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How We Got Here
If you’re not certain just what the Central 70 Project is, you’re not alone. Many Denverites aren’t intimately acquainted with the 10-mile section of I-70 between I-25 and Chambers Road, perhaps traversing it most often for airport runs. But for the 200,000 drivers who use this stretch of concrete, asphalt, and reflective paint daily, the $1.3 billion Central 70 Project—which will expand the highway from six lanes to eight, send a portion of the freeway below grade, and cover part of it with a park—is a very big deal. It’s an even bigger one for the roughly 11,000 people who live in the neighborhoods bordering the interstate and the massive construction zone it has become.
The project was born out of the need to address Central 70 congestion and replace the 55-year-old viaduct near Brighton Boulevard (it was flagged as structurally deficient and functionally obsolete in 2008, although repairs have made it safe for use). It’s been contentious from the start, though, with area residents citing concerns about safety, increased pollution, and traffic during and after construction. Below, we outline not only what Central 70 will look like when it’s eventually complete (2022, we hope)‚ but also what you can expect for the next few years. We also examine the community’s concerns and how you can help support the neighborhoods during construction—and, in doing so, get to know this part of Denver a little bit better.
The organizations and constituencies most involved in the Central 70 Project.
CDOT oversees some 23,000 miles of highway, including the 10-mile stretch of interstate known as Central 70.
Kiewit Meridiam Partners
The Central 70 Project is a public-private partnership, and KMP is the private part of that duo. KMP itself is a partnership between one of the largest engineering and construction companies in North America (Kiewit) and a French global investment group (Meridiam Partners). The group will design and build Central 70, and once it’s complete, KMP will operate and maintain the section of highway for 30 years. This isn’t Kiewit’s first waltz with Colorado. The company also built one half of the Eisenhower-Edwin C. Johnson Memorial Tunnel, expanded highways and added light-rail lines as part of the Transportation Expansion (T-REX) Project south of Denver, and served as the general contractor for the new VA hospital.
North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative
Established in 2013 to provide a cohesive vision for Globeville, Elyria-Swansea, and RiNo, the NDCC helps facilitate development projects in the area. The Central 70 Project, to which the city of Denver is contributing $37 million, is just one of the initiatives this division of the mayor’s office is helping coordinate—among them, the National Western Center, the Brighton Boulevard redevelopment, and RiNo’s overhaul.
Union Pacific moves thousands of cars’ worth of freight through Colorado annually. Part of its track runs beside and under Central 70.
Not everyone is happy about the Central 70 Project. Residents from Globeville to Clayton to Stapleton are affected. In 2017, the law firm Earthjustice represented the Elyria and Swansea Neighborhood Association (ESNA), the Chaffee Park Neighborhood Association, the Colorado Latino Forum, and the Sierra Club in a lawsuit to stop the project that ended in a settlement. “It’s not something we wanted,” says ESNA president Drew Dutcher. “It’s something we’re enduring.” Unite North Metro Denver, a consortium of community members, meets monthly to discuss concerns regarding the construction and how to address them. And outrage over the project is, in part, what inspired Elyria-Swansea native Candi CdeBaca to challenge incumbent Albus Brooks for the District 9 City Council seat. She won.
An abridged timeline of Central 70’s evolution.
1944: The Federal-Aid Highway Act authorizes the building of I-70 from Denver to the Kansas border.
October 1956: Congress approves construction of I-70 from Denver through the mountains and into Utah. Engineers ultimately recommend a route that follows East 46th Avenue on the east side of town and West 48th Avenue on the west side. Globeville residents ask for a ground-level interstate, but that option costs approximately $5 million more, so the request is ignored.
1964: I-70 through central Denver is completed. The viaduct cuts Elyria-Swansea in half and further chops up Globeville, which had been divided years earlier by what would become I-25.
2003: CDOT and the Federal Highway Administration initiate the I-70 East Corridor Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to help lay out potential improvements in the area. Five years later, the viaduct is declared structurally deficient.
