By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
part 1 of 3
Best Ladies' Room in a Mall
Cherry Creek Mall
These aren't stalls, gals, they're suites. You get your own toilet, sink and mirror--all spotlessly clean and luxuriously private. If you can't bear facing another sale, you could lounge in here all day.
Best Men's Room
Denver ChopHouse & Brewery
1735 19th St.
Oh, what a relief it is! In this railroad-themed eatery (conveniently located in the old Union Pacific "head" house, Navy fans), gentlemen can do their business in a facility flush with 1930s-style panache. On the way in and out, revel at the train-related artwork on the walls. The only thing better would be taking your constitutional at speed aboard the UP's old City of Denver.
Best Public Restrooms
They built the ballpark with extra toilets for women, and they put in those nifty space-age faucets that turn on automatically (much to the delight of the kids, who may find them more entertaining than the game). Best of all, they pipe in the KOA radio broadcast of the game so you won't get caught with your pants down.
Best Art Deco Bathroom
1730 Wazee St.
A stunning black, white and chrome loo. Hand-painted pictures of a blimp and soaring industrial buildings, right there on the wall. Void in style.
8585 S. Yosemite St., Littleton
Dollars and sensory overload! The Tandy Corporation's new mega-bombastic superstore--a monster the size of two football fields--sells kitchen appliances, home electronics, CDs, computers and software, but it does so with a concept: Each department at Incredible Universe features a "scene" peopled by actor-employees who demonstrate merchandise and encourage everyone to try it out. Shoppers can veg out in the home-video theater, feed the family burgers from the in-store McDonald's or test their vocal mettle in the karaoke booth--while the kids are entertained in a supervised children's area.
Readers' choice: Kmart
Best Shop Till You Drop Trip
MLT Shopping Tours
Gamblers head to Las Vegas. Folks with a shopping jones go to the Mall of America in Minneapolis. For roughly $200, MLT will book you a round-trip flight and put you up in a mall-area hotel for two nights. From there, hop aboard the shuttle to the 400-store shrine, where the slogan is "There's a place for fun in your life." When you tire of shopping or max out your credit cards (whichever comes first), entertain yourself at the mall's miniature golf course or in its many restaurants, nightclubs and bars. New for '96: a walk-through aquarium known as Underwater World. Book MLT through your travel agent.
Intimidated by the prices and la-de-da salesmen inside, we usually get no further than pressing our noses against Brooks Brothers' window. But this outlet store makes it possible to quench your GQ taste on a Budweiser budget. Everything is decently priced--suits, jackets, rep ties, Egyptian cotton shirts. Our favorite was the table of discounted slacks, where we snapped up a $99 pair of wool pants for $30.
Denver International Airport
Pena's Folly has got your typical fast-food restaurants and newsstands--plus art galleries, clothing boutiques and luggage stores. There's a specialty shop devoted to men's ties and another featuring children's clothing. There's a Body Shop and a Nature Company store for the Good Earth types on your gift list. Or pick up a Susan Vale sweater for those who fancy themselves royalty (soon-to-be-ex Princess Diana has at least one of Vale's handknit numbers in her collection). With 55 shops to choose from, DIA is about half the size of Cherry Creek. But Cherry Creek doesn't have those cool underground trains.
Readers' choice: Cherry Creek
Best Shop at DIA
Auntie Anne's Soft Pretzels
Who knows better than a flight attendant where to find the real deals? You'll see bunches of airline employees at DIA waiting in line--not for their luggage, but for the food at Auntie Anne's. In a stew of Quarter Pounders and yogurt, Auntie Anne's pretzels are the real winners. Staffers at this mom-and-pop stand knead and roll the dough right in front of you and then pop the pretzels in the oven; they're handed to you all warm and chewy. One flight attendant says the pretzels (plain, salted, sugar-and-cinnamon or hot-hot-jalapeno) are so popular because they're "filling, cheap and low-fat"--more important, they're also yummy. We get tied up in knots just thinking about them.
Readers' choice: Body Shop
Best Way to Get to DIA
We've heard them all: It's too far away, the parking lots aren't properly marked, spacious Pena Boulevard is just specious, and once you get there, the underground trains are so crowded that the trip to your concourse can be a tooth-gnashing experience. And do you trust that baggage system yet? On the other hand, those big ol' jet planes are gracefully landing like clockwork, up to three at a time, on DIA's efficient runways.
