This is the heart of the art scene in the Mile High City, packed with new galleries and breweries—perfect for holiday shopping and sipping. Kelly Bastone takes us down Santa Fe Drive.
Art for allSeveral swanky galleries (including Michael Warren Contemporary, SPACE Gallery, and Point Gallery) opened last year along Santa Fe Drive, but the bulk of the district remains refreshingly wallet-friendly. The Denver Art Society cooperative displays paintings, sculpture, and prints created by its 60 members. Six times a year, many of those same local crafters display their wares at the Denver Handmade Homemade market. Around the corner at Tesoro Artisan Gallery, Elizabeth Pascal sells her beadwork jewelry and vintage planters filled with artful arrangements of succulents. She also represents other artisans’ scarves, leatherwork, and micro-batch Denver chocolate, along with silver jewelry crafted by her 83-year-old mother, Gay Beattie. You can even unleash your own creative side: Pascal and other artisans hold jewelry-making and glass-painting parties upon request.
The après-art sceneMost coffeehouses feel too perky for adult beverages, but The Molecule Effect creates the perfect ambience for both lattes and wine, with exposed redbrick walls and polished wood floors. There’s kombucha on tap, Venetian cream coffees made with locally roasted Kaladi beans, and Rioja by the glass. Sundays bring bottomless mimosas.
Retro treasuresShopping at Garage Vintage feels like plundering the Mad Men set. Mid-mod kitchenware, sculpted pendant lamps, rotary phones—all are warehoused in this cavernous resale shop that displays its prizes in evocative tableaux: The “kitchen” includes starched aprons and wooden rolling pins, while vinyl records, table clocks, and nesting tables fill the “living room.” Some of it is kitsch (remember string art?) and some classy (glazed planters), but affordability reigns, with many pieces priced at less than $50.
Standout sudsDenver is awash in outstanding beer these days, but Santa Fe’s two breweries are worth seeking out. Appealing to metalheads, Black Sky Brewery taps its Phoenix Ale (flavored with sweet potato and green chile) in a glorified garage, serving Neapolitan-style pizzas amid portraits of KISS band members. And at brick-walled Renegade Brewing Company, huge rollaway windows can be moved to let drinkers savor sunshine (instead of TV screens, which are absent) as they quaff winter warmers like the award-winning Hammer & Sickle Russian Imperial Stout and Redacted Rye Ale.
Hip roadhousesWith its vintage neon sign, Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey always looked more like a cocktail bar than a distillery. Now with a lounge, it fits that bill, and visitors can enjoy more than taster-size sips of its iconic spirits. Belly up to the bar (a gleaming wooden plank laid across a row of whiskey barrels) for a Rocky Mountain Cream Soda, which swirls housemade vanilla syrup into housemade spirits garnished with a stick of rock candy. Prefer a full food menu with your drinks? Interstate Kitchen & Bar serves rich, blistered mac ’n’ cheese; fries in brown-paper cones; and Cobb salad topped with hot bacon dressing. The hipster diner is filled with relics from roadside Americana, including the cab of a 1952 Chevy pickup truck.