Category Archives: Denver

Club Below . Denver

I was relaxing at home with a bottle of Pinot catching up on some episodes of “Mayday: Air Crash Disasters” when my friend called and asked if I’d like to check out a club in Lodo. I answered “of course not, unless it’s Beta” but he said a hidden basement spot was now marketing itself as a gay oriented establishment.

I put the analysis of United 811 on hold and got dressed. I already knew the ending, but I enjoy this show because it explores what would seem random chains of events and decisions  that lead up to these riveting catastrophes.

20 minutes later we were spelunking our way into Below, on Larimer Square.  First impressions: to access Below you don’t actually have to dodge angry beer soaked jocks, because the entrance is actually in the alley between Larimer and Lawrence. After some wandering we descended down the one lone staircase, walked through a long hall passing by doors leading to kitchens and storage rooms before finally walking in. I liked it.   Very cool space to relax and talk, a small dance floor and a quieter room behind the bar with giant white eighties style sofas.

It reminded me of small bars and clubs in Prague – located behind random hard to find doors you can only find after walking around the block three times. Unlike Prague, where Stereo MCs was overplayed everywhere my last visit, Below hosts DJ Rockstar Aaron on Thursdays who was happy to take, (and play,) some requests.  The crowed was light but picked up after midnight.  It was more than I expected for being open less than a month.

According to Westword Below first opened in 2008, attracting an industrial crowd with its medieval decor. Now the owner, Bill Ward, is marketing Below as an alternative club in Larimer Square.  Denver’s gay community isn’t lacking in places to meet up for cocktails and gossip, however outside of Tracks or Compound a decent DJ and dance floor is hard to find.  We’ll see if Below can fill that void.

The only negative is the parking, which by night doesn’t exist save for $20 a night lots.  However it’s summer – so I recommend finding a local B-Cycle station and ride there.

Check out Kathleen St. John’s Denver Post review for even more details…

Speaking of gossip:  United 811 occurred 15 years before this episode was made.   I have a really good hunch on what the two extremely attractive male and female flight attendants @:52 spent their settlement money on.  How about that pilot though – he’s like the Sully of 1988…

Da Vinci Designs . Denver

Last month upon exiting Cherry Creek Mall I saw a couple parking their tandem bike.   I complimented them on their ride after noticing that it wasn’t just any run of the mill tandem, but an extremely high end machine outfitted to the nines with accessories and custom gear.

This couple was visiting from Western Australia, and had traveled all the way to Denver to buy a bike from Da Vinci Designs, a local manufacturer of high end touring bikes.  This was the first I’ve heard of this local Denver company, and I was very impressed when seeing their work up close.  They showed me the hand made and welded seams, and while not a cycling engineer I could tell it was top notch work.

They were a pleasure to chat with – and told me after getting used to their bike and breaking it in they were off to tour the Czech Republic and central Europe.  Needless to say I was excited to hear about their adventure. They assured me they had not one but two extremely durable locks as well.

Meanwhile they were excited to learn there was a Target just blocks away. They also were wanting to find a pair of Crocs during their Denver stay, (I didn’t voice my opinion,) so I steered them towards the abandoned Crocs store at the airport.

I wished them a wonderful trip and I hope they’re having a fun and safe adventure.

Da Vinci Designs
2145 South Platte River Dr
davincitandems.com



Tea at Daz Bog

I have been critical of my neighborhood Daz Bog in the past when they took over another chain and ditched the good sandwiches. However past is past, and over the weekend I was pleasantly surprised at their tea servings and selections.

The “tea selection” at many coffee shops is often a few scant boxes of assorted Lipton’s bags. It’s nothing special and you don’t get the fun of a sugary mocha-frappa whatever or an exotic dark drip coffee. But Daz Bog has invested in some fresh flavors, (four types of black teas and a delicious peppermint among many others,) and on the counter proudly sits little containers to sample the aromas. Fresh tea is steeped and you get a tiny little red pot to keep at your table- keeping it hot during a long sit.

Color me impressed. This is a novel way to serve tea at a coffee shop, and the selection is a big improvement.

Denver B-Cycle

Denver has a new bike sharing program. It’s called B-Cycle, and launched April 22nd.  I’ve been noticing these red and white stations all over town, and this morning visited one up close at the University of Denver Light Rail station.

I’m extremely impressed with the number of locations. When I thought of a bike sharing program I imagined a few simple racks at tourists points or busy commuter hubs. There are over 25 stations, in all parts of downtown, and also stations in Cherry Creek, Washington Park and as far south as the Tech Center. This many stations makes it usable on a regular basis rather than one time novelty.

