A Taste of NOLA in Denver | Sassafras Restaurant Review

Who doesn’t love a little Cajun food with a dessert of beignets? Something about the New Orleans-style cuisine is homey and comforting, exactly what you need while visiting Denver in February. Before heading up to the mountains, my friends and I had a day in Denver to explore with each other which means brunch was on the itinerary. After research, and arguments of course, we settled on Sassafras American Eatery in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. A few blocks away from the Molly Brown House Museum, Sassafras serves up Southern-style comfort food with beignets that, according to my friend, rival that of Cafe du Monde in NOLA. They had great reviews, something on the menu for each of us and, most important, a ton of different drink options…

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Denver Dining | Linger: A Review

Would you dine in a restaurant that used to be a mortuary? Well, I did and I can say that the experience was far from gruesome. Before heading into the mountains, my friends and I used the one night we were all together in Denver to go out to a restaurant the locals love for dinner. Located in the Highland neighborhood, Linger is a swanky, hip restaurant with a multi-level space and tables to fit parties of two all the way to large groups. Linger doesn’t believe in the traditional single entree. Their entire menu is comprised of “small plates” meant to be shared among friends. Representing cuisine from around the world, Linger has made it its job to not be pigeon-holed as one type of restaurant. They have a versatile and unique food menu complemented by an equally original cocktail and drinks menu.

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Since there were quite a few of us, we had the opportunity to try many different dishes. A few of my favorites included the Lemongrass Pork Potstickers, Wagyu Sliders and Italian “Coffee” & Doughnuts. Sometimes when restaurants take you around the world through their menu, things can seem out of place or scattered but Linger makes it work. For starters, the menu is organized by region. There is a section just for Bao Buns (which are my newest obsession, in case you’re interested), Europe & Eurasia, Americas & Caribbean, Asia, Africa & Middle East, and India. I think it’s safe to say that we went almost all the way around the world.

AFRICA & MIDDLE EAST
Colorado Lamb Kabobs with cucumber, tzatziki, cilantro, chapati bread, and Turkish chimichurri. I’ve found that people either love lamb or hate it. I’m one of those people who love it. It has a gamey flavor that pairs really well with heartier dishes. On the contrary, this dish is super light but bursting in flavor showing you just how versatile lamb can be. The cucumber and tzatziki vs. chimichurri are almost opposite when it comes to flavor profile which provides a nice balance for the kabobs. It's an overall well-balanced dish.

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Chicken B’Stilla with crispy pastry, almonds, apricots, raisins, cinnamon, harissa, cumin labneh, fennel salad, and preserved lemon. African and Middle Eastern cuisine is something that is new to me. I’ve only started to taste their dishes in the last few years and even tried my hand at a few for a series earlier this year. Most likely because of their climate, a lot of the flavors are warmer: cinnamon, harissa, sumac, etc. It’s a different flavor profile than I’m used to but so delicious. The Chicken B’Stilla is one of those dishes that when they arrive you think, what is this? It’s interesting and almost looks like baked brie until you cut into it and see all the yummy goodness inside (that’s not brie of course).

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AMERICAS & CARIBBEAN
Organic Sweet Potato Waffle Fries with chipotle ketchup. I do not have a photo of these but they were definitely worth mentioning. Crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, these are some of the best sweet potato fries I’ve ever had. And let’s not forget that chipotle ketchup made in house! It adds sweetness mixed with a kick of spice. To. Die. For!

Wagyu Sliders with peppered bacon, aged cheddar, curried sour cream, pickled onion, sweet potato waffle fries, and chipotle ketchup. I never thought sliders could outdo a full-sized burger btu there’s so much flavor packed into these little guys that you don’t need a full-size. Peppery bacon meets the sharpness of cheddar cheese and is balanced with sour cream. These might not be outside my comfort zone but man were they delicious. Not to mention they come with the killer sweet potato fries and chipotle ketchup. That’s a big win if you ask me!

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ASIA
Lemongrass Pork Potstickers with sambal, crispy shallots, garlic, ginger, and sweet soy. If you haven’t tried sambal yet, you need to. I have a whole jar of it in my cabinet and love dumping a few spoonfuls on any Asian-inspired dinners that I make. A potsticker is a potsticker. There’s not a huge difference no matter where they’re made but the quality is definitely something worth noticing. For example, these potstickers were not greasy, they were almost fresh in a way. They balanced sweet and savory perfectly and the sauces on the side made each bite even better. Someone pass the sambal please!

