumptious food and infectious smile is worth the walk, and swim, from Manila. I hope she comes back for Summer 2015.
Closest Starbucks Coffee Shop: See Stout Street Social at the Embassy Suites across the street? Ten steps farther on Stout. The drinks you bring back to your colleagues at the Convention Center will still be hot if you go to this one. Closest corporate-owned Starbucks where you can redeem your rewards (you earn rewards at all of them): 16th and California.
Closest locally owned coffee shop: Backstage Coffee. Really good pastry options. Usually interesting art inside. On Costa Rican days, the coffee is very very good. On Ethiopian days, it is even better. Walk against traffic on 14th across Champa to the hey-that’s-cool Denver Center for the Performing Arts and you’ve found Backstage. While enjoying your coffee, look across the street at that yellow embossed rectangle thing that sticks out of the wall. Then go across the street to touch it. It’s actually flat. Pretty effective illusion.
None of these suggestions is designed to send you to Denver’s locally owned and operated chef-driven cuisine. Save those for dinner. There are many sources for that information. Browse at Eater Denver to see Andrea Zeppelin’s significant and trustworthy advice on that topic. This post is limited to make the best of your brief lunch break during your conference.
At dinner time, please explore. Denver has turned into a fantastic food city.
Note: We receive no compensation of any sort from any of the places mentioned here. I can’t remember even a thank you. This post is solely for you, the visitor, to better enjoy our city. Oh, and self-servingly so you know about our scooter rental and tours, which is one of the best things to do in Denver.