Readers' choice: Drive
Best Way to Get to DIA (by Land)
The Airporter Commuter
The Airporter Commuter vans come to your house, load up your bags and drop you off at your airline's baggage check. Up to that point, you don't have to shlep a thing. And since the drivers get paid to get you there on time, they tend to be more reliable than Aunt Mildred. The service isn't cheap--fares run from $20 per person to and from locations east of I-25 and up to $40 for locations west of I-25. But it's worth its weight in stress-management techniques.
Best Cheap Way to Get to DIA
SkyRide serves areas as distant from DIA as Boulder and Highlands Ranch, and it's proven so successful that RTD just added a route to the northern suburbs. Fares ranging from $4 to $8 seem utterly affordable when you consider some of the alternatives. The only thing cheaper is your thumb. Which you can twiddle en route.
Readers' choice: RTD's skyRide
Best DIA Service
If flying makes you tense, make a stop before and after at DIA Chiropractic. Located on the United concourse at DIA, the office offers full body massages, foot massages, neck and shoulder rubs and reflexology sessions. You can indulge even if pressed for time--prices start at $1 a minute. Flaps up!
Readers' choice: Free underground trains to concourses
Best Place to Get Stuck
Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine
1441 York St.
You can get help with those mystery aches and pains at a discount by booking time with a CSTCM student acupuncturist for only $20 a visit. Or those with more serious ailments can opt for a session with a bona fide Chinese doctor well-versed in the dispensation of medicinal herbs (available in the school's pharmacy)--$55 for the first prick, $40 for return appointments. Even if you're not fully sold on the ancient procedure, the school's a fine place to take a quick nap--if you don't mind doing it with a bunch of therapeutic pins sticking out of your body.
Best Body Piercing
Bound by Design
1336 E. Colfax Ave.
The two Bound by Designs are the only piercing parlors in this part of the country owned and run by a graduate of Fakir Musafar's Pro Body Piercing Classes--the finishing school, we're told, for those who truly want to be professionals in the art of "body modification." Creative body piercing and artful tattoos are done in a sterile atmosphere by expert technicians, and the body jewelry in stock ranges from delicate to industrial. Little dogies can pick up comprehensive information on--we fib you not--branding and scarification. And, of course, there's the ever-fashionable genital piercing. Yes, dear, a rivet runs through it.
Best Place to Harness Your Desires
131 & 139 Broadway
Just as bodies come in all different shapes, styles and sizes, so should body harnesses. The Crypt understands that and makes sure customers find an assortment of harnesses to fit any fantasy, whether it's leather, leather and chains or just chains. Also on hand are leather vests, restraints, body jewelry, clamps and industrial-strength vibrators. If you're indecisive, take in a show at the adjoining adult theater and ponder your choices.
Best Adult Book and Video Store
Adult Book & Video
4810 Pontiac St.
This diversely stocked adult emporium, complete with a Triple-X neon sign, is open 24 hours a day and is conveniently located behind the Sapp Brothers Truck Stop. Adult Book & Video has a massive selection of videos for sale or rent, and those on the go (or those who just can't wait) can even rent space in an on-site viewing room. The extensive quarter arcade offers a wide choice of shorts to satisfy even the most eclectic tastes; the gift shop carries a bountiful assortment of gay and straight novelties and periodicals; and the gregarious staff is adept at putting hesitant customers at ease.
Best Video Store
The Video Station
1661 28th St., Boulder
No other Denver-area outlet can match the 30,000-title inventory offered by movie-buff owners Scott Woodland and Ivory Curtis--including all the available work of directors like Pasolini, Truffaut, Godard, Tavernier, Kieslowski and Wertmuller; plenty of experimenters like Stan Brakhage, Kenneth Anger and Bruce Connor; pioneering silent shorts by the likes of Georges Melies; and a broad library of obscure foreign and cult films. For example, the Video Station had Ed Wood, in toto, long before Ed Wood was cool. Don't miss Classic Tuesday, when any U.S. movie made before 1960 rents for just 99 cents.
Best New Bookstore
Tattered Cover LoDo
1628 16th St.