I’m also impressed with the utility capacity of the bikes.  A commuter bike is best when you can actually use it to accomplish errands and tasks, hence onboard storage is a must. All B-Cycle bikes are equipped with locks and baskets, so you can park your bike and do stuff, rather than just circling around City Park dodging geese.   And since I didn’t see a sign forbidding it I assume it’s ok to put your chihuahua or other small dog in the basket.

I haven’t ridden one, but they feel sturdy, solid, are have lights and an adjustable seat.

Another plus:  You can rent and return at different stations. The system is far more intelligent and complex than I expected any bike sharing program to be.  You can see online in real time which stations have bikes available, and which can accept returns.  If your destination rack is full the kiosk will direct you to the nearest open station and give you “free time” to cover transit. Another technological integration: Each bike is equipped with GPS and RFID – and as a member your trips, mileage and logged to your account.

The only negative?  I see it as cost prohibitive for some.  In order to compensate for all the great things listed above they seem pricy. The $5 “one day membership” fee could be ditched. It’s akin to an airport WiFi “one time charge,” in that you’re being forced to purchase a membership for something you may use only once.

The pricing structure encourages people to use the bikes for point A to B transit, then park them back at a station.  With a membership 60 minutes of use is only $1.10, an excellent rate,  but conversly keeping a bike for a full day will cost $65. It would be nice to have a reasonable day rate, but I can understand the need to keep bikes available for all and not locked up at coffee shops unused for hours.

If you and your sweetheart visit Denver for the weekend and want to see sights by bike, (rather than renting a car or using transit,) it will cost you $5 per day for the membership, and two hours per day would be $6.60.  That rate times two days and two people that would be $46.  Judge for yourself.

If I were visiting town I wouldn’t hesitate to take one out for a few hours.  And if I didn’t own a bike, (or car,) I could see myself picking one at times for errands

It appears that Denver is the inaugural city for B-Cycle, as I don’t see any others listed under “other cities.” I think it’s a great program, I’m proud to see it and I hope for its long term success.

Check them out and take a ride a http://www.bcycle.com/ The slick video demo is well done and informative, but one nit-picky observation: As a bike commuter of seven years I recommend keeping your white dress pants AT work and ride around with dark pants. Trust me.


Bd’s Mongolian Grill . Denver

I received a complimentary dinner invite from the Mongolian Grill crew, who are smartly integrating social media to promote new menu items while offering a free appetizer on various blogs. (I included their offer in this post.)

Mongolian Grill was new to me. I’ve never heard of the place, not even in passing, so I took them up on the offer and invited my coworker downtown for lunch last week.

Although I live close I don’t visit Lower Downtown frequently, except for a few select spots that I enjoy: Club Beta, The Buenos Aires Pizzeria and a few dives north of 22nd. Most likely why Bd’s has never caught my attention.

Based on a quick scan of reviews I expected Bd’s Mongolian Grill to be an upscale quick serve place – modeling a Q’doba or Noodles. But it was much larger, with host provided seating rather than the 10 deep wraparound line. We told the two girls manning the podium we were going to have a drink and take our lunch back to the office, but they exchanged a weird look before realizing we were newbies. They explained the main dishes are raw, and the process requires that we select the meats ourselves and deliver it to the master chefs, who then grill it up on an enormous circular skillet. We wisely decided to take a table and stay.

We settled in and perused the bar full of raw chicken, beef, duck and pork. While I was impressed by the variety of meats there were plenty of vegetarian choices, including a very large salad bar opposite the meat station. You’d think buckets of raw meat would cause worry of contamination, (mostly by germaphobic parents,) but however they rotate it to keep it fresh worked. The common area was spotless and appeared far more inviting than my local Soup “R” Salad. (At least the one on Yale where the old guy drove his car through the window.)

To help those overwhelmed by the options some menu cards are available up on the wall. You grab one, assemble your various meats, veggies and spices per the card for a variety of different dishes. I didn’t notice these until later. I was excited over something new, plus was very hungry, so ended up overloading my plate with random meats, (I like duck) and vegetables, before adding noodles – half of which slithered off my bowl like a nest of garden snakes uncovered by a rock. I didn’t forget to include the chopped garlic in oil — for me a must.


Above: Celebrity sighting — the Smoke Monster from Lost.

We moved down to the highlight of Mongolian Grill: The stir-fry area where you hang out with other patrons watching your food get diced, tossed and stir fried by the cooks using ultra long skewers. This makes for a fun social atmosphere as you and strangers form a tiny little ampitheater while pointing and admiring their stir-fry craftsmanship. This part is interesting — and it’s not just a guy with tongs listlessly poking at some carrots, rather it’s an intense exercise among three talented chefs. If you want to see them in action check out this video from their site.