2010: Following a lack of support for its initial I-70 improvement proposals, CDOT creates a team of representatives from federal, state, and city government agencies and the community. Residents push to have I-70 rerouted north along I-76 to Commerce City, where it would meet I-270 (remember the Ditch the Ditch campaign?). They cite pollution, safety, and traffic among their concerns. That option, CDOT says, would cost about $3 billion.
2016: CDOT releases its final plan for Central 70, proposing to keep the expanded interstate where it is but send it below grade to try to restore connectivity. Doing so will require the demolition of 56 residences and 17 businesses. The project still does not have the support of many area residents. In fact, in 2017, they become part of a lawsuit that claims—among other things—that CDOT used fuzzy math to get its modeling to pass the Environmental Protection Agency’s pollution standards.
December 2018: The lawsuit ends with a settlement that includes a provision for a community health study. CDOT also agrees to provide air monitoring and more trees and promises that communications will be provided in English and Spanish. (Eighty-four percent of Elyria-Swansea residents identify as Hispanic, and many families have lived there for generations.)
The Future, Rendered
After $1.3 billion and four years of construction, here’s what you can expect the Central 70 Project to look like when it’s completed in 2022(ish).
Eight Lanes of Interstate
Beginning at I-25, express lanes will be added in each direction, extending to Chambers Road, just before the DIA exit. (This will bring the total number of lanes to eight: three regular lanes and one express lane in each direction. CDOT is also leaving enough room to add a second express lane in each direction from Brighton Boulevard to Quebec Street at a later date.) Like their cousins on I-25 and on I-70 in the mountains, these lanes will be HOV 3, meaning if you have three or more people in the car, you can use them for free (yes, babies and kids count; dogs do not). RTD buses will also use the HOV lanes. Toll rates will most likely be set annually by the High-Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE), a division of CDOT, and will be priced based on volume: Higher rates apply during peak times. At press time, HPTE had not yet determined the rates nor the peak time designations.
The Underground Highway
The most visible adjustment to Central 70 is where part of the freeway is being rerouted below ground. Instead of traveling along a viaduct lofted over East 46th Avenue, motorists will gradually descend about 30 feet below grade, beginning near Brighton Boulevard. At Columbine Street, the freeway will disappear beneath a park for four blocks then emerge again just past Clayton Street, gradually grading upward until it regains its current position at Colorado Boulevard. This section is not a tunnel, which the neighborhood had asked for, but rather a span of interstate with various overpasses and a park serving as a kind of “lid” over a few blocks. When it’s complete, this piece of I-70 will be 200 feet wide—108 feet wider than the viaduct’s footprint today.
Playground on a Platform
Adding lanes and sending I-70 underground required shifting the freeway north, a move that included demolishing Swansea Elementary School’s playground as well as 56 residences and 17 businesses. (CDOT purchased properties for market value under eminent domain and paid costs to resettle residents and businesses.) To make up for the lost outside play space, CDOT has pledged to add a four-acre park atop the section of I-70 that runs between Columbine and Clayton streets. Part of this will serve as a soccer field for the school and the neighborhood, and the other half will include an amphitheater, green space, and a small park for public use. If you’ve been to Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, you have a good idea of what it will look like.
A Road Divided
East 46th Avenue will be split by the new interstate, with 46th North Avenue on one side and 46th South Avenue on the other. These will be one-way streets, although one stretch, near Swansea Elementary School, will be a two-way road.
Trains on Top
Right now, Union Pacific’s railway runs underneath I-70. When the project is completed, though, the trains will travel above the freeway near Vine and North Gaylord streets.
Because part of I-70 will sit below grade, several retention ponds will be constructed between Brighton and Colorado boulevards, and a pump station—built to handle a 100-year flood, Kiewit says—will be installed at York Street.
Wide Road Ahead
While most of the major construction is happening west of I-270, the highway east of that interchange is also being widened to allow for the addition of the express lanes.