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INDIA
Masala Dosa - crispy lentil crepe, winter squash, long beans, brussels sprouts, apricots, potatoes, sambar curry, tamarind date sauce, coconut mint chutney. Of all the plates we ordered, this one was probably the most out of the box one for our regular eating habits. I don’t even know how to explain this dish. A large, crispy crepe is filled with all these not-so-random ingredients. Not sure how to eat it, we broke off pieces of the crepe and treated it kind of like chips and salsa. Whatever the proper way to eat this dish is, it’s still delicious. Definitely on the sweeter side so if you’re more of a savory person, take a bite and keep moving.

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DESSERT
Italian “Coffee” & Doughnuts - caramelized white chocolate mousse, whipped espresso ganache and dark chocolate pearls. I could have dove into this cup of heaven. I’m not a sweets person but bring me Italian doughnuts with dark chocolate and I’m like a kid in a candy shop. This was rich and decadent, exactly how a dessert of this caliber should be. And I want more! Those dark chocolate pearls with the espresso ganache and white chocolate were almost too much to bear. Almost, I said almost.

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Taiwanese Snow Ice. For $9, you get three different choices to dress your Taiwanese Snow Ice, otherwise known as super delicate shaved ice. It looks like a bowl of snow and it’s super fluffy like snow as well. There are three different flavor options although I don’t remember which one we got. This is not my cup of tea so I had one bite and moved back to my Italian doughnuts. My friends went crazy for it though so it had to be delicious.

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Linger has a huge wine menu and lots of weekly specials including Happy Hour Monday through Friday with $6 wine by the glass and $5 shared plates. Indulge in a pre-fixe menu on Tuesdays, grab lunch Tuesdays through Fridays, or Brunch on weekends! If you have dietary restrictions, there is no restricting at Linger. They have Vegan and Gluten-Free options throughout their menu and the option to substitute many of the dishes that are not. They make sure to accommodate every single diner from carnivore to plant-based.

8 US Destinations For Solo Travel

Solo travel is one of the most rewarding experiences. It’s a chance for self-discovery, adventure and getting out of your comfort zone. It’s a true test of character and resilience. You learn just as much about yourself as the culture of the destination you’re visiting. It’s an experience everyone should have at least once but something I know I try to make a regular occurrence. One of the biggest questions that I’ve been asked since my first trip is about safety. As a woman, it can be scary and intimidating to travel alone, especially in the world we live in today. While I can’t guarantee that every experience will be a positive one, I can guarantee that every experience will be a memorable one and will enrich your life in one way or another.

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Each city has its own pros and cons. These factors include walkability, number of activities, friendliness of the people, etc. As a solo traveler, I prefer visiting destinations that have good walkability. I’d rather not rent a car and I’d ideally like to be able to get around as easy as possible. Public transportation is something I can figure out pretty quick so I’m not above using it when it’s available. Every other part of choosing a destination is personal to you. What are you looking to get out of your trip? What are you interested in? And what you do want to take away from it? I can’t help you there but I can share a few recommendations for first time solo travelers. These destinations also keep women in mind. I’ve personally visited all but two of these cities and I was by myself for each of them. The others come from lots of research and strong recommendations from fellow travelers.

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Boston, MA
These cities are organized alphabetically but Boston is by far my favorite on this list. As far as stateside travel goes, Boston will mostly likely always take the cake. Boston is a fantastic food city. Zagat and The Daily Meal have both recently included it in lists sharing the best food cities across America. It is a history buff’s dream city. It takes you back in time walking down the street. From trendy neighborhoods like Beacon Hill to quick trips across the river to Cambridge, the entire city is one giant adventure just waiting to be had. Don’t miss the Boston Common, grabbing a slice of pizza or a cannoli in the North End, and walking through a Harry Potter-esque, early Gilmore Girls dream come true on the Harvard Campus.

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Chicago, IL
Chicago is one of those cities that gets a bad rep from the media but doesn’t deserve it. It’s a beautiful city with tons of history, stunning architecture and an endless number of things to do. Bon Appetit even named it the Restaurant City of the Year in 2017 which was a mere three months ago. The culinary scene is without question one of the best and most exciting in the US and it’s constantly evolving. There are plenty of craft coffee shops to visit in every neighborhood and our obsession with donuts can be found in too many specialty donut shops. We have some of the best museums...did you know that the Art Institute of Chicago has the second largest collection of impressionist art in the world, only second to the D’Orsay in Paris? And we’re set to receive the biggest dinosaur ever discovered at the Field Museum very soon. Not to mention, Chicago is a walkable city, the public transportation is not hard to navigate at all and the people (I’ve been told) are friendly. We might be freezing cold for several months out of the year but if you catch us in a good month, especially during fall, you won’t regret the experience at all.