I ended up with much more food than I expected. Waiters make rounds for drinks, and also bring out rice and beans. We also ordered the wontons, but ended up bringing them back to the office.

I would go back, and not just because it was a complimentary meal. If you check my other post two regular readers gave it good marks as well. Upon return I’ll also craft a better constructed meal, which would be better than my mess of flavors pictured above.

I would also highly recommend them for a first date. See, like Rodizio Grill it’s semi themed dining where you’re figuring stuff out and doing things together. (Like pottery class but without the phalic shaped vases.) The events and action stimulates coversation. Then back at the table there’s no awkward silence because you now have a shared history and say “Wow that was amazing how he mixed in those spices.” A little less stiff than a fine restaurant’s small table under soft music.

They’re at 1620 Wazee in Denver. More info and other locations at gomongo.com It’s on the same block as the Wazee Supper Club, so you might be torn – but it’s a place in LoDo I really enjoyed.

And to wrap up a nice lunch we got back to the car with exactly one minute remaining.


Breaking Bad Tour

My favorite show, (second to Dexter,) is on tour in Boulder today and Denver this weekend.

It’s hard to believe a show this well done is actually on standard cable, (AMC.) I’ve been anxiously awaiting the third season, and the only people I’ve met that DON’T like this show are people who work with the type of characters it features – citing the realism being far too accurate.

Here are the details. and more info from their Facebook page.

I don’t know what goes on at the tour, and I don’t think Bryan Cranston, (the show’s star,) will be there, but if I ever had a reason to go to a boat and RV show this would certainly be it.

Here’s an excerpt from my original article after I started watching the first season:

I downloaded the first few episodes and was captivated at the story. Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston, (who played the dad on Malcolm in the Middle,) is a high school science teacher whose better career days are behind him. Recently diagnosed with lung cancer he worries how he’ll support his wife, son, and new baby on the way. His bombastic and good natured brother in law is a DEA agent, and while on a ride along he meets a former student during a meth house bust. Jesse Pinkman, the student, gives Walt a primer on the street value of methamphetamine, and with Walt’s superb chemistry skills the two start cooking the highest quality product in Albuquerque – creating demand, enormous profit, and enormous problems for the two.

Walt transitions between his family life and his dealing with his illness – (doctors and health plans,) and the world of drugs, their users, and their consequences. The drug world is far from glamorized. Many wouldn’t care to watch a show about the dark world of meth, however the real story is about Walt’s decisions and his family, and his awakening due to cancer.

Filmed on location in New Mexico the outside imagery is harsh and blinding like the desert sun. Conversely, the interior shots are extreme too: Walt’s 70s style house is dark and shabby – a reflection of his internal feelings. Police offices and doctors facilities are cold and sterile. In the entire first season there’s only one scenario which I found too over the top, however the rest of the show is nailbiting, and Walt is a fascinating anti-hero in his quest to provide for his family.

Related: Breaking Bad

Bd’s Mongolian Grill

I know absolutely nothing about Bd’s Mongolian Grill.  I was sent a nice email from the folks who handle their marketing offering a complimentary dinner.

(I read something about blogger disclosure rules on one of my Mommy Blogs so I guess I should mention that.)*

I haven’t had a chance to visit yet, but they’re also sharing free appetizers with local bloggers and their readers promoting their “Bourbon Bash” going on through March.  I thought I’d post this in advance of a review.  

You can open or download and print the PDF here. They’re at 1620 Wazee Street, downtown Denver.

I’ll post a review upon my visit. Having never visited Bd’s Mongolian I have no opinion, but maybe I can find a Mongolian friend en route to my visit so they can tell me if these stir fry bowls created over big stainless steel stoves really do represent true Mongolian cooking. 

More at gomongo.com

*Speaking of disclosures: Should Copa Airlines and the Banana Azul Hotel of Costa Rica want to work some sort of trip package let’s get started disclosing already.   I’m ready when you are.

Some Denver Food Blogs

Dean has been writing Denver Dives for a some time now and has amassed a nice collection of local establishments that are my kinds of places.

We both love The Breakfast King on Santa Fe, and also Crown Burgers on South Colorado.  His very comprehensive write up will have you in the car en route for a pastrami burger before you can finish reading. He also incorporated a Google Map, so if you’re passing through town you can easily find a great stopoff that us locals recommend.

Meanwhile Dean recommends “The Denver Dish,” and as always I continue to read   “Denver Eater,” Culinary Colorado,” Westword’s “Cafe Society,” and from a cooking angle I appreciate “Ginger Beat,” with Beatrice’s excellent vegetarian offers.

If you haven’t already done so you’d be well served to visit them all for some great dining ideas.