Denver PrideFest has become one of Civic Center Park’s marquee events. Revelers, activists and allies are poised to pack the park on Saturday, June 15, and again on Sunday, June 16. Between the heat and the celebrating, you may well find yourself needing to recharge. Fortunately, there are plenty of options within a few minutes’ walk of the park.
You’d do well to make one of these places your pit stop for Pride, or any other event that draws you to the park this summer.
Amethyst Coffee Co.
The cozy coffee shop on the ground floor of the Metlo building gets packed on a normal weekend, so expect Pride to be no different. Beyond the skilled baristas pulling shots, Amethyst also serves whimsical special drinks, liquor and pastries — if they’re not all claimed by the time you get there. They'll also be pouring PrideFest specials, including the “Good Judy,” which blends cold-brew coffee with cinnamon and blueberry syrup. Grab a seat in the bright and charming interior or on the patio, and caffeinate before heading back down Broadway.
123 West 12th Avenue
Located in a low brick building just west of the Denver Art Museum, Leven offers an open space with a Mediterranean feel, which complements the food perfectly. The smashed chickpea sandwich is a standout vegetarian specialty, combining tahini yogurt, avocado, radish and pickled onions on sourdough flatbread. The house-cured pastrami gives heft and richness to the pastrami sandwich and the Reuben. Both are great picks, though you may need a nap before returning to Civic Center for the festivities. If you’re in the mood for something lighter, you can make a good meal from sides such as dolmas and marinated mushrooms.
City, O’ City
206 East 13th Avenue
The Capitol Hill mainstay is sure to be bustling during PrideFest regardless of what time you walk in. City, O' City is so often crowded because it's one of those few restaurants that everyone in the neighborhood can agree on. This is a tricky feat for any eatery, harder still for a vegetarian one. Grab a drink from your barista or bartender while you wait, then indulge in cauliflower chicken and waffles or a roasted Brussels sprout salad. Get there before PrideFest for a hearty brunch, or head over after 11 p.m. for some fried ravioli off the late-night menu.
Capitol Hill Tavern
1225 Logan Street
If you’re looking to get a little farther from the crowds, head deeper into Capitol Hill along Logan Street. Situated on the ground floor of a 120-year-old mansion, Capitol Hill Tavern feels removed from the traffic of the neighborhood. The well-stocked bar straddles a surprisingly large patio and comfortable dining room, and the menu is loaded with tavern classics such as wings, burgers and fried pickles. The kitchen also turns out a fine selection of pizzas and calzones, perfect for those starving after a long day at the festival. After you leave, take a walk around the quieter sections of Capitol Hill if you still need some introvert time.
Shish Kabob Grill
1503 Grant Street
From Civic Center Park, a short walk east up Colfax Avenue will lead you to some of the city’s most eclectic and delicious restaurants. Over the past decade, Shish Kabob Grill has turned out some of the best Middle Eastern food in Denver. Whatever else you order, be sure to get the hummus, which is at once silky, bright and hearty. The falafel sandwich is another great option, scented with a uniquely floral spice blend from the owners’ native Syria. Like the falafel, the chicken shawarma is available either as a sandwich or entree; both offer a wonderful chicken delivery system to get you ready for another foray into Civic Center Park.
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Sassafras American Eatery
320 East Colfax Avenue
At this point, Denver’s economy feels mostly brunch-based. Among the many iterations and interpretations of that meal, the hearty Southern fare coming from the kitchen at Sassafras stands out. The local chain is rightly renowned for its biscuits, which you can get à la carte or smothered in a selection of gravies. The fried green tomato Benedict combines spice and acidity to balance out the heaviness that so often comes with eggs covered in Hollandaise. If you’re feeling more inclined toward lunch, try one of the po’ boys or the fried catfish. There's also a wide array of Bloodies and mimosas. You’re in Brunch City, after all.
571 East Colfax Avenue
Bourbon Grill is Colfax in a nutshell: unpretentious, indulgent and addictive. The rich, smoky sauce makes the bourbon chicken the undisputed star here. You can get that chicken as a sandwich or with a diverse selection of sides: fries, egg rolls or the creamy mac and cheese. Bourbon Grill was a walk-up window for years, so take the chance to grab a table in the dining room and watch the crowds stream down Colfax. One caveat: The portions are so generous that it’s a better idea to close out PrideFest with a visit to Bourbon Grill than to try to continue on after finishing your chicken.