There are so many things to like about the new Tattered Cover--the cozy coffee nook replete with magazines, the bold, burgeoning LoDo location and the well-rounded selection of books, a perfectly condensed version of the more vastly stocked mothership in Cherry Creek. If they don't have the book you're looking for, they can usually get it swiftly. But the nicest surprise here is the neighborly ambience, a wood-floored warmth reminiscent--for those of you who've been around here long enough to reminisce--of the original Tattered Cover of many years and locations ago.
Best Used Books
2070 S. University Blvd.
If you build shelves, they will come--the books, that is, followed by the bookworms. Books Unlimited never seems to run out of room, and the staffers treat their hardbacks with loving care. A never-ending discount helps take the sting out of shopping, too. The cheapest and widest selection in town.
Readers' choice: Ichabod's
Best Title Insurance
Castle Rock Factory Shops
The Book Warehouse, a highlight of the Castle Rock factory outlet shops, specializes in remainders--tomes distributors are trying to unload at discounted prices. But in addition to overhyped flops and bestsellers past their prime, Book Warehouse has a staggering supply of paperback classics, children's books and oddball narratives you'll have a hard time believing were published in the first place. Obscure sci-fi titles. Biographies of people known by few people outside their immediate families. Quasi-religious texts by Charles Colson and the like. As eccentric a collection as you're likely to find in these parts--and the stock turns over so quickly you'll find yourself returning to peruse the latest nutty opus on the shelves.
Best Budget Comic-Book Store
AAA Bear Valley Sports Cards
3100 S. Sheridan Blvd.
Given its name, you can understand why only the clued-in know AAA Bear Valley Sports Cards is a comic-book haven. The store has an impressive number of new, classic and collectible comics, as well as attendant merchandise such as bubble-gum cards featuring the likenesses of Wolverine and Spiderman (as opposed to Dante Bichette and Bobby Bonilla). The real attraction, though, is the vast budget section--rack after rack of name comics on sale for 50 cents or a quarter. At Triple A, two bits can go a long way.
Best Neighborhood Library
Virginia Village Branch Library
1500 S. Dahlia St.
Customer service is the ticket at Virginia Village, a branch library that cheerfully took up the slack while the central library was closed for construction. Last year VV processed the greatest volume of requests and checkouts of any Denver library. No task is too esoteric for the crew here, who will gladly dig up strange information at your behest or do what they can to interest your little ones in the magic of books. Maybe that's because they're so happy to be in a big, new, functional building after years in a cramped storefront. The series of peaks in the new building's design, by the way, are a gentle reminder of the greenhouses that sat on the library lot back in the old days. Old and new, young and old--they all mingle here.
Best Reader's Representative
Koelbel Public Library, Arapahoe Library District
5955 S. Holly St., Littleton
Lynn Dyba knows how to read between the lines. The head of Koelbel Public Library's reader's advisory department--the only such department in the state--she and her colleagues help readers pick out just the right books. For example, all the John Grisham volumes might be gone, but it's no mystery what to read instead: Dyba simply suggests a book from her "What to Read While Waiting for Grisham" list. When she's not advising customers on their own particular quests, Dyba's supervising Koelbel's two critique groups: one for general fiction and one the Romance Book Club that she set up after she noticed how much female patrons loved the books.
Best Bookstore for Japanophiles
America's Japan craze--which began in the Seventies with the simultaneous national discovery of sushi and Akira Kurosawa flicks--may have been tempered by time and camera-toting tourist gaggles. But the Far Eastern mystery never really diminishes. At Kobun-Sha, you'll be drawn in and drugged by the shop's library of books on all things Japanese. And we do mean all things--cooking, folk tales, poetry, baseball, martial arts, philosophy, shiatsu, language, printmaking, crafts and--whew!--anything else we forgot to mention. How about a rice-paper lamp to light up your book of choice?
Best Way to Hold a Book
CARL reserve service Denver Public Library
The computerized card catalogue called CARL (for Colorado Association of Research Libraries) has been around for years. But now it has a new twist: Instead of just using the computer to browse through what's available at the dozens of member libraries, you can actually reserve books yourself, either on the library's computer or on your own, just by using your library-card number. Think of it as a book lover's ATM.
