East Colfax enchants

The Denver avenue is now a great place to dine and shop
Lori Midson

Tell your Colorado friends that you're planning to explore East Colfax Avenue and they might be surprised. Even many Denverites don't know that the once infamous stretch of seedy bars, tattoo parlors, and fast-food joints now flaunts new restaurants and watering holes, appealing shops, and vivacious culture.

East Colfax officially begins at Broadway and rambles well past Denver into the city of Aurora. When you have time, it's worth exploring the thoroughfare in its 26½-mile entirety.

Café Star

WHAT: Rising executive chef Rebecca Weitzman offers patrons elevated comfort food (don't miss the lobster potpie) served in a loftlike space saturated with eye-popping color. WHEN: Lunch and dinner Wed-Mon. HOW MUCH: $$$. WHERE: 3201 E. Colfax Ave.; 303/320-8635.

Mezcal

WHAT: Locals hankering for impressively authentic south-of-the-border eats like sopes, pozole, and carnitas hang out at this irreverent taqueria that also boasts an exhaustive mescal and tequila roster. WHAT: Lunch and dinner daily. HOW MUCH: $. WHERE: 3230 E. Colfax Ave.; 303/322-5219.

Cork House

WHAT: A winsome restaurant and wine bar offering myriad bottlings from across the globe, as well as numerous wine flights for those who simply want to sip and sample. Pair your pours with one of the many world-spanning cheese selections. WHEN: Lunch Tue-Fri, dinner Tue-Sat. HOW MUCH: $$. WHERE: 4900 E. Colfax Ave.; 303/355-4488.

Abend Gallery Fine Art

WHAT: You'll find original works by both local and national artists at this popular gallery specializing in up-and-coming Colorado artists. Stop in for Saturday artist demonstrations, and you may get to hobnob with represented painters and sculptors. WHEN: 10-6 Tue-Sat; demonstrations 11-4 Feb 4 and 11. WHERE: 2260 E. Colfax Ave.; www.abendgallery.com or 303/355-0950.

Mod Livin' Modern Furniture

WHAT: Straddling the line between retro and recent, this three-tiered home furnishings boutique offers everything from vintage refrigerators and disco ball light fixtures to funky clocks and ultramodern space-age furniture. WHEN: Open Thu-Tue. WHERE: 5327 E. Colfax Ave.; 720/941-9292.

Info: From I-25, take the Colfax Ave. exit (210A) and go east about 1½ miles to Broadway, where Colfax becomes E. Colfax Ave. Stroll between York and Glencoe Streets.