Toronto Star - Going the Distance in Mile High City
Going the distance in Mile High city
Denver turns out to be a cowboy town with a sophisticated touch
Thursday Sep 16 2010
Denver’s Cry Baby Ranch is the perfect place for temporary cowgirls to pick up some footwear.
REB STEVENSON PHOTO/FOR THE TORONTO STAR
By Reb Stevenson Travel Writer
DENVER—Everything about this city — from the annual stock show to the Broncos to John Denver and his Rocky Mountain High — always struck me as incredibly mannish.
Denver isn’t alone. San Antonio and Tucson also scream “dust,” “leather,” and “stubble,” as does the entire state of Montana (after all, one vowel swap and it would be Man-tana).
Of course, if you stereotype to such a silly degree you’re bound to be utterly contradicted when you finally visit the place. That was the case with Denver, which—yee haw!—turned out to be a fun and hip spot for a temporary cowgirl to hang out.
I rested my suitcase at The Hotel Monaco ( www.monaco-denver.com). Imbued with bright hues and patterns that evoke a harlequin, it offers free massage demonstrations and wine tastings in the lobby. Even wilder, if you’re feeling a little lonely up in your suite, they’ll send over some company.
Ahem — not that kind of company.
We’re talking about your own loaner fish bowl complete with resident goldfish. Please note you are responsible for providing the conversation.
A free shuttle zipped me up the 16th Street mall to downtown Denver’s shopping hub, where I found a magnificent boutique called Cry Baby Ranch (ww.crybabyranch.com), which carries cowgirl duds, kitschy cool home décor and modernized cowboy boots by the Liberty Boot Co.
Now, it must be mentioned that the Liberty Boot Co. is actually based in Toronto. But “I got these on Ossington” just doesn’t garner the same street cred as “scored ’em in Denver.”
If you’re a real stickler for authenticity, forget the boots and focus on dressing your upper torso. In 1946, the western snap-button shirt was invented at Rockmount Ranch Wear ( www.rockmount.com), where they still sell like hotcakes.
The upper floor is a slapdash museum of sorts, dedicated to “Papa Jack” Weil, the genius behind the snap-button shirt who died recently at age 107. Below, hundreds of shirts in every shade and pattern sell for between $40 and $80.
The best part is there are plenty of fitted tops that flatter female curves—because no gal wants her figure to be indistinguishable from that of Billy Ray Cyrus.
Tattered Cover Bookstore ( www.tatteredcover.com), which looks like Chapters’ old west ancestor, is another local gem. Spread over two floors, the rustic shop features antique chairs, desks and benches strewn throughout, inviting readers to try before they buy.
You might think that a place like Denver is all about the beef, but a street meat stand at the corner of 16th and Arapahoe called Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs proves that this city’s carnivores are far more open-minded.
Armed with a cream cheese caulking gun, Biker Jim barbecues obscure sausages like Elk Jalapeno Cheddar, Alaska Reindeer (very tasty, sorry Rudolph) and Wild Boar.
For even more adventures in digestion, there’s a bold weekly special called “What the !?@* Wednesday.”
“Pheasant/rattlesnake was great. It was smoky,” said Justin Szymik, who works across the street and claims to have tried all of Jim’s bizarre offerings.
How do you wash down a rattlesnake dog? Water seems a tad mundane.
The answer is just up the road at Wynkoop Brewing Company ( www.wynkoop.com). It’s not something I’d recommend getting sozzled on, but Patty’s Chile Beer, made from green chilies and smoked ancho peppers, has an unforgettable flavour. If that’s not your cuppa tea, they’ve got something a little softer: homemade root beer.
For dessert, savvy Denver chicks dig their forks into a wedge of Spring Fling Cake (zucchini bread and fresh fruit with cream cheese frosting), found at The Market at Larimer Square ( www.themarketatlarimer.com). Surrounded by jars of malted milk balls, granola and treats galore, I felt as though I was eating inside an old general store.
If you can’t settle on what to do once night falls, that’s okay. Indecision is embraced in Denver, especially at the Museum of Contemporary Art ( www.mcadenver.org). Every summer, it hosts a series of lectures called “Mixed Taste” in which two completely unrelated subjects are explored. Past topics have included “Big Foot and Carl Jung,” “Time Travel and the French Situationists” and “German Expressionism and India Pale Ale.”
Another couple of unrelated subjects, “Men and Women” can be studied at The Cowboy Lounge ( www.tavernhg.com/cowboy_lounge), a hotspot for line dancing and opposite-sex lassoing.
Because a bit of dust, leather and stubble ain’t so bad, after all.
Reb Stevenson is a Toronto-based writer. She can be reached through her website at www.rebstevenson.com. Her trip was subsidized by The Colorado Tourism Office.