Traffic studies have shown on-ramp loops—like the old ones from northbound Colorado Boulevard onto I-70 west and southbound Colorado onto I-70 east cause backups and can be dangerous. A couple of these awkward freeway entrances are being eliminated and replaced by more intuitive left-hand turns at lights onto on-ramps.
The N Line
Although it’s not part of the Central 70 Project, another new development near the west end of this corridor is the addition of the North Metro Commuter Rail Line (aka the N Line). Testing began in spring 2019, and the route, which goes from Union Station through Commerce City before terminating in north Thornton, should be live by 2020.
What to Expect and When
Kiewit and CDOT have said the Central 70 Project will reach “substantial completion” by 2022. There have already been delays, though. With that in mind, here’s their best guess at what’s coming in the next few years—if everything goes as planned.
Significant construction will continue in the western section of the project, including work on the new westbound I-70 lanes and the construction of the north-south cross-street bridges that will pass over I-70. In order to build the Union Pacific Railroad bridge, East 46th Avenue between Brighton Boulevard and York Street will remain closed. All of these projects will continue into mid-2020. Adjustments to the outside lanes of eastbound and westbound I-70 between Colorado Boulevard and Quebec Street also will begin this summer and wrap up by the end of 2020. Expect lane shifts and temporary construction barriers.
Summer 2019 Roadblock
Although CDOT has promised to keep three lanes of I-70 moving in each direction throughout most of the construction during the day and peak hours (speed limits might be reduced), the agency will require a handful of full closures of I-70. Expect one for a couple of days this summer when the old I-270 overpass and bridgework at Colorado Boulevard are demolished.
The work on Dahlia, Holly, and Monaco streets (where each crosses I-70) should be finished by the time winter weather arrives. Improvements to Stapleton Drive will continue this fall but are not slated to be complete until the end of 2020.
The new I-270 connector bridge and the median improvements on the eastern end of I-70 should be done by midwinter.
It’s the inside lanes’ turn for revamping on I-70 between Colorado Boulevard and Quebec Street. Watch for orange cones here summer through fall.
CDOT says the I-70 viaduct will come down in winter 2020. Just exactly how engineers plan to remove the 55-year-old structure isn’t clear yet (Kiewit is still working on the specifics). Although it seems likely that any plan will require shutting down I-70 for at least a day, Kiewit says it’s trying to avoid that.
Once the viaduct comes down, work will commence on what will be the new eastbound I-70 lanes and 46th South Avenue (46th North Avenue, on the other side of the interstate, should have been wrapped up in mid-2020). When this is finished—hopefully by mid-2022—construction can start on the four-acre cover park between Columbine and Clayton streets. The completion of the park should mark the end—or nearly the end—of the Central 70 Project.
We can’t give you a road map for every month of construction for the next four years. But we can help you navigate Central 70 with as little headache as possible by answering these questions.
What’s the best route to DIA?
Save yourself frustration and maybe parking costs by riding RTD’s A Line. If that’s not an option and you’re on the northwest side of I-25, consider taking I-76 to E-470. It might cost you some cash, but it’s likely to save you oodles of irritation if I-70 is slowed down. Coming from down south? Opt for I-225, which should be relatively unaffected by construction. If I-70 remains the most direct route for you, stay on the interstate; trying to leapfrog traffic by getting off on local streets will not only cost you time, but you’ll also aggravate residents who already have increased traffic through their neighborhoods.
What if I need to travel in the neighborhood?
Only a few north-south streets are permanently closed along Central 70’s 10-mile stretch. The most noticeable east-west closure is East 46th Avenue from Brighton Boulevard to York Street, but several other smaller neighborhood streets have also been permanently shut down. In the west area of the Central 70 Project, CDOT will rotate street closures for the major thoroughfares that currently pass under I-70 on a daily and weekly basis. Check the Central 70 website before you leave to determine the best route.
What about buses?