Best Jams on the Internet
Locals' Music, a bold experiment by entrepreneur John Carter that carved out a niche for recordings made by area artists, collapsed earlier this year. But Jukenet, a computer service that Carter inaugurated in conjunction with Locals', is still up and running. The idea is to provide Colorado musicians access to the rest of the world via the Internet, and so far, it's working. With Carter acting as a band's guide, new fans can be a mouse and a modem away.
Best Place to Buy Dated Material Out-of-Date
200 E. 13th Ave.
Want to study the mistakes of history? You can find them all here, along with the success stories and the cartoons, too. Magazine City is filled to the rafters with old magazines and newspapers--from upscale art and architecture periodicals to the sleaziest detective pulp. And you can get current--this great shop also serves as one of the best newsstands in the city.
Best CD Selection (New)
638 E. 13th Ave.
Wax Trax is the Tattered Cover of Denver's album world--the store against which all other stores are measured. And once again, the competition doesn't quite measure up. That's because Wax Trax continues to carry the deepest, most eclectic collection of imports, indie discs and hard-to-find oddities in the area. And with the passing of Locals' Music, it's the once-and-future headquarters of discs and tapes produced by Colorado talent. Add in the used records (stacks of actual wax) and the video and jazz branches, and you've got a treasure trove. So dive into it.
Best CD Selection (Used)
Albums on the Hill
1128 13th St., Boulder
The Denverites among us tend to forget that there are great used-music bargains a few miles up Highway 36. Albums on the Hill is a subterranean surprise, filled with bin after bin of used discs--and because CU students use it as a favorite place to raise some ready cash, it's almost always stocked with fresh material. The store is well-known for in-store appearances by touring artists, and it's also the official headquarters for anything having to do with former Replacement Chris Mars, whose artwork graces the place. Stop in again for the first time.
Best Place to Sell Used CDs
666 Logan St.
Unlike other difficult (read: attitudinal) buy-sell-trade stores, Bakeman's will buy a wide variety of CDs, as long as they're in good condition; trading is an even better deal. Bakeman's above-average selection of national, local and used CDs will keep you and your ears happy.
Best Record Store in a Bookstore
Barnes & Noble Bookstore
960 S. Colorado Blvd., Glendale
The last thing you expect to find in any of today's huge bookstores is a record store. But sure enough, Barnes & Noble not only sells CDs, it stocks a decent range of titles in the major musical categories as well. You won't find the same kinds of deals here that you'll find in B&N's cut-rate stacks of book remainders, but you will find a fascinating example of customer service: a touch-activated computer that you can use to call up lists of recordings by just about any artist or composer whose name you can remember. Just what the record collector ordered.
Best High-End Antiques
Borgman's Antiques and Things
1700 E. 6th Ave.
Now that the word "antique" refers to anything from last year, it's comforting to know that in a few places, the term still carries its original meaning. Borgman's is full of classy old things such as Chinese porcelains, French crystal chandeliers and Early American furniture. You can't miss this decades-old shop, now in its second location. It's marked by a still-working 1930s neon Coca-Cola sign from the days when the building housed a drugstore and a soda fountain. But do bring your gold card.
Best Low-End Antiques
Queen City Collectibles
516 E. Colfax Ave.
Combining the romantic, if adventurous, appeal of its honky-tonk location with very cheap prices, Queen City has everything you could ask for in a secondhand palace. It's crowded with a motley assortment of furniture and decorations beyond the expected clutter, which fills each visit with the potential for a successful treasure hunt. Another thing that makes Queen City a classic of its genre: It's rarely open, so call first. If, that is, you can find the number, which is not in the phone book.
Best Place to Get Rid of Your Old Art
2019 15th St., Boulder
If that psychedelic Peter Max original no longer fits your house-in-the-'burbs, 2.5-kids lifestyle, perhaps you should take it to Judd and Judy Golden's ARTcycle and let them sell it for you. This shop (right around the corner from the Pearl Street Mall) is full of quality art just waiting for the right person to come along. Spotted at last visit were a signed M.C. Escher woodcut, an ink drawing by Picasso, a James Balog photograph, a Rance Hood painting and a Gorman lithograph. The Goldens keep consignment pieces for a maximum of ninety days, so the stock is constantly changing. Bring in your old stuff and chances are good you'll roll out of ARTcycle with something new to your liking.
