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You may recall this recent article championing New York coffeeshops that pay as much attention to the food as they do the coffee. And you may have finished reading and wondered where, in Denver, you can find a spot that weighs the two elements equally. There’s Cafe Max and Crema Coffee House but mostly, the offerings include memorable coffee and forgettable food.
When Olive & Finch opened on Friday the short list of good coffee and good food will expand by one. In all fairness, this Uptown spot from chef-owner Mary Nguyen (Parallel Seventeen, Street Kitchen) is more of a cafe. But the coffeeshop model is something Nguyen channeled when creating the concept. “Coffee is such a big part of this place,” she says. “I wanted a casual place that wasn’t a commitment. Olive & Finch is healthy, comfortable, affordable, neighborhood-y, and still chef-driven. It has great coffee and great food—it’s a cafe-coffeeshop.” Nguyen’s commitment to java includes a $25,000 investment in machinery ($17,000 of which went to the Strada espresso machine) and drip coffee made with beans from the exquisite (and local) Corvus Coffee Roasters. Beans for the espresso drinks will rotate each month. Despite the attention paid to coffee, Nguyen offers drip coffee on the honor system. Pour yourself a cup, stuff a couple bucks into the money box, and at the end of each month all of that cash will go to a designated charity.
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Now, to the food. Open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, Olive & Finch will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner—and carryout. Everything on the menu and in the deli case can be packaged to go. The morning menu is punctuated by egg dishes, such three hashes (the Sonoma is pictured) which can also be ordered as breakfast burritos. Lunch and dinner focus on a wide selection of rotating fresh salads and interesting sandwiches.
Order the Jamal, Nguyen’s riff on the fish sandwich. Instead of frying talapia, she blackens the filets and layers them with citrus tartar sauce, capers, swiss cheese, coleslaw, avocado, and roasted tomato on ciabatta. Another don’t-miss is the Greggers, a baguette stuffed with six-hour braised beef tongue, roasted garlic purée, tarragon aïoli, caramelized onions, roasted peppers, topped with fresh arugula. Never had tongue? This is an excellent entry point. Taste it and you’ll understand why Nguyen considers tongue an underrated ingredient.
Nguyen is a firm believer in the “You are what you eat” mantra. Olive & Finch’s ingredients are organic, local when possible, and usually sustainable. In addition, most of the menu can be made gluten-free and/or dairy-free (two dietary restrictions Nguyen is affected by) and there are always gluten-free pastry options such as cakes and cookies.
Whether you classify Olive & Finch as a cafe or a coffeeshop, you’ll be pleased with the results. Truth is, it’s a little bit of everything for everyone. And here’s a bonus: Nguyen had a plethora of outlets installed for those who want to camp out for a couple hours at a time. Just don’t miss the food.
1552 E. 17th Ave., 303-832-8663