Best Denver Public Library News 2013 | Increased hours | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Passing those ballot measures really works! Rather than having to cut back — something we’ve become increasingly used to — the Denver Public Library was able to extend its hours in 2013 at most branch libraries, including guaranteed weekend and evening hours at several of them. In addition, the central library reinstated its Saturday-morning hours. The reason: the passage of Measure 2A, which increased revenue for DPL. Our libraries are a precious resource; this is the kind of open-door policy we can really get behind.

The San Antonio Mexican bakery's shelves are heavy with panaderia offerings familiar to denizens of the western U.S.: fruit-filled empanadas, shell-shaped conchas and torta-worthy bolillos. But transplants from the American South will gravitate toward the homey pecan-paved tarts, miniature relatives of the familiar holiday pies lovingly baked by grandmothers from Atlanta to Austin. And these are tarts guaranteed to make any granny swoon: The aroma of brown sugar and sweet, toasted pecans is overwhelming from the moment you open the paper bag. In the right hands, the alchemy of butter, sugar and pecans makes for a magical dessert that translates to bliss in any language.

Denver has a surprising number of talented pet sketchers, but the canine portrait work of Robert Gratiot, who teaches at the Art Students League of Denver and has exhibited widely, is in a class of its own. Working in oils from a photograph, Gratiot can produce a study of your best friend that, like his much-praised still lifes, manages to be both hyper-real and painterly — but never cutesy. Framed in oak, the results are doggone marvelous.

Nicole and Simon Woolsey-Neech, a young couple with modern tastes, have created a primer in homey hipster interior design out of this unassuming Tennyson Street storefront that's a little bit cozy cottage and a little bit retro space-age. Inside, you might find a child-sized diner-style table and chairs or a package of wooden chip clips hand-painted with pooch designs; jewelry ranges from recycled bike-chain bangles to bright enameled blossoms by Doozie. And for the beer aficionado in the house? How about one of HandySam's wall-hung bottle openers decorated with vintage beer cans that catch the falling caps? As HandySam Creations crows on its Etsy page, "No man room is complete without one."

More than anything, Mo' Betta's Beverly Grant and her greens-loving son, Reese, want to make fresh foods available in the food desert of Five Points. But they realize that it doesn't hurt to throw in a helping of fun and community spirit alongside the local produce bins and healthy-foods resource tables. Live music and DJs are standard at the twice-monthly market, as are cooking demos and free tastes. This year, in the interest of spreading food justice, Mo' Betta, which partners with the GrowHaus, will be adding a second location, on alternating weeks, in the hospital zone at 20th Avenue and Ogden Street. The Welton market opens on June 15 and the Ogden addition on June 22; both will continue through October.

Midsummer: At the Red Wagon Organic Farm stand at the Boulder County Farmers' Market, someone is handing out slices of sweet melon, and several varieties of cucumber — smooth and warty, long or stubby as a big toe — are carefully arrayed on counters, along with bunches of slender, multi-colored carrots. Everything gleams under a gentle misting of water. You can try, but you won't find a blemish on any of the tomatoes or a speck of grit in a bunch of chard. You might think the zucchinis have been polished by hand, one by one, and here's the thing: They have. Wyatt Barnes and Amy Tisdale have been running this farm for nine years on thirty acres leased from the county, and they are both perfectionists. They select their produce, whether heirloom or mainstream, for taste, and sell it in pristine condition at the Boulder and Longmont markets and at their own farm stand. Their dedication to an organic and sustainable lifestyle extends to paying workers a fair wage and helping and supporting other growers — which means their CSA (details of which can be found on the website) includes pork, beef, mushrooms and fruit as well as their own vegetables.

Kyla DeTienne has a good thing going at Birds & Belles. Her concept of buying and trading better used garments is a modern take on the resale model: Bring in your still-stylish, in-season, stain-free trade-ins for cash on the table, or take store credit — at a rate of 50 percent above the straight buyout price. It keeps the clothing moving in and out, making for new surprises every time you shop. DeTienne also supports local artists by carrying some new merchandise, including hand-painted bags and upcycled assemblage jewelry, further lending a funky vibe to the neighborhood boutique.

CoCo Bikes was started by a few friends in a Denver garage in 2011 and has since become the go-to shop for customized fixies. CoCo builds its own line of frames bearing the company logo, but it also rebuilds and refurbishes older bikes, providing the best of both worlds for customers, especially when it comes to practicality and price.

The Horseshoe's become our perennial winner, and somehow, it just keeps getting better. A good part of its charm lies in its versatility: Not precisely a flea market, though quality vintage goods are in abundance, the Horseshoe combines the best of two worlds — quality handmades and curated curiosities — and mixes them up under its cheerful rows of tents. And husband-and-wife team Doug and Amy Yetman do a bang-up job filling and running the market, picking and choosing a talented cross-section of vendors to sell wares in a sunny atmosphere that includes food-truck eats and other niceties. This year's first market is on May 11; the others follow on July 13 and October 5.

Parking during any professional sporting event in Denver can be a challenge. Whether you’re paying inflated prices at a nearby lot or looking for a free spot so far away that walking to and from the game is a workout in itself, the experience is far from relaxing. Last year, the Colorado Cruisers set out to remedy the problem with a new — and mostly free (the drivers work solely on tips) — service. The company manages a fleet of tricked-out hybrid golf carts, equipped with all-terrain tires, stereo systems and LED lights, that are available in downtown and surrounding neighborhoods with a reservation. The golf-cart taxis also work private events, like bachelor parties and weddings. And they travel at low speeds, which is good if you find yourself hanging drunkenly off the side.

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