More than a dozen RTD lines go through the Central 70 Project area, among them the 8, 12, 37, 40, 42, 44, 45, 48, 62, 88, 121, AT, and A Line commuter rail. At press time, only three—the 45, 48, and 121—had bus stop closures related to Central 70 (check for detours/closures at RTD’s website). On the 48 line, the southbound bus stop at Brighton Boulevard and East 47th Avenue is closed through 2019. And farther east, both the north- and southbound stops on Peoria Street at East 45th Avenue (where the 45 and 121 stop) will be closed through 2020.
It’s Not All Central 70’s Fault
Other projects that might make your commute more difficult.
Don’t blame I-70 if you have to detour off of Brighton Boulevard. Blame the city, whose work on the National Western Center might cause rerouting. Denver’s effort to create a 12-acre greenway and a multiuse trail on East 39th Avenue between Franklin and Steele streets might also complicate things.
Don’t blame I-70 if you can’t park on Walnut or Blake streets or on other roads in RiNo. Blame independent development projects that periodically shut down parking lanes—and sometimes create other traffic delays, too.
Don’t blame I-70 if there’s confusion at East 47th Avenue and York Street. Blame the city. While part of this construction might be confused with CDOT’s Central 70 Project, Denver has also expedited the building of a bicycle and pedestrian bridge over the train tracks here. It should be completed by the end of the year.
Saved by the Cell
Three ways your smartphone can help you avoid getting stuck in Central 70 snarls.
1. Sign up for CDOT’s Know Before You Go program to get either weekly emails or texts (in English or Spanish) about street closures, restrictions, and detours. Or you can visit the website, c70.codot.gov, to see traffic updates. You can also call 833-C70-INFO to hear a recorded message about weekly traffic restrictions and changes in English or Spanish.
2. The Know Before You Go updates don’t include information about projects other than Central 70, but the NDCC’s Navigate North Denver map does. The map aggregates information from all of the construction projects in North Denver—National Western Center, Central 70, and private and city projects—into a single place, so you can see what lanes are open, closed, or restricted.
3. For up-to-the-minute information about lane closures and detours and a user-friendly interface, we rely on the Waze app. Kiewit and the NDCC work with Waze’s Connected Citizens Program team, so the directions from this app shouldn’t steer you down the wrong street.
Earth, Wind, and Fracas
It’s not just additional traffic that residents are worried about—it’s also a potential increase in pollution.
In 2017, the 80216 zip code—which includes several north Denver neighborhoods—was deemed the most polluted in America. Little wonder residents of some of those areas filed a lawsuit aimed at stopping the Central 70 Project in part because it might add harmful pollution. They didn’t win, exactly, but they did reach a settlement that included CDOT agreeing to put more than $550,000 toward a community health study that will assess the “potential causes of the disparate health outcomes” in the area. The final results are due to be released in 2023. CDOT has also agreed to take measures to mitigate residents’ concerns about air pollution, soil pollution, and noise.
The concern: Air pollution comes in many shapes and sizes, but the size residents are primarily worried about is PM10—particulate matter that measures 10 micrometers (a little bigger than a red blood cell)—which can cause respiratory issues. Denver violated the Clean Air Act’s limits for PM10 levels back in the 1980s (hello, brown cloud), so it’s on an EPA watch list. When CDOT did its modeling for the Central 70 Project, the EPA raised a red flag because the results showed that levels of PM10 would be too high. CDOT redid its calculations, and that new math was part of the basis for a lawsuit.
The commitment: CDOT and Kiewit installed four air-quality monitors along the Central 70 corridor; hourly averages are available online. If any reading reaches above the allowable level, construction must be halted. So far, there have been five such instances.
The concern: In 1999, parts of north Denver were tagged with the Superfund label (although they will likely be declassified as such soon) due to soil contamination thought to be caused by smelters. In the early 2000s, residences in these neighborhoods had the top 12 inches of their yards’ soil replaced to reduce exposure to arsenic and lead. But commercial sites and roadways were not tested and remediated. Residents, understandably, are concerned that carving 1.7 million cubic yards of dirt—enough to fill 520 Olympic-size swimming pools—out of the earth, as Kiewit plans to do in the corridor between Brighton and Colorado boulevards, could stir up contaminated soil that might become airborne and enter their homes, yards, and airways.
