Ordinarily Extraordinary Denver

by Rich Rubin
Denver, Colorado Skyline

In many ways (you’ll see later why this is the ultimate compliment) it’s just an ordinary city, and that’s perhaps the thing I love best about it.

Rich Rubin

The nearby Clyfford Still Museum is devoted to the works of this abstract impressionist, and it’s fascinating to see his development, from the early, more realistic paintings to pieces where human forms start becoming more abstract, to later works that fill the canvas with vibrant splashes of color. My friend Alex and I look at various paintings and have totally different interpretations of what we’re seeing, and that’s the beauty of Still’s style. He insisted that after his death his entire body of paintings be housed in a single museum, so it’s a chance to explore in depth an artist who was perhaps lesser-known than peers like Jackson Pollock or Willem de Kooning, but every bit as much a master of Abstract Expressionism. It’s a smallish but riveting museum, and one I really urge you not to miss.

Just steps away is the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art, a captivating collection of both paintings and decorative objects, from such names as Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, and Charles Eames, among many others. From inlaid bookcases to sleek rocking chairs to coffee sets, vases and jars, their collection spans many facets of art and design from Art Deco and Art Nouveau to Craftsman, Modern, and Pop Art, displaying paintings along with works of decorative art. Recently reopened, it’s well worth a visit while you’re in this “Golden Triangle” of culture.

If all this art makes you hungry, I suggest lunch at Leven Deli, and let me warn you, if you’re heading here pre- or post-museums (and it is definitely the best place for that), bring an appetite! I should have known when I saw the humongous loaves of sourdough lined up on a shelf and signs for “big ass cookies” and “yuge brownies.” Sure enough, my smoked turkey sandwich would probably feed your average family of five! Here’s the thing though: they’re not just big, they’re amazingly good.

Denver’s Union Station at Christmas in Denver, Colorado

Denver’s Union Station at Christmas
Photo: Craig E Divine

Which brings me to another aspect of Denver that makes me love the city. This is, of course, the food. My favorite new opening is in Clayton Members Club and Hotel: the remarkable Of a Kind, where Brandon Duley melds California and the Mediterranean for an absolutely astounding array of dishes, each with a simplicity and yet a complexity that takes the most well-known dishes and puts entirely unexpected spins on them, making them seem somehow like they’re the version of this dish you’ve always had (or the one you should have had)

From the new to the venerable: I have dinner one night at Tamayo, right on pretty Larimer Square. I love this spot, which recently celebrated its twentieth anniversary and features a creatively traditional menu. You can get a wide range of tacos and burritos as well as such creative dishes as salmon with mole sauce, cauliflower puree, crema fresca, and candied almonds. A cool summer breeze blows across the square and I have a sangria for fortification (okay, I have two), and can we talk about the caramelized plantains I order as a side dish with my salmon?

Related:  Las Vegas Wanderlust

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