Things to Do

The Best Food and Drink Events in Denver This Weekend

Take a seat under the big top at RiNo Eats.
Take a seat under the big top at RiNo Eats. Courtesy RiNo Eats
This weekend, the revolution won't be televised (though it will be well hydrated), a septuagenarian is celebrating  another year of kicking the can down the road, and outdoor dining is in. Here are five food and drink happenings to get to now, plus a selection of future and ongoing events.

Friday, June 26
Coloradans got lucky in a lot of ways: legal weed, local beer and soaring mountains just a hop, skip and a jump away are but the tip of the iceberg. Among the most treasured attributes of the Centennial State? Its vaunted 300 days of sunshine, which (while not strictly accurate in the numerical sense) are powerful enough to melt snowfall all winter and keep diners and drinkers ensconced on patios from early March through November. And this year — thanks to COVID-19 — al fresco gatherings are even more of a staple in our city's scene. To that end, Exdo Event Center, 1399 35th Street, has launched two new open-air venues on its property. The beer garden-esque RiNo Eats has taken over the building's parking lot for dinner Wednesday through Saturday; it boasts covered picnic tables where guests can order drinks from Exdo's bar and food from neighbors Hop Alley, Fish N Beer, Cabana X (Bar Helix) — they'll deliver straight to your table! — as well as a rotating roster of food trucks. Rainbow Alley now occupies the alleyway behind Tracks and is open for weekend brunch, as well; instead of dumpsters and cigarette butts, you'll be greeted by the cheerful sight of multi-colored umbrellas shading your table. Reservations are strongly recommended (and required at Rainbow Alley) because of seating restrictions; book yours on the concepts' respective websites.

click to enlarge COURTESY OF THE SOURCE
Courtesy of The Source
Remember all the chatter during the depths of Colorado's stay-at-home order about how dining out would look different once restaurants were allowed to reopen? Well, that time is now, and (if the artist's rendering is to be believed) it looks fucking awesome. On Friday, June 26, get a glimpse of the future when Smok, 3330 Brighton Boulevard, partners with the Family Jones for a whiskey dinner that will be staged in the former parking lot in front of the Source Market Hall. Diners will enjoy cool wood-and-canvas geodesic domes that provide both seating and shade, and will get a barbecue platter (pulled pork, burnt ends, coleslaw, beans, pickles and bread) and bourbon praline ice cream, plus two cocktails per person and a bottle of the Family Jones's newest bourbon to take home. Visit Eventbrite to book a table for two ($100), four ($175) or six ($265) diners; seatings are available at 5:30, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.

Whether you have spent the last month in the streets or under the sheets curled up in a fetal position, you've probably spent a good chunk of it drunk. So the Mercury Cafe's Drunk History of Revolutions show on Friday, June 26, is a perfect event for our times — except instead of getting assaulted by police officers or crying into your pillow, you'll be watching inebriated comedians re-enact times throughout history when people oppressed by the forces of monarchy, theocracy, tyranny and Evan Williams (and racial injustices perpetuated by all the Evans, Chads and Todds out there) rise up and take control of their social and political future. Tickets are $15 (or $50 for a table of four) on Eventbrite; the insurgency runs from 8 to 9:30 p.m. at the Merc, 2199 California Street, and proceeds will be donated to Black Lives Matter.

The lights are back on at Don's. - SARAH MCGILL
The lights are back on at Don's.
Sarah McGill
Saturday, June 27
Would you rather celebrate a three-year-old's or a 73-year-old's birthday? It's a no-brainer for us: Toddlers act like annoying drunks — uncoordinated, inappropriate, loud and clingy — even when they haven't knocked back a few, plus their stories are lame. Even better, the pensioner in question is Don of Don's Club Tavern (also known to generations of friends, family and Denverites as Don's Mixed Drinks). Or it Don's namesake that's celebrating an anniversary? Whether it's age, extended isolation or general forgetfulness that's addled your brain, it doesn't matter, as long as you show up at the dive bar, 723 East Sixth Avenue, promptly at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 27, to claim a table and 50 percent off Coors Lights and Quarantinis. The bar has recently added sidewalk seating (some of which appears to be in the gutter, but if the shoe fits...), but it's best to show up early, since capacity is limited to — you guessed it — 50 percent. Visit the bar's Facebook page for details and pics of the outdoor setup.

