The Jester, a gypsy cab driver, has weathered some turbulence this year. But he recently rescued his storied lime-green Chevrolet Impala from hock and is once again rolling around D-town in style, offering clandestine rides to the stranded and the impatient. In the plus column, he picked up Sound Tribe Sector 9 from an after-party, and the appreciative rap group found some, uh, herbal way to compensate him. On the negative side, one evening the G-Ride crossed paths with Ross Alexander, president of Yellow Cab, outside the Pepsi Center -- and then had to lie low for a couple of days. But Jester's now back on the mean streets of Denver. It's what he knows, and he enjoys getting people home safely -- for a bartered price -- as much as he appreciates being able to make a living doing it.
Taxis are not glamorous. They're temporary and transitory, the mobile equivalent of a phone booth: meant for quick use and quick turnaround by lots and lots of people. But with Central Car Service, being driven around town can be damn near classy, thanks to a fleet of newer Cadillacs outfitted with lush interiors and functional air-conditioning and stereo systems. They'll still pick you up at a dirty dive bar and take you through the Taco Bell drive-thru at 2 a.m., but you'll look good doing it.
NoDuiDenver.com has done the barflies of Denver an immeasurable service by eliminating the morning-after "Where did I leave my car?" game. For just a little more than the cost of a cab, NoDui's drivers -- a plucky, sober, background-checked army -- will drive you home in your own car when the party's over. And don't worry if you're too sauced to say where you are: They'll find you, and the company uses GPS technology to pinpoint its drivers and then send someone to pick them up when the ride's over. NoDuiDenver.com is a smart, simple solution to a very basic need: keeping drunk drivers off the street and out of DUI court.
You can rely on all the dealership blather about their certified "pre-owned vehicles" -- or you can invest a modest sum in an independent inspection before sinking your insurance settlement into that white-smoking clunker. Precision's Leo Russ has taken on dealers on behalf of extended-warranty companies and now stumps for consumers in person and online at www.anti-lemon.com; he's opinionated, intimately familiar with the flaws of various makes and models, and provides on-site service and a detailed report, complete with photos. Option? This guy should be part of the basic package.
Recently moved to a better showroom and expanded to include broker services, the Import Warehouse is an oasis of decent used-car deals amid a desert of hide-burning dealership experiences. The inventory is European (mostly Volvo, Audi and Volkswagen) and no-haggle priced, the staff is low-key and helpful, and here's the best part: One percent of the purchase price is donated to the charity of your choice or one of IW's approved causes, which range from local animal shelters and food banks to breast-cancer research. When was the last time you made out like a bandit while making nice?
The best parking value downtown is the meters lining the west side of the 1400 block of Wynkoop Street. Though they face one of LoDo's spendiest lots, these babies dole out a half-hour per quarter -- for up to five hours. That's right, mathematicians: For a scant fiddy cent, you get a whole hour to booze, shop, eat, whatever. You don't need to be Pythagoras to know that's a good deal.
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!

BEST PLACE TO BUY ANTIQUES, EAT GELATO AND CATCH A SHOW WHILE CHASING OFF BUMS

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.

BEST PLACE TO GET YOUR HAIR CUT, DRINK COFFEE AND LOOK AT ART WHILE CHASING OFF HOOKERS

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.
Steve's Snappin' Dogs
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.

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