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Denver, CO
There are a lot of great places to visit in Colorado near the Denver area. Boulder is a fantastic city, there are several towns in the mountains that are great to visit. Denver is easy to access and it’s great for exploring by yourself though. It’s walkable, public transportation is easy to navigate and there’s plenty to do. One of the things that I feel is less known about Denver is the amount of graffiti art it has. The art scene is huge in general but it’s fun to walk around and see the designs. Denver also has suprisingly nice weather. For non-locals, Denver seems like it would always be snowed in and cold. It’s actually a somewhat mild climate with a few bad weather days. I’d say that those are pretty good odds for a successful trip.

Photo by   Michael   on   Unsplash

Madison, WI
Madison is a gorgeous city to visit any time of the year. The University of Wisconsin - Madison campus draws plenty of visitors and has become known as one of the most beautiful in the country. If you’re one of the many who prefers to discover destinations by foot, Madison has a unique bicycle program that makes covering a lot of ground easy and endless trails to explore as well. Madison has a food scene supported and inspired by locality. For example, a lot of the beers you’ll find at restaurants and bars you’ll only find in Wisconsin because they keep to a local business code. The lake views are gorgeous photo opportunities and if you visit in warmer months, the lake is a hotbed of water sports. If you don’t believe me when it comes to Madison, believe my cousin who moved there for college and never looked back...and also this article from Travel + Leisure.

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San Antonio, TX
San Antonio is a surprisingly amazing city. I’m not sure what most people expect when it comes to San Antonio but for myself, I didn’t have any expectations. All I knew was that there was this riverwalk everyone talked about and that the Alamo was here. Little did I know that it feels like a tropical escape, the riverwalk is absolutely stunning and there is a load of things to do. Just the riverwalk alone can take up your time for days. There are a multitude of restaurants, shops, and activities from live music to historical monuments. The riverwalk has a water taxi that takes you along the majority of the city’s most popular destinations including the Pearl District, an ex-brewery turned multi-purpose establishment with a hotel, restaurants, shopping, residences, and more.

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San Francisco, CA
San Francisco was the first city that I traveled to alone. It was my first trip after starting my freelance career and more circumstantial than anything since a friend of mine was getting married out there. I organized a three week trip - two weeks visiting family in Dallas and five days in San Francisco. San Francisco, while not my favorite place I’ve visited, is easy to navigate (if you don’t include the thigh killing hills) and there is plenty to occupy your time with. From gorgeous parks to interesting neighborhoods, ferry rides to abandoned prisons and day trips to wine country, there’s something for every interest. Lots of shopping, plenty of restaurants to try, you name it. Don’t miss the opportunity to ride a traditional trolly or get a beautiful shot of the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s also worth it to mention that the weather is perfect year round so packing for San Francisco is a breeze.

Photo Credit:   Stile. Foto. Cibo.

Photo Credit: Stile. Foto. Cibo.

Seattle, WA
Seattle is one of those cities that’s always been on my radar thanks to Nirvana, Sleepless in Seattle, Starbucks and Grey’s Anatomy. The home of grunge rock, too much rain and plenty of fish markets, Seattle is a city I keep hearing about which makes me want to buy a plane ticket now. I mean, my own personal list of things I want to do in Seattle is pretty long. Visit the high school where 10 Things I Hate About You was filmed, go see a few live music performances, go to a vineyard and winery, sit in a coffee shop and pretend I’m having coffee with Frasier, Niles and Daphne, visit the original Starbucks, visit Pike Place Market, and there’s more. Seattle saw the birth of an entire genre of music which also happens to be one of my favorites. Not to mention, the cloudy days would not bother this girl one bit. For you first time solo travelers, I’ve been told Seattle has really friendly locals. That’s always a plus…

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Washington DC
Washington DC is one of those places that is so approachable even schools send groups of students there for special trips. That’s actually how I discovered Washington DC for the first time - on an 8th grade trip. 12 years later, I returned for a 10-day visit after five days in Boston. Seeing the nation’s capital as a 25 year old as opposed to a 13 year old was a really interesting experience. DC is great for solo travel because there is an endless list of things to do, it’s a walkable city with easy to navigate public transportation, and because it’s such a high-tourist destination, the people almost expect you to approach them with a question. It’s friendly, welcoming and you certainly won’t be bored!

Even if you don’t think that solo travel is for you,  I encourage you to try at least one trip. Make it a city you’ve already been to so it’s not a completely new experience. Imagine a trip where you don’t have to think about what anyone else wants to do or when they want to do it. The only opinion that counts is yours. If you want to stroll around aimlessly one day and pack in a full schedule of activities the next, you can! If you want to change your mind last minute about what restaurant you’re heading to for dinner, do it! That’s the best part of traveling solo. The only person you need to consider the entire time is yourself. When was the last time you were able to do that?

