Best of Denver®

Best Of 2009

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Best Of :: People & Places

Best National Nod to a Local Institution
Mercury Cafe
Cassandra Kotnik

Marilyn Megenity's Mercury Cafe is a Colorado institution, beloved both inside and outside of this state. It's also a no-brainer for a left-leaning catalogue of American collectives, co-ops, eco-conscious and alternative businesses, think tanks, coffee houses, favorite leftist anthems and restaurants for locavores, but we were still happy to see that The Nation Guide to the Nation mentions Denver's long-lived, free-thinking hippie outpost not once, but twice. Lauded for its rooftop windmills, organic fare and alternative politics, this Mercury is still rising.

2199 California St., Denver, 80205
MAP
303-294-9281
Best 150th Birthday Present to Denver

Jill Hadley Hooper and Hugh Graham are two of this town's least-toxic assets, artists and entrepreneurs who've helped change the aesthetic landscape of the city. And in honor of Denver's 150th birthday, Graham and Hadley Hooper (who was included on Denver's list of 150 unsung heroes released last November) presented this town with a real gift: buckfifty.org, a website that celebrates the city's past and present. According to the buckfifty manifesto, "Denver has pulled its ass out of the fire any number of times. Whether it was the flood of 1864 (or 1965), the silver crash of 1893, the great depression, the oil bust of the eighties, or countless other struggles, Denver and the people who live here have reinvented themselves through community, art, and story." Anyone is welcome to submit a contribution to buckfifty, but better hurry — when it gets to 150 posts, the site will become a permanent time capsule.

Best Addition to LoDo
The SugarCube

Most of the new construction in LoDo apes the look of the original buildings there, but a few refer to the neighborhood's character more subtly. A triumph of this second, more sophisticated approach is the SugarCube, developed by Urban Villages and designed by the Toronto-based firm of KPMB (Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects). The site, right on the 16th Street Mall, is a sensitive one; the venerable 1906 Sugar Building by Gove and Walsh is right next door. While the details of the SugarCube are chicly neo-modern, KPMB created a buff-colored brick volume to visually associate the new building with the old one next door, and the SugarCube brick matches the Sugar Building brick. But that's just the beginning: The SugarCube also has the same sight lines at the roof, and its windows follow the older building's fenestration pattern. The SugarCube is not just the best addition to LoDo this past year; it's the best new building in many years.

1555 Blake St., Denver, 80203
MAP
303-284-0102
Best Candidates for Couples Counseling

When you enter the birthdates of Bill Owens and Ward Churchill into the free "Compatibility Report" at www.cafeastrology.com, it's clear that these two will never get along — unless they cross a significant barrier. For starters, the former governor's Saturn squares the former professor's Uranus to create distinct times when they will inevitably argue about restrictions of freedom (in Denver District Court, for example). Ward's Mercury doesn't feel free to express his ideas and is intellectually stifled by Bill's Pluto. Still, they share a trine in Mars that indicates an odd attraction to one another. So instead of footing the bill for a court case, fiscally responsible Colorado taxpayers should be seeking the services of a couples therapist for these two lusty Libras. If properly trained, Bill and Ward might experience the joy of mutually stifling one another — thereby releasing the rest of us.

Best DJ

John "Whip" Wilbur isn't just a DJ at Indie 101.5. In addition to hosting the morning show, the veteran jock serves as the station's music director and its most energetic booster, even fighting with the outlet's new ownership group to buy enough time for word of mouth to build. His love of the music and the daring mix he's assembled come through loud and clear with each syllable he mutters. At a time of struggle for terrestrial radio in general, he remains a true believer, and his passion is infectious.

Best DNC Swag

The road to the 2008 Democratic National Convention was paved with freebies. Free meals, free parties, free stuff, free bags to hold said free stuff. Of course, 99 percent of it was useless (the windmill lapel pins given out wouldn't even look good on Al Gore), but there was one display of killer, if temporary, swag: a thousand free bicycles, courtesy of the Freewheelin bike-share program organized by the convention host committee, Humana Inc. and Boulder-based Bikes Belong. Thanks to the crowds and the beautiful weather, the slick new green bikes were the coolest way to get around. In fact, the city was so taken with the idea that it plans to unveil a similar bike-rental program this summer. That's change we can believe in.

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Best National Nod to a Local Institution: Mercury Cafe

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