The commitment: Construction crews will mitigate dust by watering down dirt and keeping trucks and areas that aren’t being worked on covered. Kiewit has also performed tests on about 2,000 soil samples to determine the quality of the soil in various areas and will reuse or dispose of it accordingly.
The concern: Denver allows construction between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays (and 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekends), but the noise should not register above 55 decibels on a residential property. The Denver Board of Public Health and Environment can issue variances to those rules, though, and it did so to allow Kiewit to work round-the-clock—although overnight construction can’t happen in the same residential area for more than five consecutive days in a seven-day period. The variance limits the company to a 75-decibel average (with an 85-decibel peak) on weekdays from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. and on weekends between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. That variance is up for review this summer.
The commitment: Kiewit installed 2,750 feet of noise barriers between the construction site and residential areas. Kiewit also maintains four noise-monitoring stations along the corridor, and the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment publishes weekly reports on those readings. Residents can call the 24-hour noise hotline (833-C70-INFO) about violations. If major construction activities that might break the decibel limits are scheduled, Kiewit will issue hotel vouchers and travel reimbursements to affected residents.
About the Dirt
13% is approved for use in industrial areas and will be repurposed east of Colorado Boulevard
83% of the 1.7 million cubic yards of dirt being removed is safe enough to be reused for backfilling
4% of the soil being removed—or roughly 21 Olympic-size pools’ worth—has dangerously elevated levels of arsenic, lead, and benzo[a]pyrene and is bound for either Tower Road Landfill or Denver Arapaho Disposal Site
Having your neighborhood torn apart by construction is by no means desirable, but the Central 70 Project also has helped bring overdue resources and attention to an area that’s been too often overlooked.
As a condition of getting the Central 70 contract, Kiewit is required to hire 20 percent of its workforce from the surrounding neighborhoods. The company is at more than 18 percent but hopes to increase that number with help from WorkNow, a free state recruitment and training program that teaches everything from carpentry and electrical skills to administrative and payroll know-how. CDOT allocated $400,000 to the program to support local hiring efforts.
Swansea Elementary School
Shifting I-70 north moves it right next to Swansea Elementary School. CDOT offered to relocate the building, but neighborhood residents expressed concern because the school was the heart of the community. So CDOT has spent $18.5 million making improvements instead, among them a new HVAC system, two new early childhood education classrooms, and a new main entrance; it also moved the playground to the north side. The four-acre cover park over I-70 will be among the last of those improvements.
The soil remediation from the early 2000s killed many of the neighborhood’s trees. CDOT has pledged $25,000 toward tree replanting, which will begin this summer. The Nature Conservancy will carry out the tree planting, but the community will drive the process.
Adelante Home Improvement program
To combat the inevitable construction dust and noise, CDOT and the city of Denver teamed up to provide more than $3 million in improvements—like new storm windows, doors, and AC units—to about 250 area homes. They’ve also given residents financial assistance to cover increased utility costs.
Northeast Transportation Connections
NETC’s overall mission is to reduce the number of single-occupant vehicles on the road, and it has stepped up efforts to give north Denver community members other options during Central 70 construction. NETC provides a weekday shuttle for area employees along Josephine Street, with stops available by request, and offers gratis bus passes to area residents who qualify. The nonprofit also maintains two bike libraries (one at Focus Points in Elyria-Swansea and one at Prodigy Coffeehouse) where bikes can be borrowed for a $20 annual fee, and NETC has established a walking school bus that is coordinated and led by neighborhood residents.