A Guide to Denver's Union Station

Denver’s Union Station is one of the more unique spaces I’ve been lucky enough to visit. Union Station brings to mind terminals and commuters, travelers and families, the hustle and bustle of people coming and going. It doesn’t bring to mind restaurants and lounge spaces, elite bars and swanky hotels. Union Station in Denver has transcended the stereotypical idea of a “train station” and transformed the historical building into a multi-purpose space with restaurants, shops, and co-working stations. It’s a traveler’s dream! A place with free internet where you can get breakfast, lunch, and dinner all while charging your phone? Yes, please!

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I could go on for hours about the many things that Denver’s Union Station has going for it. To keep my excitement reeled in, I figured I would organize it into topics: food, shopping, and accommodations. While Union Station does act as a transportation hub for trains and buses, it also serves as a space for people to pass time. It also has a lot of personality. From the elegant chandeliers hanging from the ceiling to shuffleboard tables in the center of main area, you’d never know this space was meant to serve as a transportation hub.

Where to Stay
The Crawford Hotel opened up with Union Station during the grand reopening in 2014 after going through major renovations and upgrades. The boutique hotel is built right into the original Union Station structure and embraces the traditional style and architecture of the building. It’s beautiful inside and out and is accessible to guests through Union Station as well. Lucky for those staying at The Crawford, they have easy access to several fantastic restaurants and bars without having to step outside.

Where to Eat
Where to start! I managed to try almost every single restaurant in Union Station while visiting. It helped that I stayed at the Hotel Indigo Downtown Denver right across the street during the first half of my Colorado getaway. For a quick bite, ACME Delicatessen offers deli sandwiches inspired by those you’d find in New York City. They have delicious sandwiches that are also customizable with toppings and dressings. Try them for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Pigtrain Coffee Co. is another great stop if you’re on-the-go. Order a hand-crafted coffee or espresso drink and even craft your own! They also have a variety of pastries and snacks if you’re feeling a little peckish.

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Want something for breakfast? Snooze, An A.M. Eatery is a local favorite. Be prepared for a wait if you’re going during peak breakfast, brunch or lunch hours. When you get your food, you’ll understand why it’s such a popular spot. It's amazing! For a casual meal and over 30 local craft beers on tap. They have shuffleboard tables and communal seating in the center of Union Station extending outwards from their bar. For a little more swank, head to The Cooper Lounge for high-end cocktails, an impressive wine list and fantastic views. With a tricky entrance and more elite crowd, Cooper isn’t for everyone but if you feel like dropping a few bucks on a cocktail, it’s worth it for the experience. Make sure to plan a reservation in advance. This spot books up quick!

Do you love seafood? Stoic & Genuine is a farm-to-table restaurant that has all their seafood flown in daily. Indulge in a raw oyster bar or enjoy classics like Maine Lobster, Tuna Tartare, and even Caviar. If you prefer red meat, Next Door American Eatery serves up the best burger I’ve ever eaten. They also have great happy hour specials and a menu that can’t be beat. Next Door’s ingredients are locally sourced also partaking in the farm-to-table scene. Finally, Mercantile is a European-style farm-to-table “market” and ‘restaurant” that serves both bites to go and bites to eat in. The to-go market is a bit more affordable than the restaurant but both have scrumptious choices inspired by the best cuisine throughout Europe including handmade pasta, foie gras, pastries and more. And for dessert? Milkbox Ice Creamery serves some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had including non-dairy options for poor souls like myself. If there is one spot you visit for a bite in Union Station, Milkbox has to be it. Since I’ve visited, one more restaurant has opened up. Ultreia is a Spanish and Portuguese tapas restaurant which is right up my alley. I wish it was open back when I visited so I could have tried it out!

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Where to Play
While Union Station’s best feature is certainly all the food options, the building also has a few shops to browse through as well. Tattered Cover Book Store has a satellite location in Union Station. It’s small compared to the other locations but that doesn’t mean they don’t have it stocked to the ceiling with books! It’s the perfect taste of the small local chain that speaks to book lovers everywhere. For odds and ends, souvenirs, clothing and other random items, 5 Green Boxes and Bloom carry a variety of items from home decor to t-shirts.

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Where To Go For A Winter Wonderland Getaway

Winter only began less than one month ago. Isn’t that hard to believe? With almost three months left of the cold-weather season, it’s time to plan for a winter getaway. Everyone loves a beach but you can visit those any time of the year. Snow only falls during during one season making it a little more special. It’s hard to ignore how pretty everything is covered in pure white, glistening snow. Everything looks magical and nothing beats getting cozy at night in front of a fire with a warm blanket and cup of hot chocolate. Maybe I’m biased since winter tends to by my favorite time of year (almost tied with fall) but it’s hard to ignore the beauty of the season. If you’re itching to get away for a long weekend or something more, we’ve put together a list of spots to go for a winter getaway in North America.

