Cafe Society

Cafe of the Week: Spend the Day Hooked on Colfax

When Malissa and Scott Spero came back to the states after a year of teaching in Korea, they were ready for a change. Before the trip, Malissa had worked at the China Center at the University of Denver and Scott was a graphic design student. "We realized we could do anything we want. We had quit our jobs and sold our car, and were basically starting from scratch," says Malissa.

While deciding what to do, the couple saw a for-sale ad on CraigsList for a Brazilian bookstore. Scott went and checked it out, loved it, and the couple put their savings into purchasing what would eventually become Hooked on Colfax. "It could have been a disaster," Malissa adds.

See also: Photos: Hooked on Colfax completes expansion, doubles capacity

At first, it looked like it might be. The bookstore wasn't making them enough money, so they sold all the books and focused on the coffee side of the business. Since then, the cafe has taken on a number of different looks. The current coffee shop comprises two combined store fronts: the Speros started in one spot (the former bookstore), moved into the café next door (where the current espresso bar is), and then two years ago they expanded back into the old space, opening up the wall and adding a bakery and more seating. "It was a crazy evolution. We painted the same walls a few times," jokes Malissa.

The Atmosphere Each of the cafe's seating areas has its own personality -- the two sides are quite different. As soon as you walk in the door, there's an espresso counter with a few seats; a line of tables crowds the back of the space. The décor, menus and pastry offerings give that half of the cafe a cluttered, well-loved look.

But cross to the other side, and there's a cleaner, more modern look, with huge booths that you can share (each one comes with a "I'm happy to share the table!" sign), and two neat and narrow wooden bars, one of which has wall outlets for the worker bees. Dark gray paint and exposed brick give weight and age to the place, while a rotating display of of art keeps things lively. The Colfax-facing wall of windows brightens the room even on a cloudy day.

Then there are the two basement sitting rooms with low ceilings and maroon and brown leather furniture for curling up with a book and forgetting the world outside. Big groups can book either of these generously furnished rooms at no charge, but a reservation is required because they fill up fast.

The Roaster The Speros had a tall order for their coffee roaster to meet: they wanted a local roaster with great beans and and a dedication to creating sustainable relationships with coffee farmers. After learning about Conscious Coffee in Boulder, Malissa says "I stalked them for months." Conscious Coffee has been roasting since 1996 and has created its own import branch called Cooperative Coffees to deal directly with growers. The company states on its website that it strives to promote transparent fair trade, and the Speros value the training that comes with using the company's coffee. Baristas are not only trained on the espresso machine, but visit the roaster to witness the process.

Beyond Coffee Patrons can easily get hooked on this café day or night. In the morning there's a fresh selection of house-made pastries, with a regular focus on vegan, paleo and gluten-free options. Bagel sandwiches, including the unique Bab's Bodacious Brie -- a traditional egg sandwich topped with brie, lox and sun-dried tomatoes -- are served all day.

And once the evening settles in, the café, open until 10 p.m., is a comfy bar with a selection of wine, local beers and whiskey -- some of which are also Colorado-made. Tea can be purchased in Vail Mountain loose-leaf or Teatulia bagged varieties. There's also a tap pouring Happy Leaf Kombucha.

The Buzz The bright upstairs and dark, moody basements, hardwood booths and supple leather couches, coffee for the daytime and whiskey for at night, make it easy to get hooked on a café that satisfies both modern, mobile workers and the evening stragglers.

In a Nut Shell You could spend the entire day at Hooked on Colfax, working on a laptop with a morning coffee, grabbing lunch, hosting a midday meeting, and then curling up with a book and a drink in the evening.

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Kristin Pazulski has been a renaissance faire wench, a reporter, an espresso-shot slinger, an editor of a newspaper for the homeless and a grant writer. She's now a freelance writer covering Denver's restaurant scene.
Contact: Kristin Pazulski