Hello friends. My name is Damian Burford. Not only am I a writer for New Noise Magazine, I’m also the host of Mostly Harmless with Dammit Damian (mostlyharmlesspodcast.com), a punk rock podcast based out of Denver, Colorado.
I’ve been banging my head against the wall trying to figure out how to write this Denver Guide to Riot Fest (riotfest.org). You see, I’m a poser. I’ve only lived in Denver for the last year, granted I’ve lived and worked in the Colorado music scene for the last twelve years, but I’ve only been a Denver resident for the last twelve months. What the hell do I know about the “best of Denver?” So for the last few weeks I’ve been drinking way too much whiskey while trying to create an Buzzfeed-esque article about Denver, but I just couldn’t do it. I’m not that guy.
I’m a tourist just like you. I’m still learning the city. I’m still listening to her breathing and figuring out how she works. I’m still trying to find her hot and cold spots. I can’t tell you the best places to go, but I can show you my favorite places and the places I feel at home. This isn’t a complete guide, but it’s my guide. If you came to Denver to visit me, these are the places on our map to adventure. Are you ready? Are you willing? Will you go on this adventure with me?
Let’s talk transportation. Denver doesn’t have the public transit systems of bigger cities such as Chicago or New York, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t trying to catch up.
Now that Riot Fest has moved from May Farms in the small farming town of Byers, Colorado to Mile High Stadium, getting to the festival has never been easier. Riot Fest is taking place in what is essentially the heart of Denver itself, at the chapel of all that is holy in Denver. Riot Fest is taking place at the feet of John Elway and Peyton Manning at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium, home of the Denver Broncos and at least ten years of Warped Tours. Hell, Phish played a three night stand at Mile High just a few weeks ago. If Mile High is good enough for Phish, it’s good enough for Slayer, right?
[Correction: Phish played Dicks’ Sporting Goods, not Sports Authority at Mile High.]
With Mile High being at the center of all that is life in Denver (during football season that is…) Our modest Light Rail system has three different lines that feed directly into The Sports Authority At Mile High Station. You can take either the C,D, or E trains right into the station and it is just a short 8-10 minute walk into the Riot Fest action. It’s only $2.25 each way on the public transit system, not to mention many of the Denver Light Rail stations have free parking! Can’t get directly to the light rail station? Don’t worry, Google has figured it out. Simply load up Google Maps on your desktop or Cellphone Telephone and it will give you detailed directions and instructions on how you can reach your end destination.
Are you too good for the fairly cheap public transit Denver has to offer? Get around the city of Denver for ultra cheap without the hassle. You could always take a cab, or you could bet on black with an Uber, or even take a mustache ride with a Lyft. The competing companies are going to be out in full force trying to win your business, and why should you not profit from their competition? Right now sign up for Uber at https://www.uber.com/invite/uberNewNoise and get a $30 ride credit! Lyft have yet to announce their competing fare, but it will more than likely be comparable.
I’m a big guy. I weight in at 230 pounds. I came in second place in a burrito eating contest by a split second. What I’m trying to say is, I like to eat. In these next few options, I’ll show you my favorite Denver spots to eat. These aren’t the places you’ll find a $20 burger. Instead these are budgetary options for you to find some killer food and maybe a little fun on the side.
#1 Illegal Pete’s!
1530 16th St, Denver, CO & 270 South Broadway, Denver, CO
Business Hours: Mon-Wed: 7:00am-12:00am; Thu-Fri: 7:00am-2:30am; Sat: 9:00a-2:30am; Sun: 9:00a-12:00am
Burritos, buddies and beer. Can you get any better than that? Illegal Pete’s is hands down my favorite eatery in Denver. Great, mission style burritos, tacos and fast casual options. They have a great staff of some of my favorite people in Denver, not to mention they support the local arts and entertainment scene through their local sponsorships and record label, The Greater Than Collective.
Their 16th Street location is in the heart of Downtown Denver, and just blocks away from the Festival and the official after parties! Their South Broadway location has a gigantic patio and a bar with a heavy focus on local craft breweries. Illegal Pete’s feeds bands for free through their Starving Artist Program (http://illegalpetes.com/music/starving-artists) so you never know who you’ll run into at any of their six locations and you can bet it will be a hot spot of activity for before and after Riot Fest activities as they are reasonably priced, well portioned and open late.
Before moving to Denver I would have an addicts like obsession with Illegal Pete’s and their incredible beer battered, Big Fish Burrito. Not to mention unlike other Fast casual burrito joints, Illegal Pete’s actually STIR their burritos (watch below) ensuring that you get full portions in every bite! Imagine the ingenuity that went into that incredible idea!