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Banff, Canada
For those who love the outdoors, Banff is the perfect winter getaway. Located in Banff National Park, this small resort town features skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, snowboarding, and every other winter activity. There’s also hiking and fishing. For those who prefer to stay away from sports, there's plenty of shopping, dining and spas. Or stay in one of the gorgeous cabins and resorts to cozy up and catch up on reading. Not sold yet? Check out the city’s blog post on why you should visit in January.

[Photo via Pixabay User   Olichel  ]

[Photo via Pixabay User Olichel]

Black Hills, SD
Go off the grid for a true getaway in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This remote, isolated area is the perfect location to disconnect and unwind, especially after a crazy holiday season. The Black Hills are a snow-filled wonderland making it an ideal wintry escape. Close by are Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, and Devil’s Tower, all accessible year-round. Something tells me a photo of Mount Rushmore covered in snow is worth the escape.

Boston, MA
Boston is magical any time of year. The city’s age gives it a magical atmosphere making it perfect to visit no matter the season. Imagine the brick roads and cobblestone sidewalks covered in snow. The smoke coming out of old chimneys and the smell of baked goods wafting through the air. When the city glistens in the cold night, you’re taken back in time and nostalgia sinks in deep. The lights throughout the city are beautiful over the holiday season but if a January/February trip is in your future, it won’t be any less magical.

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Burlington, VT
Remember in White Christmas when they’re on the train talking about how it would nice to have a white Christmas in Vermont? It’s the snow capital of the world! Well, Burlington is no different. Plus it carries small town charm with an old world feel. For those who enjoy culture, dining, and entertainment, Burlington is the getaway for you. It’s a great town for a long weekend visit with cozy accommodations and beautiful views. The Boston Globe recently shared an article on five ways to enjoy the city. It’s a great read for a jump start on planning that weekend escape!

[Photo via Pixabay User  MariaMichelle ]

[Photo via Pixabay User MariaMichelle]

Door County, WI
There isn't one winter round-up that doesn't' include Door County. A winter wonderland of the Midwest, Door County is Wisconsin’s ultimate snow land with 15 different towns to visit. There’s something for everyone whether you’re looking for a kid-friendly, family getaway or a romantic escape for two. From light houses to wineries, forests and national parks to unique restaurants, Door County has it all. Catch a jazz concert or stay in with a cozy cup of hot cocoa in front of the fireplace. Get a taste of cherry pie with local fruit the area is known for. Go on a brewery or distillery crawl, see a variety of wild animals, and take a ride on a snowmobile. If there were ever a winter wonderland, Door County is it.

Galena, IL
Galena is a small city in the Northwestern corner of Illinois. The town rests on the border of Illinois and Iowa with only the Mississippi River dividing them. It’s a charming place to visit with plenty to do but you can tackle it all in a weekend. For a longer trip, venture out to close cities including Elizabeth, IL and Dubuque, IA. Enjoy skiing, sledding, and other winter sports as well as relaxing spa days and delicious meals.

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Hudson Valley, NY
The Hudson Valley is an expanse of counties and towns along either side of the Hudson River in upstate New York. The area is known for gorgeous views of nature, lots of history and an ever-growing food scene. Whether you’re visiting for a long weekend or planning an extended stay, there are plenty of small towns and national parks to explore. If you’re looking for a city escape, it’s also within driving distance of New York City. America’s oldest winery is located in the valley and the Appalachian Trail is one of the most popular hiking spots in New England. Want a taste of history? Visit one of the many old homes or estates for a trip back in time. With ten different counties to explore, there will be plenty to do now and even more to come back for.

Quebec City, Canada
For a European experience without the long flight, Quebec City is about as French as it gets in North America. The city is more than 400 years old so if you love historical destinations with a back-in-time feel, this is the spot for you. The city is known for a European experience but within minutes, outdoorsy types can find hiking, winter sports, and nature escapes. Visit some of North America’s oldest streets in Old Quebec. Take a day trip to Ile d’Orleans which is like stepping into the French countryside circa 18th century. Take a winter hike in the Jacques-Cartier National Park. Take photos of extraordinary views at the Chateau Frontenac. Wander through Place Royale for an afternoon of shopping and sightseeing. Quebec City and Montreal are two cities towards the top of my travel list I'd like to get to sooner rather than later.

Winter Park, Colorado
About 45 minutes outside of Denver is a small mountain town with plenty of charm and an abundance of privacy. My girlfriends and I visited last February for a long weekend getaway and it was a nice escape from regular city life. There are no words to describe the mountains. They’re magnificent and peaceful all in one. Leave the city on Sunday to take advantage of the Winter Park Express, a train that goes from Winter Park to Denver without any stops. The train travels through the mountains providing unbelievable views of the mountains and valleys. Winter Park is a ski town with lots of winter sports but if you’re like me and not as athletically inclined for sports that require balance, there’s also lots of restaurants, shops and spas to indulge in. Or, you could stay in with friends while taking advantage of the beautiful views from each window in the house.

