From LoDo to NoDo

Twenty years ago, when this city was still dreaming of getting a baseball team, the area above the just-designated LoDo Historic District was fondly known as NoDough. There was simply no dough in the blocks past the last outposts of civilization at 20th Street: El Chapultepec and Mori, the Japanese restaurant behind the VFW bar. There were plenty of pawn shops, though, as well as little neighborhood businesses and down-on-their-luck bars.

And the beloved Mexico City Lounge, a family-owned joint that was reason enough to venture onto the 2100 block of Larimer Street, packing in fans for lunch -- and closing for the day soon after.

One day, two colleagues from the office and I needed a greasy taco fix, so we headed over to the Mexico City. Three gals striding along the streets of NoDough were an unusual-enough sight that the bum lying in front of the as-yet-unrenovated Herb’s Hideout looked up from his bottle and pronounced, “The British are coming, the British are coming.”

He gave us a good laugh -- and didn't ask for a thing in return.

Today there's all kinds of dough in the area, now known as the Ballpark neighborhood. Last night, June 24, Marco’s Coal-Fired Pizza (shown in photo above) hosted a grand-opening party at 2129 Larimer. The space is stunning: The 1883 building, which last held a cheap furniture store, has been completely renovated, with the original floors saved and the beams that couldn’t be turned into wine-holders. There’s a patio out back and a sleek bar up front, with plenty of cozy booths and cool, colorful tile treatments in between. And the ovens: huge pizza ovens shaped like beehives that reach 1000 degrees, cooking the Neapolitan-style pizzas (thin crust, made with imported Italian flour that's smooth as silk) in just a minute. As a result, the pizzas are crisp on the outside, but soft inside. And on top are imported cheeses and meats that would taste very familiar to the Italian immigrants who ran markets in this part of town more than a century ago.

And Marco’s isn’t the only addition to the neighborhood. Josie’s pawn store is still next door, and there’s another pawn shop across the street, and the Star Bar continues to serve cheap beers and reminders of what this area used to be like. But El Charrito’s, which had been closed for more than a decade, with the corner bar occasionally opening when the mood strikes or on a rare Rockies game, has split off a part of its storefront space (officially 2104 Larimer), which has become a kabob restaurant with a lunchtime buffet and a name change -- to Kabob Country -- coming any day. There’s a spa down the street, lofts on the corner. And even the Mexico City, at 2115 Larimer, has gotten a spiffy facelift, with golden walls, tile floors, a granite bar and a new sign over the door (which sadly lacks the word “Lounge”).

The British have truly arrived. -- Patricia Calhoun

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