Best Art Poster Selection
Californian-Coloradans pining for some of that West Coast culture already know Z Gallerie, famous for its smart home accessories and slipcover sofas. So when an outlet opened last winter in Larimer Square, residents new to the state--and, face it, the rest of us on a decorating budget--let loose a mass, Californicated hurrah. Why? Z Gallerie is poster central, selling sophisticated images, framed and unframed, at surprisingly affordable prices. It carries vibrant Picasso prints, Raphael angels, photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe and Ansel Adams, and more--in long, short, square and gargantuan sizes suited to any wall space. Decorating those wide open spaces was never so easy.
Best Custom Picture Frames
ABC Books & Posters
2550 S. Colorado Blvd.
The employees at ABC Books & Posters take as much time as necessary to help you select just the right frame and mat, whether it be for an heirloom photograph or a $10 poster. And you'll need plenty of help, if only to sort through the myriad frame types and matboard colors. Their expertise doesn't come cheap, but you can cut corners by selecting from an assortment of frames that ABC buys in bulk.
Best Revisionist History
3217 W. Hampden Ave., Englewood
You have dozens of treasured old photographs. Unfortunately, you no longer treasure the ex-mate who appears in them. Photo-Imaging Consultants to the rescue! Using digital retouching services provided by this company, photo labs around town can erase the unwanted spouse, replacing him or her with a more significant other. Although the process can also be used to fix torn or damaged photos, its real value lies in repairing tattered egos.
Best Help for a Case of Arrested Development
Rocky Mountain Film Lab
145 Madison St.
During spring cleaning this year, you unearthed that hideous straw tote you bought on your Mexican vacation several years ago--and discovered it's still toting a few rolls of film you never dropped off at the store. Rocky Mountain Film Lab has the solution. One of the few labs in the country that specializes in old film, it vows to process just about anything. You might have to wait a while for your prints, since the lab tries to accumulate a batch of a certain type of film before it mixes the required chemicals. But what's a few weeks when you've procrastinated this long?
Best Oaxacan Folk Art
1420 Pearl St., Boulder
It's a sculpture. It's a decoration. It's a fire-breathing dragon painted in psychedelic patterns and colors, and it wants to come live in your house. Oaxacan folk art is an acquired taste, but if you're among those who adore the fanciful carved creatures from southern Mexico, Artesanias has a fine collection--from a dog-sized curly-horned sheep (if money is no object) to a flowered armadillo tsatske (if it is).
Best Russian Knickknacks
Natasha's Russian Treasures
1320 E. 17th Ave.
Calling them knickknacks is really just a ruse. Sure, you can buy nesting dolls, ornamental trinkets and flashy Cyrillic-lettered T-shirts depicting onion domes at Natasha's. But the rest of the booty truly does qualify as treasure: Recent shows displayed antique icons and works by emerging Russian artists, and the shop always boasts a fine selection of illustrated lacquer-work boxes decorated with fur-wrapped heroines, lean hounds, balalaika players and snowbound sleighs--intricate reminders of romantic times preserved today solely in fairy-tale books. Only the price tags are modern. But you don't have to look.
Best Rushin' Motorcycle Mechanic
The Fabulous Oatmeal Speed Shop
6005 W. 16th Ave., Lakewood
Motorcycle repair presents a paradox: If your bike doesn't run, how are you supposed to get it to the shop? The Fabulous Oatmeal Speed Shop (owner Richard McCarey says the name grew out of a shouting match with a city zoning officer) solves the problem cleanly. He comes to your house and does most of the repairs there. If the bike can't be fixed on the street, he'll load it in his van and take it to his Lakewood shop. Which, by the way, you'll never find.
Best Calgon-Take-Me-Away Store
Escape from the pressures of the office or take a moment during your downtown shopping spree to sneak into H2O Plus, a haven in the busy city. H2O Plus offers body-moisturizing gels and lotions, facial scrubs, shower and bath treatments, hair-care products, loofahs, sponges and fluffy bathrobes--all the items necessary for pampering yourself or your significant someone. Choose from scents such as fresh peach, honey, mineral spa or tango mango. Even a five-minute pit stop can be aromatherapeutic.