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8 Spots to Grab a Bite in Denver

Welcome 2018! A new year is always exciting. There are so many possibilities and new opportunities. It’s a fresh start to tackle new goals and discover new places to travel! I’ve been creating a list of possibilities to visit in 2018 from small town USA to ancient European cities. I’ve enjoyed all the destinations I’ve been lucky enough to visit last year and in 2016, even 2015 but I’m embracing change and commitment in 2018, something I’ll discuss more in tomorrow’s post. So with that said, I want to visit new destinations this year. I’d love to hear any of your personal recommendations and why you recommend them. While I think about 2018, I’m still reflecting on past trips including an adventurous week in Denver! Today, I’m sharing eight spots to grab a bite. I will warn you, this post is not meant for reading on an empty stomach.

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ACME Delicatessen
Located in Union Station, ACME is the ultimate grab and go spot for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Offering bagels, egg sandwiches, soup, salad and a variety of hearty, delicious sandwiches, there’s something for everyone and it’s quick. Grab it on the way back to the hotel, grab it on the way to the train. I ordered the Italian Bistro sandwich while visiting which was spectacular. It’s hard to go wrong with an Italian sub and the truffle aioli took it to the next level.

Cheba Hut Toasted Subs
Located a few blocks away from Hotel Monaco DenverCheba Hut is a sandwich chain I was happy to discover. They have a long list of sandwiches to choose from which can be a bit overwhelming at first. While I only tried one, I’m sure they’re all tasty. It was my first night back from the mountains, I was starving and tired. The last thing I wanted to do was go out for food so instead, I decided on a short walk to grab a sandwich. Boy, was I glad I did. I ordered the “Dank” which is the pizza sub with homemade marinara, salami, pepperoni and provolone. It might seem like there’s a pattern to my sandwich decisions at this moment but I promise I order more than Italian subs. I took the sandwich back to the hotel and enjoyed the pretty spectacular tasting sub. Denver knows how to make a sandwich, I’ll give them that.

Hearth & Dram
Located in the Hotel Indigo and right across the street from Union Station, Hearth & Dram is a “rustic American restaurant and modern saloon featuring wood-fire cooking and more than 300 whiskies from around the world.” I didn’t have the opportunity to dine at Hearth & Dram for dinner but I did wander down for breakfast on my first morning in Denver. The restaurant has a very sleek, rustic look to it and the service is friendly and welcoming. I’m uncertain if their breakfast is open to other than hotel guests of Indigo but I did peek in on lunch and dinner and everything looks hearty and comforting. It’s an ideal place for large groups but also offers an intimate setting for a table of two.

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Linger
A few days into my trip, three of my friends joined me in Denver. After all, I planned the Denver getaway around a girls’ trip to the mountains! We were all together in the city for only one night and dead set on going out for a nice dinner. We headed to Linger, in the Highland neighborhood thanks to a local’s recommendation. It did not disappoint. Before I get into the details, I recommend making a reservation. Linger is one of the obvious hot spots in Denver and it’s no surprise considering the casual, sophisticated vibe, impeccable service and phenomenal food. Linger is a tapas/small plates-focused restaurant with cuisines from around the world. You’ll find New American, Moroccan, Italian, Asian and more. The menu lacks a focused concept except that the flavors are out of this world and the dishes are shareable - but I believe that’s what makes it such a sought after destination. Their cocktail menu is admirable and their wine and spirits menu is just as great. I have a full restaurant review coming later this month so I’m going to stop myself here. All I have to say is that if Linger isn’t on your restaurant list for Denver yet, add it now.

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Next Door
A few months back I shared a recipe inspired by a burger I had at Next Door. It was the first place that I ate at in Denver and it was the first place that I had eaten at in over 12 hours. The day I arrived in Denver, I headed over to my hotel and immediately went on my computer to catch up on emails and work since I wasn’t able to get internet on the flight. A few hours later, the sun had set and since it was my first time in Denver, I wasn’t feeling adventurous. I was tired and I was hungry, two combinations that make me quite cranky. I headed across the street to Union Station and wandered into Next Door with a half hour left in happy hour. My waitress was very friendly and shared several recommendations both on the menu and for Denver. Needless to say, it was a pleasant dining experience and one that I needed at the moment. The food was so good, I still think about it today. This was the first restaurant that inspired me to write a copycat recipe. I’ll be talking more about Next Door in my Union Station feature coming next week. So stick around to read more about the restaurant that left a lasting impact on this foodie.

