It’s not unusual to find yourself in an establishment boasting more than 50 years of operation when wandering Colfax Avenue. The longest commercial street in America, Route 40 offers many opportunities to peak through a lens to the past and the buildings and businesses that have helped create this iconic part of Denver. From old-timey diners and dive bars to authentic Latin eateries, the East Colfax neighborhood—just a 20-minute drive from downtown—has a historical and diverse charm.
Boundaries: Colfax Avenue sits in the heart of this ‘hood with Quebec Street to the west, Yosemite Street to the east, Montview Avenue to the north, and 11th Avenue to the south.
The Vibe: Sandwiched between up-and-coming Stapleton and stalwart Aurora, East Colfax offers a unique mix of newcomers and longtime Denver residents.
Caffeine Fix: In its first year, Quince Essential Coffee departs from the general vibe of East Colfax. Reminiscent of a coffee shop fit for RiNo or the Baker neighborhood, the renovated home offers cozy vintage chairs and small nooks for chatting, board games, books on Colorado history (you’ll find those up front), as well as weekly community events like knitting groups, open mic nights, and yoga. The pastry cabinet has sweet and savory bites from Denver favorites like Maria Empanada and Watercourse Bakery. 1447 Quince St.
Stop by The Ranch House Cafe and peruse their long list of classic breakfast menu items, which all come with the option of adding a slice of French toast as a side. 7676 E. Colfax Ave.
Lunch: In a building just big enough for the kitchen, locals crowd into Tacos Alcapulco’s small waiting area (expect a standing room with about 5 bar stools) to order fresh pastor pupusas and shrimp tacos. A Salvadoran dish, the pupusas are fried on the flattop, with thick corn tortilla dough enveloping fillings like chorizo or zucchini—but the best part is the crispy cheese surrounding the fried edges. Round out your order with a sweet side of fried plantains, or another favorite, Horchata. There is a quaint patio outside with umbrellas shading the tables, perfect for dining alfresco when the weather is nice. If outdoor dining isn’t an option, plan on picking up a carryout order. Pro Tip: Regulars know that fresh tortillas and pupusas take time—if you’re in a rush, call in your order about 20 minutes before pick up. 8890 E. Colfax Ave.
Sweet Stop: Former backpackers missing street food will find a bittersweet nostalgia on Xanthia and Colfax, where a Latin family sets up a roadside stand every weekend selling an amalgam of snacks like spicy peanuts, candies, and—best of all—fruit cocktails. “Un coctel de fruta” will get you a 32-ounce Styrofoam cup filled with perfectly ripe, sliced fruit seasoned with lime and Chamoy, a sweet and spicy sauce (it tastes like the perfect, addictive balance of sugar and chile) familiar to Mexico. Don’t worry about any language barriers here, as the chefs will gladly show you all of your coctel choices so you can create your perfect concoction sans speaking any Spanish.
Dinner: Another Salvadoran spot, El Chalate hosts a family-friendly atmosphere in a (usually packed) dining room of regulars enjoying pupusas, tamales, and tacos. Most menu items hover under $2, making it simple to create a combo plate that will leave you full and satisfied for around $5. Try the chicken pupusa with a cheese enchilada or a tostada, and you won’t be disappointed. 8119 E. Colfax Ave.
Dive Bar: Opened by two female entrepreneurs in 1938, The Hangar Bar continues to be a popular watering hole. Legend says the bar was named “The Hangar” because it opened the same year as the Lowry Air Force Base, and a shuttle was set up to bring base employees over for a drink. Today, all visitors with a military ID receive happy hour prices. Although with the first happy hour deal starting as early at 10 a.m., everyone gets to drink on a budget at this place. With a windowless exterior, you will have to go inside to see an impressive installation by Denver artist Chris Lewis of an airplane made (mostly) of vintage beer cans. Dubbed “The Beer Can Bomber,” it spans almost the entire length of the bar. Guests can also benefit from pool tables, a smoker’s patio, and the frequent $3 you-call-it specials. 8001 E. Colfax Ave.
Brewery: Just one block west of the East Colfax borders, Fiction Beer Company will make any beer lover feel right at home. A bar adorned with stacks of books, there’s a reading nook with cozy couches perfect for a stag day-date. Garage doors open up to a sizable patio with giant Jenga and cornhole. This dog- and family-friendly spot could certainly keep a crew or a solo traveler happy for an afternoon (they even have food trucks some days). And as for the beer, the sours are sure to impress. 7101 E. Colfax Ave.
Karaoke: One could guess that weekend warriors of the East Colfax variety are fearless behind the mic. Strolling in daylight, you might notice a few signs advertising that most establishments serving alcoholic beverages offer a karaoke night. Here are two options—one for each night of the weekend—as recommended by locals:
- 7 Leguas Mexican Grille: This joint has a large bar to pony up to where patrons can find $2 Tecate and free chips and salsa during happy hour from 3–7 p.m. On Saturday nights, however, the bartenders say things get a little rowdy starting at 9 p.m. with a karaoke set up and a vibrant crowd of regulars. 4550 E. Colfax Ave.
- The Hangar Bar: A no-shame kind of place, this dive welcomes all levels of performers on Friday evenings (starts at 9 p.m.) to take their turn in the spotlight. If you’re feeling shy, know that singers are set up inside the brick building (one of the best materials for keeping in sound), shielding you from the outside world. 8001 E. Colfax Ave.