North Denver Resource Center
Community outreach efforts related to the Central 70 Project revealed more about the needs of the neighborhood, and the resource center is one of the results of those findings. In 2018, NDCC launched this economic mobility resource center in the Valdez-Perry Branch Library to assist area residents with city-related issues they might not otherwise be able to easily connect with the appropriate department about. If a resident has a question about job training, needs emergency housing or help paying a utility bill, or wants assistance finding English classes, she can make an appointment at the library Monday through Friday.
A Day In The Life of the Josephine Shopping Center
What it feels like to live and work amid the construction dust at East 46th Avenue and Josephine Street.
4:55 a.m. Panaderia Juanita’s co-owner and baker, Antonio Uribe, shows up.
5:30 a.m. There are two cars in the shopping center’s parking lot (which can fit about 15 cars), plus the van for the boxing gym, Train Like Champs.
6 a.m. The background rattle and hum of construction equipment (the average decibel reading was 65 just before 6) has stopped as workers change shifts. They work in two 12-hours shifts.
6:35 a.m. Boxing lessons let out, and two fit teenagers get into the two cars in the parking lot and drive off.
7:01 a.m. The bakery gets its first customer—a tow truck. Co-owner Lilia Uribe says business slowed in the first few months of construction because it was too hard for people to get in and out of the parking lot. The addition of a makeshift road out the back, directly onto East 46th Avenue, has made things easier.
7:42 a.m. Tacos El Huequito co-owner and cook Romon Aguirre arrives to fire up the grill. The restaurant opens for breakfast at 8.
8 to 10 a.m. A stream of reflective vest–wearing workers pass through Huequito’s and the bakery’s doors. Most grab to-go bites before heading back to the job site.
Noon Decibel reading is 67.
4 p.m. Tacos El Huequito closes up shop early to get its food truck down to Platt Park Brewing Co., where it serves food every Wednesday.
5:15 p.m. Kids, from eight years old into the teens, start showing up in gym clothes; they all beeline for the boxing gym. Decibel reading is 59.
5:20 p.m. Traffic is backed up for two blocks on Josephine Street, which goes from two lanes to one at the intersection with East 46th Avenue because of construction.
5:30 p.m. Almost all of the beauty salon’s chairs are full.
5:59 p.m. A sedan drives the wrong way down Josephine Street but turns around when it gets to the light at East 46th Avenue.
6:03 p.m. Another car drives the wrong way down Josephine Street. This isn’t uncommon for the construction area, where former two-way streets are now one-ways and one-ways sometimes have become two-ways.
6:26 p.m. The parking lot is packed, with cars sometimes blocked in by others (everyone seems to knows each other here, so they simple ask people to move if they can’t get out). Cars start to circle the lot, waiting to pick up kids when boxing class lets out.
6:50 p.m. Rush hour traffic on I-70 has subsided. You can tell by the hum of cars passing overhead at high speeds, instead of the sputter and sigh of vehicles idling or the hiss, squeak, and shudder of big rigs coming to complete stops.
7 p.m. Zumba class starts at the same time two gentlemen open up AA’s doors. Decibel reading: 55.
7:10 p.m. The Boost Mobile store’s door clangs shut and is locked. The open sign stays on all night.
8 p.m. The bakery’s open light goes dark.
9 p.m. There are only six cars in lot when the ice cream shop worker packs up and leaves. Decibel reading just a few minutes before was 62.
How to help the neighborhoods most affected by the Central 70 Project.
1. Subscribe to Growhaus
The $20 you spend on a weekly CSA-style food box from this Elyria-Swansea nonprofit helps provide healthy, affordable foods to residents who live in a food desert. The revenue goes toward GrowHaus’ discounted market and weekly free food pantry and cooking programs. Between its greenhouses at East 47th Avenue and York Street and partnerships with local farmers, GrowHaus fills your box with half a dozen eggs, bread, four to seven servings of fruit, and seven to nine servings of veggies.
2. Take the A Line
More than 200,000 cars pass through Central 70 each day. Subtract one SUV and its traffic, noise, and pollution contributions to neighborhoods already plagued by all three—from that number by opting to ride RTD’s A Line commuter rail to DIA when you catch a flight for your next vacation.