Illegal Pete’s isn’t just my dinner destination, as they have some of the best breakfast burritos in town, and at $3.95, their breakfast burritos are the way to go. Pair that with one of the many local beers they have on tap and you’re good to go for a whole day of Riot Festing.
While you’re at it, how about a FREE beer? With Illegal Pete’s #Soundcheck promotion, bring in your same day concert ticket and you’ll get a free beer with the purchase of an entree!
Check out their appearance on The Food Network’s Food Paradise last month: http://www.travelchannel.com/video/wanted-illegal-petes-burrito.
#2 Pie Hole
44 S Broadway Denver, CO
Sunday-Thurs 11am – 2am; Friday & Saturday 11am – 3am
This choice could just as easily been PIZZA, as Denver is teeming with amazing pizza joints! Choosing one pizza place above all the rest is a challenge, but what sets Pie Hole apart from all the other pizza options? They have an initiative menu with many of their pizza by the slice options already ready. Not to mention cheap prices ($2.08 – $2.78 a slice) and most importantly Pie Hole serves $1 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon. It’s the perfect budgetary choice for the late night consumer. Not to mention Pie Hole offers vegan options as well! Pie Hole is four miles from Mile High Stadium and only blocks away from the Alameda light rail station. It is nestled in the South Broadway/ Baker Neighborhood, surrounded by many of our favorite local dive-y music venues.
Honorable mentions: Sexy Pizza, Marquis Pizza, Fat Sully’s & Benny Blancos.
3 South Broadway Denver, CO 80209
Monday – Friday: 10:30am – 2am Saturday & Sunday:10am – 2am
Sputnik is a classic, hip restaurant for those with a craving for excellence. Their Mac and Cheese is some of the best Macaroni and Cheese I have ever tasted. They have a host of vegan and vegetarian options, not to mention when you’re hungover they can craft you one of the finest Bloody Mary’s in town. This can be a great meet up spot for your Tinder date (don’t forget to take a photo in their classic style photo booth). Sputnik is in the heart of the South Broadway night life, and right next door to one of Denver’s best music venues, The Hi-Dive.
#4 Voodoo Doughnuts
1520 E Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80218
Open 24 hours!
You’ve heard all about their delicious donuts on one of the many cable programs they have been featured on. You’ve seen your friend’s instagraming their favorite cereal doughnut creation, now it’s time to jump in the long line and experience Voodoo Doughnuts for yourself. The first of Voodoo Doughnuts outside of the Pacific Northwest, Voodoo chose Denver to capitalize on our laxed marijuana laws and provide tasty treats to the masses. Yes the line to get in is long, but the line is half the fun. It’s all part of the experience!
#5 Denver Biscuit Company
3237 E. Colfax Denver, CO 80206 & 141 S. Broadway Denver, CO 80209
Monday – Friday 8am – 2pm & Saturday – Sunday 8am – 3pm
Biscuits the size of your head, buttermilk fried chicken and covered in either sausage or vegetarian gravy. Do I really need to say more? Unlimited refills of coffee and tasty Bloody Mary’s to boot. You can’t go wrong, and boy do these guys get it right. They have been featured a number of times all over The Food Network, and one look at their tasty treats and you can see why. Come hungry, leave content, but plan to get here early. Their Colfax location is more spacious than their Broadway location, but both fill up quick with people looking to dig into DBC’s wares.
Honorable mentions: City O’ City, Steuben’s, Europa Cafe, Cherry Cricket,
Sweet Action Ice Cream
52 Broadway Denver, Colorado 80203
Sunday–Thursday 1pm – 10pm; Friday & Saturday 1pm – 11pm
Looking for that cool treat after a day in the sun at Riot Fest? In the heart of the South Broadway/ Baker neighborhood, you’ll find Sweet Action Ice Cream, the place USA Today called: “The best ice cream shop in Colorado.” Here you’ll find fantastic concoctions such as Stranahan’s Whiskey Brickle, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Trail Mix, Blueberry Pie, and oh so many delicious creations. The menu changes daily and changes with the mood of the day. Why wait till after Riot Fest? Start your day off right with one of their many flavors! Prepare to be floored. And don’t worry, they have tasty Vegan and other dairy free options as well!
Drink, Drank, Drunk.
