BEST PLACE TO NOT GAS UP 2006 | Denver BioDiesel | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Nobody believes in biodiesel as the fuel of the future more than north Denverite Lorance Romero, who mixes his own vegetable-oil-based B100 brew under the aegis of the Clearing House collective and Denver BioDiesel. It takes a lot of space to both fill and store barrels of the clean-burning energy source, so Romero is pleased as punch with his brand-new 1,700-square-foot work space, where he hopes to soon run hands-on classes for eco-conscious folks like himself. First up: Diesel 101 for Women and basics courses explaining how diesel engines can run biodiesel without expensive conversions. Way to go!


Upper Larimer St.

Jack Kerouac and friends would surely be surprised to find what the past twelve months have brought to their skid row. Early pioneers such as Architectural Antiques and the Larimer Lounge stood watch over gang turf wars and armed robberies, but now Espo's Gelato Shop & Caf, the Barkway, Checkpoint Racing, Meadowlark, Art & Anthropology and a gaggle of lofts have joined them on this urban frontier. The bums still stagger down the street en masse, lit on forties from the liquor stores that line the strip, but they're usually willing to lend a hand for a kind word and two bucks for a Cobra.


Bluebird District

The latest entry in the pantheon of "new" -- new country, the New West, the New South -- is New Colfax, and its epicenter is the Bluebird District, named for the iconic theater at Colfax and Adams Street. Over the past eighteen months, Cafe Star, Hooked on Colfax, Babooshka salon and ism Gallery have joined such stalwarts as Goosetown Tavern, Collins' Bicycles, Mezcal and Colfax Guitar Shop to create a bustling commercial district where dirt lots and cheap blow jobs once reigned. But not all signs of the old strip are gone: While shopping for flowers or buying a cup of joe, customers still chase off the occasional hooker -- although they've become less obvious and more expensive as they try to fit in with the New Colfax.
Cassandra Kotnik
Colfax Avenue is hot -- hot dog! You may have seen Steve and Linda Ballas before, in their popular, dog-slinging pooch coach at farmers' markets and other outdoor events around town, or at the Corporate Deli, which they used to run downtown. (And here's food for thought: Linda is the daughter of Blinky the Clown.) Now the couple has staked a permanent claim on Colfax at Steve's Snappin' Dogs, a sleek, diner-style enterprise in a renovated gas station. Here you can pick up Steve's trademark all-meat, no-filler Thumann's dogs, shipped in from Jersey, along with a side of chili fries, coleslaw or the unexpectedly yummy, crispy-puffy deep-fried green beans. That's it, in a bun, with mustard.
Like a true traveler, Ivy Morgan's Cargo comes and goes, sometimes packing up in the night and leaving an empty space behind. And now Cargo has returned, this time to a funky South Broadway storefront, but it's selling the same sort of reasonably priced Nepalese, Thai and Indian imports as before, including a great selection of quality incense and those cute, lucky-penis charms that everyone should have stashed in a drawer. Morgan has also brought back her fabulous graphic T-shirts boasting Asian floral designs, geishas and bodhisattvas that go so well with Cargo's brocade jeans, burnout velvet tops and quilted-satin swing coats. Welcome back.
You could write a book on what the Tattered Cover and its principled owner, Joyce Meskis, have meant not just to Denver, but to lovers of literature and free speech everywhere. That book begins in Cherry Creek North, where a pre-Meskis Tattered got its start in a little cubbyhole in 1972. Under Meskis, it kept moving to bigger and better locations -- the biggest and best the old Neusteter's department store on First Avenue, a five-story building that she filled with an astounding inventory of books, incredibly knowledgeable clerks, an ever-rotating array of authors who lectured in the basement, and even a restaurant on top -- the Fourth Story. But Cherry Creek has changed, and the Tattered Cover -- which added locations in LoDo a decade ago and more recently in Highlands Ranch -- is moving on. In June, it will open another store on East Colfax Avenue, in the old Lowenstein Theater that will soon be home to a movie theater and Twist & Shout, too. That will close the book on Cherry Creek, at least for now. You don't know what you've got 'til it's almost gone...
Often the hottest-selling items at Satellite Boardshop weren't the skates and snowboards, but the shoes. So owners Raul Pinto and J.G. Mazzotta opened a second Boulder store devoted entirely to street footwear, particularly special-release shoes by Adidas, Nike, I-Path and Vans. Though the location they chose has been a killing field for a bunch of boutiques over the decades, Installation has emerged an unexpected winner. And it's fitting that the art gallery/shoe store's most recent show was an exhibit by elusive San Francisco graffiti artist Bigfoot.
The Colorado Collection is a hard-to-find sanctuary in a land of cheap, tacky souvenirs. Before the locally owned boutique took off with DIA in 1995, the Colorado Collection was located downtown, and owner/goldsmith Lauren Wahlstrom sold her work out of the shop. Wahlstrom has since passed away, but her family still owns and runs this store specializing in unique, original jewelry, such as the earrings that Breckenridge artist Denise Bloch makes with her own hand-blown glass beads. And even if you're not looking to spend any money, the store's friendly employees are a joy to chat with. Be warned: Layovers pass quickly here, so don't miss your flight.
New urbanism, you're looking good! And in Belmar, the classy development that took over the former home of Villa Italia, Ricochet could be the main reason why. This great, girly store got its start on South Gaylord, then pioneered Lakewood's new-urbanist outpost, making the area safe for cool greeting cards, fun accessories and little gewgaws you can't live without.
Creative impulses abound in the 'burbs. For proof, just take a walk down Littleton's Main Street, a century-old strip now filling with chic shops, good restaurants and upscale services. Inspired by what you see? Step around the corner to CreARTive, a bungalow staffed by artists and filled with work spaces. This two-year-old enterprise features studios dedicated to artistic endeavors ranging from candle-making to pottery to mosaics, where you can indulge your inner Picasso alone or en masse. Book an aesthetically pleasing baby shower today -- wouldn't Junior just love some tie-dyed diapers? Littleton, you're looking good.

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