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Sam’s No. 3
I don’t think my Food Network obsession is much of a secret. I watch more of the Food Network than any other channel combined. One of my favorite shows is Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives. I’m sure you’ve heard of it one time or another :-). Anyway, I always like to do a little research before my trips to see if I’ll be near any spots Guy visits on Triple-D. Lucky for me, Sam’s No. 3 was on the list and a few blocks away from Monaco Denver! A classic, old-school diner, Sam’s is a local favorite and I can see why. The service is friendly but efficient. The menu has just about everything you can think of on it. The food is top-notch quality diner food and best of all, it’s affordable. I ordered a simple breakfast combo of eggs and a waffle but do not let the simplicity fool you. It was exactly what I needed on an otherwise rough personal day and it was comforting. If you have hard-to-please eaters, take them to Sam’s. No one will be disappointed in this joint.

Sassafras
Sassafras American Eatery is a southern-style restaurant with a Cajun vibe. What I loved most about Sassafras was their impressive espresso menu. I hadn’t had coffee yet when my friends and I headed over for brunch and I could have really used a heavy dose of caffeine. My friends had cocktails in mind. Bloody Mary’s seemed to be their specialty so would it be a surprise if I told you we ordered several? Don’t judge just yet. Sassafras has this option of “Many Mini Mary’s” where you get to choose four miniature versions of any of their Bloody Mary’s (which is a lot). It takes out the trouble of making a decision and you’re not on the floor by the time brunch is over. The food was exactly as advertised, southern-style which meant hearty and comforting, my favorite! It was a fun spot with lots of personality. The service was top notch and our waiter had actually moved to Denver from Chicago so that was a nice touch to have in common. I’ll also have a full review of Sassafras coming soon.

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Snooze an AM Eatery
I met my dear friend, Tiffany from The Dwelling Tree and Mamahood Essentials for breakfast at Snooze an AM Eatery in Union Station on my second morning in Denver. We’ve already established that Union Station was my favorite spot to frequent in Denver so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I tried most of the restaurants. Snooze is another local favorite though I didn't know this at the time. There is a high probability that you’ll wait in line during peak hours to get a seat. The food is incredible. Their menu boasts both breakfast favorites, unique twists and lunch options. I ordered something I almost never order, Eggs Benedict, but not just any version - the Bella! Bella! Benny with thin slices of prosciutto, Taleggio cheese and a balsamic glaze on toasted Ciabatta. My mouth waters thinking about it. I’m not a Hollandaise girl or an Egg’s Benedict girl but this dish changed me for life. More important, it was so great being able to meet up with a blogger friend. Being a blogger, you make these close friends that know so much about you but it’s rare to meet them face to face without a screen between you. Being able to see Tiffany made eating at Snooze an even more memorable experience.

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Hotel Monaco Denver - Checking In

After a long weekend in the mountains, I returned back to Denver for a few more days of exploration and relaxation. After sleeping on a couch for a few nights, it was a welcome feeling to return to a space that was my own with a giant king bed all to myself. Hotel Monaco Denver is located right off of the 16th Street Mall and a half mile away from Union Station making it ideally located to wandering Denver on foot. Named one of the “Top 20 Hotels in Denver” by Conde Nast Traveler, it’s no surprise Monaco made the list. The service was incredible, the room unbeatable and the experience memorable.

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Checking In
An in-the-moment decision had me trekking the half mile from Union Station to Hotel Monaco with my luggage. I pack light but rolling a suitcase after a three hour train ride and a weekend without much sleep, walking was the worst decision. Upon arrival, check-in was fast, easy and the receptionist was very nice. She gave me directions to my room, shared information about the hotel including happy hour drinks and bites every afternoon, and gave me recommendations for Panzano, their restaurant.

Walking into Monaco is like stepping into an old movie. The spaces are all soft lit and the decor is very luxe but in an eclectic way. The whole building - from the lobby to guest rooms - has a European design, Venetian if I were to pick a region, and it feels like luxury without the exclusivity. It’s warm and welcoming, something that can most likely be attributed to the color tones and friendly staff.

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The Room
As soon as I opened the door to my guest room, I felt the load of the trek release from my body. I stayed in a Deluxe King Suite which had plenty of space. Nothing felt cramped by any means in this room. Two large sets of windows took up the majority of the far wall bringing in plenty of light during the day. A desk sat in the corner with a comfortable chair and next to it a dresser with large, flat-screen TV and a drawer fitted with snacks and drinks. I loved the little mascot that greeted you by the TV.

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The bed was, in a word, heaven. I slept like a baby every night. The bathroom was clean and spacious, and the suite had plenty of space to store luggage and clothing. They also provide these funky animal print bathrobes that I found hilarious. Housekeeping comes to the room each day and tidies up. This isn’t something that I’m particularly in need of since I’m a rather neat traveler but it doesn’t hurt to have your bed tucked in nice and tight every day!