3. Run a 5K
On August 4, Clinica Tepeyac—a nonprofit community health center that serves Globeville and Elyria-Swansea—will host its annual Adelante 5K walk/run. Registration fees from this event support the services Tepeyac provides to area residents at a reduced fee (or, sometimes, no cost). Even better, the 5K follows a route through the neighborhood, so it’s a great opportunity to get to know this part of the city—and earn some karmic energy while burning calories.
4. Be a Bookworm
Deliver library materials to homebound residents—some of whom live in this part of the city—through Denver Public Library’s Homebound program. You can also contact the Valdez-Perry Library, which sits on the edge of construction in Elyria-Swansea, to ask how you can volunteer with events or special projects.
5. Get Out Your Checkbook
Colorado Gives Day (December 10) is just as good a reason as any to donate to one of the nonprofits that work in north Denver, such as Focus Points Family Resource Center, Project Voyce (a student-driven organization to help develop young leaders), Mile High United Way, and Hope Center (which works with developmentally disabled adults and children). If you can’t wait that long to do good, nothing’s stopping you from mailing a check today.
One win-win way to support local restaurants and shops affected by the construction is to indulge in their delicious fares and wares. Just remember to bring cash; many of these spots don’t take cards.
Drink: An Americano. Or a latte. Or anything that lets the flavor of the Allegro beans and talents of the staff—young adults from the surrounding area who have faced challenges—shine.
Eat: Pretty much anything in the glass case. Owners Antonio and Lilia Uribe have been making cookies, “orejas” (cinnamony pastries), “conchas” (sweet rolls with a cookielike layer on top), and more here daily for over 20 years.
Eat: Chile rellenos two ways—fried and soft. The spicy, gooey mess isn’t always available from Huequito’s food truck, but it’s a staple at the year-old brick-and-mortar shop in the Josephine Shopping Center.
Eat: Breakfast. You’ll come initially for lunch or dinnertime tortas and tacos. You’ll come back for the steaming, wake-up-your-taste-buds-on-the-way-to-work breakfast burrito made with eggs, cheese, potatoes (if desired), and your choice of meat (ham, bacon, chorizo) or jalapeño, tomato, and onion.
Buy: Whatever you need for your summer grilling session. Asada? Chicken adobo? Find it all at this butcher shop and market located next to Taqueria Sanchez.
El Tepetate Market
Buy: The basics. The closest thing to a grocery store for a couple of miles, El Tepetate boasts all the essentials (milk, bread, even Band-Aids) and a small selection of fresh fruit and vegetables along with an assortment of indulgences—traditional Latin American candies for the young ones and imported teas for the not-as-young ones.
Eat: Anything you can put salsa on. Like its green chile, El Toro’s salsa is homemade, spicy, and addictive. Perched on Colorado Boulevard, El Toro is a little rough around its 24-year-old edges, but it serves a regular lunch crowd of workers with kindness and attentiveness that many of Denver’s top-notch restaurants should emulate.
Eat: Something before you come. This unmarked bar’s cocktails are, ahem, boozy. We’re particularly fond of the whiskey drinks, which somehow fit in with the velvet couches, wallpaper, and Grandma’s house vibe.
Eat: Barbecue. Yes, this Globeville venue hosts near nightly music from acts like (this month) National Park Radio, but it’s the pulled pork and brisket that are the real headliners.
Eat: The barbacoa torta. At 27-year-old Emmanuel’s in Globeville, it’s crafted with made-fresh-daily bread, fiery and flavorful salsa, and tender meat. Might we suggest splitting one with a friend so you can save room for a strawberry empanada? You’ll never so much as look at a Pop-Tart again.
Swansea Corner Market
Buy: Topo Chico mineral water. Tiny Swansea Corner Market carries the Mexican drink, bottled in Monterrey for more than 200 years, and many other essentials for your kitchen—plus a few surprises, like glass cannabis pipes.