Best Body Care Products for Mad Scientists
Mix-and-match scents anchor the lotions and potions offered at Seattle-based Garden Botanika. Lined up along the counter are odoriferous beakers of oils--musky, flowery, spicy or sweet--to choose from. Once you've decided on your signature fragrance, they'll mix it into a generic base lotion, shampoo or massage oil and send you on your completely customized way. But if you want something totally tried and true, Garden Botanika also sells lines of premixed products guaranteed to make you smell great.
Best Sleeping Potions
Rosie Moonbeam's Herb Cottage
1101 S. Logan St.
An odd little shop in an odd little building painted with floral murals, Rosie's is the place to buy antiquated herbal concoctions and other pleasantly quaint things: beeswax candles, teas, dried rosebud garlands, flower presses and fresh catnip, and handmade stationery infused with herbs and spices. Most appealing, though, are Rosie's herbal mixes--one you boil to make a room smell nice, another is mysteriously designated "chaste herbs" (an anti-aphrodisiac?), and then there's the one sewn inside a "dream pillow." Take it to bed with you and you're guaranteed sweet dreams.
Best Salon Deal
Rita B. Salon
200 Fillmore St.
Normally the cuts at this high-class salon run $25 and up, color $30 to $150. But if you call ahead, they'll tell you when their next "training session" starts, and you can book an appointment with a "junior" stylist and get a cut or color for all of $5. The supervision is intense, and even though they haven't achieved senior status, these stylists aren't underclassmen--they're fully licensed and know what they're doing.
Best Cure for a Cowlick
Michael of the Carlyle
Cherry Creek Mall
No joke; this guy could have cured Dennis the Menace. Sometimes stylist Mark Towne (just ask for "Towne" when making reservations) reverses the part, sometimes he just finesses a layer, but either way, you can forget having to continually try to force that sucker down. Newt, eat your heart out.
Best Ten-Minute Eyebrow Shaping
Oxford Aveda Salon
1616 17th St.
Stop looking like Brezhnev. The Oxford Aveda's Susan Ann McMillan takes time out from her facials to tend to even the most unruly brow. Since she knows so much about skin care, she knows when to wax and when to tweeze. And it never, ever hurts. She'll send you on your way refreshed, in a high-brow sort of way.
Best Place for a Hair-Raising Time
Preferred Image and Electrology
1017 Gaylord St.
Unwanted hair got you down? A lot of places offer waxing and electrolysis. But this place will free your body and your mind. Preferred Image is the only skin-care spa we know of that has a psychic reader on the premises. A great gift idea for your hairy, superstitious sister-in-law.
Best Fancy-Schmancy Spa at Reasonable Prices
Teresa Flint Personal Appearance Center
1895 Youngfield St., Lakewood
Every once in a while, we get the urge to pose as one of those Ladies Who Lunch. You know the type--a woman of leisure, one who can afford to dish out the big bucks that keep her looking impeccable. When that mood descends, we lovely-up at Teresa Flint's, where $89 gets you a half-day of pampering that includes a facial, pedicure, massage, scalp treatments, shampoo and hair style. And then we go to lunch.
Best Pocahontas Gear
Triple L Outfitters
1058 S. Washington St., Denver 80209
The term "off the rack" simply doesn't exist in Susan Mikula's mind. The Western wear she designs at Triple L Outfitters (write for one of their catalogues) is the product of careful historical research, customization, insistence on the use of natural fibers and that undefinable TLC that turns a stock article of clothing into something unique. Mikula, who has outfitted rodeo riders, a General Custer wedding party and cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell and his wife, encourages her clients to come up with creative, wish-fulfilling requests. Our favorite: the customer who walked away from her studio wearing an authentic buckskin Davey Crockett coat.
Best Cheap Massage
Cottonwood School of Massage Therapy
2620 S. Parker Rd., Ste. 300, Aurora
The Cottonwood School wants all of its students to have plenty of practice, and they'll hone their skills on you for $15 to $20 an hour (the higher price is for an evening session). The hours are odd--Tuesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., and Wednesdays and Fridays from 4 to 7 p.m.--and their handiwork is much in demand. So before you strip down, be sure to call for a reservation.
end of part 1