Get two-for-one drinks at Noble Riot — one of our favorite bars to open last year — with the Denver Passport. - MARK ANTONATION
Get two-for-one drinks at Noble Riot — one of our favorite bars to open last year — with the Denver Passport.
Mark Antonation
Sunday, June 28
In a surprising turn of events, summer arrived while we were still remarking upon the disappearance of spring into a haze of pajama pants, takeout, awkward Zoom calls and hours scrolling through TikTok and news feeds. And with the arrival of the new season comes a new Denver Passport release. The summer version of the coupon book remains, as ever, more stylish than the hefty bricks of newsprint and smudged ink you sold for elementary-school fundraisers, and infinitely more useful. Instead of 35 percent off frames at your local craft store, you get BOGO beverages at more than sixty bars, restaurants, coffee shops, breweries, distilleries and wineries. Visit the Denver Passport website for a complete list of participating businesses and to order your copy for $25. The specials are good through October 31, which — if we all play it safe — should last us until the second wave of lockdowns.

click to enlarge The Patriotic Punch bag ($16) holds two cocktails and goes down as easy as sugar water fed to a baby. - COURTESY JULEP
The Patriotic Punch bag ($16) holds two cocktails and goes down as easy as sugar water fed to a baby.
Courtesy Julep
Thursday, July 2
The Fourth of July falls on a Saturday in 2020, leaving workers with the ideal three-day weekend (Friday to stock up and pre-game, Saturday to party, Sunday to recover). So, of course, this year's celebrations start even earlier. While the majority of fireworks displays in metro Denver are a no-go (there are still a few shows being shot off in outlying communities like Castle Rock and Berthoud), Julep, 3258 Larimer Street, is kicking off the pre-pre-weekend with all-night happy hour on Thursday, July 2, and Friday, July 3, starting at 4 p.m. until close; the kitchen will also be turning out all-American burgers (an upgraded fast-food stack with two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese — and bacon!) instead of its usual Southern fare, and Patriotic Punch served in a juice bag. While the eatery is closed Saturday, it picks up again with brunch on Sunday.

Saturday, July 4
For a Fourth of July celebration on the day itself, visit the Fort Restaurant, 19192 Highway 8 in Morrison. Choose from indoor or outdoor dining. The steakhouse's full menu, including classics like Rocky Mountain oysters, roasted bison marrow and steaks, will be served inside its dining room, while you can get casual burgers and barbecue (not to mention great views of the Denver skyline) on the eatery's enormous patio. In lieu of watching multiple pyrotechnic shows blast off along the Front Range, you'll be treated to the firing of an 1800s-era cannon every hour on the hour. Make sure you have a tight grip on your drink, as well as a reservation (required); book a table on the Fort's website.

click to enlarge Enjoy chef Modou Jaiteh's  Southern-by-way-of-West-Africa fare on Arcana's patio starting July 7. - MICHAEL EMERY HECKER
Enjoy chef Modou Jaiteh's Southern-by-way-of-West-Africa fare on Arcana's patio starting July 7.
Michael Emery Hecker
Tuesday, July 7
Boulder's Arcana, 909 Walnut Street, only reopened this week, but it's already got a brand-new pop-up on the calendar. From Tuesday, July 7, through Sunday, July 12, the kitchen will be serving food from Modou Jaiteh, the chef/owner of Jacaranda, a kitchen at Rosetta Hall turning out West African (and African-influenced Southern) fare. The menu hasn't been finalized, but based on Jacaranda's regular menu items — like a vibrant brick-colored peanut stew studded with beef, carrot, eggplant and rice as well as specials such as benne toast (sweet potato bread topped with silky sweet potato sauce, pumpkin seeds, mascarpone and lime zest) and red red (a Ghanaian dish of stewed black-eyed peas, chiles, palm oil and fried plantains or cassava) — we expect great (and great-tasting) things. Call 303-444-3885 to book a table on Arcana's patio, but if you miss out on a seat, don't worry; you can also preorder the menu for takeout. Stay up to date on Arcana's Instagram page

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Amy Antonation knows that street tacos are infinitely superior to tacos that come covered in squiggles of crema, and she will stab you with her knitting needles if you try to convince her otherwise.
Contact: Amy Antonation