Comedian Marc Maron claims Denver is the drunkest city in the world, and he just might be right. With a brewery or bar on just about every damned corner, we like our alcohol almost as much as we like our 300 days of sunshine. In this part of our journey, we’re going to take a look at our favorite drinking holes to find adventure and trouble.
#1 3 Kings Tavern
60 S Broadway, Denver, Colorado 80209
Mon – Fri: 2 pm – 2am; Sat – Sun: 12pm – 2am
You never know what kind of adventure you’ll have at 3 Kings Tavern. It’s the ultimate in punk rock dive bars. It’s a gigantic dark room, that has been a host to many up and coming bands, secret shows and all around good times. Last year after Riot Fest a friend of mine went to 3 Kings looking for more of the usual, and my friend ended up getting picked up and taken home by a dominatrix. So the adventure is never lacking on a weekend at 3 Kings. You might not get picked up, taken into a dungeon, tied up, whipped and then thrown out onto the cold streets at 3am, but I can bet you can find your own adventures at 3 Kings. Did I mention killer drink deals, great bands and great people? Not just debatchery here folks. If you are still in town come Monday night make sure to check out their weekly burlesque show, Panties On The Bar! Fun is always had by all at 3 Kings.
#2 Scruffy Murphy’s
2030 Larimer St Denver, Colorado 80205
Mon – Fri: 4pm – 2am; Sat – Sun: 11am – 2am
Scruffy Murphy’s is an Irish Pub with a punk rock feel. Fans of Dropkick Murphy’s and Flogging Molly will feel at home at Scruffy’s. You’re always sure to find great friends and great specials as this is usually the go-to place before seeing a punk rock concert in the Lower Downtown, or LODO, area of Denver. If you are in town early on September 18th, make sure to take advantage of their Thursday $0.50 Cent PBR special! Arliss Nancy & The Larimers will be playing a free booze infused show that evening for those who like their punk rock with a taste of Bruce Springsteen. Scruffy Murphy’s is directly across the street from the official Riot Fest After Party hotspot, The Marquis Theater, and is just blocks away from The Summit Music Hall. It’s the perfect after hours spot and a welcome place for the counter culture in a sea of “bro-bars” and flat brimmed baseball caps.
#3 Monkey Barrell
1611 Platte St, Denver, Colorado 80202
Mon – Fri: 2pm – 2am; Sat – Sun: 11am – 2am
Monkey Barrell are a relatively new entry to the world of Denver drinking institutions. They are blocks away from all the Riot Fest action and are offereing some incredible deals. They cater to those of the Generation X / Punk Rock variety Every weekend they host live music and have a gigantic smoking patio. Not to mention over 20 local Colorado craft beers are on tap and a slew of old school video gaming devices! Where else can you see a killer band, play Mario Kart and drink a delicious Left Hand Milk Stout? Even better, owner Jimmy Nigg let us know that “Every attendee of Riot Fest will receive a 20% discount on their entire tab with proof of ticket stub!”
#4 TRVE Brewing
227 Broadway #101, Denver, CO 80203
Monday: Closed; Tuesday – Thursday: 4pm – 11pm; Friday – Saturday: 2pm – 12am; Sunday: 2pm – 10pm
You won’t find any vanilla vodka bombs here, nor will you find any liquor at all. What you will find is some of the finest craft beers in all of Colorado. TRVE Brewing is Denver’s premier heavy metal brewing. Don’t like metal? Don’t worry, you’ll fit in just fine! People from all walks of life are welcome here, you just have to have an appetite for fine beers. With eight handcrafted beers on tap, there is something for everyone. Cool atmosphere, great people, better beers. Be warned, TRVE opens late and closes early! TRVE is the only brewery that’s making this list. I could do ten pages on breweries alone, but we’re going to spotlight just this one right now. (Other breweries to check out: Strange Craft, Denver Beer Company, Black Sky & Epic)
#5 BarBar aka Carioca Cafe
2060 Champa St, Denver, Colorado
Seven Days a Week 7am – 2am
A friend of mine described BarBar as a Crust Punk Bar/Coffee Shop and Book shop. That about covers it right? They only take cash. Their bathrooms smell of urine. They have live bands. Their beer is cheap and overflows from the pitchers. It’s close to the Mile High playground of Riot Fest. This isn’t nessacarily the hip or cool place to hang out, but it’s a fucked up, fun atmosphere and to be honest, I’ve never remembered leaving BarBar. It’s a dank dark hole of awesomeness.
Honorable mentions: Hi-Dive, Lion’s Lair, Interstate, Meadowlark, Sidewinder Tavern