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Bites
Hotel Monaco Denver’s restaurant, Panzano, serves Italian fare with local, organic and sustainable ingredients. They focus on contemporary Northern Italian cuisine and serve a variety of innovative cocktails as well as tasty happy hour, breakfast and brunch menus. I didn’t dine in the restaurant itself but I did order room service for breakfast on my last morning. It’s a tradition I seem to have started while traveling. It takes the stress away of having to leave the hotel before checking out to grab a bite.

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I ordered a carafe of coffee (of course) with Egg White French Toast. The French Toast doesn’t appear to be on the menu any longer unless they don’t have the “healthy” options listed online. Regardless, there are plenty of delicious options to choose from including Pineapple Pancakes, Zucchini Bread French Toast, and Chicken Hash. This is all in addition to fresh squeezed juice, espresso drinks, teas and more. My modest breakfast was the perfect start to a day of travel.

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The Neighborhood
Monaco is located right off the 16th Street Mall and within walking distance of a variety of Denver attractions including Larimer Square, and as I mentioned earlier, Union Station. Two blocks down and around the corner on 15th Street is Sam’s No. 3, a diner that appeared on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, that has killer breakfast food and, allegedly, burgers. Denver Pavilions is right up 17th Street along with the Paramount Theatre. The State Capitol is a bit more of a walk but worth it when the weather is warmer to walk the Civic Park Center as well.

The Verdict
While I’ve stayed in Kimpton Hotels before, this was my first time in a Hotel Monaco. The experience was a pure delight. From excellent service to scrumptious food and a dreamy bed, I don’t have any negative things to say. The location is ideal and the amenities are top notch. Hotel Monaco Denver really goes out of their way to provide an exceptional experience away from home. Whether your travel is for business, leisure or a bit of both, I recommend Hotel Monaco for your home away from home.

*This post was not sponsored or affiliated in any way with the Hotel Monaco Denver or Kimpton Hotels.*

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8 Free Things To Do In Denver

Tight on a budget or looking to spend money on a few specific things while visiting Denver? We’ve put together a list of eight things to do within the mile-high city that are completely free. Regardless of your reason for saving money, this list of things to do won’t make you feeling like you’re penny pinching. While the possibility to spend money is there for each of them, not one requires you to spend a cent. This is particularly useful when unexpected expenses come up during your trip or you only have so much money budgeted for the trip. Read on and tell me in the comments below if you’ve had the chance to visit any one of these spots and if you have recommendations of your own.

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16th Street Mall
1.25 miles long, the 16th Street Mall is a pedestrian mall with trolleys that run in both directions. It’s full of shops, stores and businesses including 42 outdoor cafes, 12 movie theaters, pedicabs and more. My personal favorite feature are the more than 200 trees throughout the mall lit with thousands of lights. It gives the mall a magical and elegant feeling, almost like it’s Christmas year-round! Right off the mall on Champa Street is this sandwich place called Cheba Hut. They make some of the best sandwiches you will ever eat. It made a great dinner for my first night back from the mountains.

Denver Art Museum
While the Denver Art Museum isn’t free daily, you can get free admission on the first Saturdays of each month! Tickets aren’t terrible if you go on a regular day ($10 for adults), but if you will be in the city during the first weekend in any given month, there’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of the free Saturday! Not one for museums? Denver has a ton of graffiti art all over the city. Walk the streets and admire the art around you.

Denver Beer Trail
If you’re a beer lover, this one is perfect for you. Disclaimer: you may not be able to go without spending money on this one if you’re deadset on trying a few brews. No judgement here though. Denver Brewery Guide has three different walking tours for breweries and tap houses in the LoDo and LoHi neighborhoods of Denver and Golden, Colorado, just West of the city. The walking tours are free and self-guided so pick how many you’d like to visit and maybe add one to the list for lunch so that you include the tasting in your food budget!

Denver Free Walking Tours
Less boozy and less likely to lead to money spending, Denver Free Walking Tours offers free tours year-round at 10am. Make sure to plan ahead though because from November 1st to April 30th, free tours are only available on weekends. While the tour is free, tipping is encouraged if you enjoyed your time. The tour is 1.8 miles with plenty of stops including the State Capitol, Denver Art Museum, U.S. Mint, Larimer Square, Coors Field and more.

First Friday Art Walks
Head to the RiNo Art District on the first Friday of each month for a free art walk throughout the neighborhood. Businesses open to the public offering everything from art openings to live music from 6-9pm. It’s a great opportunity to support local artists and businesses while also diving into Denver’s art culture, something they’ve become known for. Besides that, it’s a fun way to spend Friday night and the potential need to spend a few bucks is pretty slim but supporting the locals is always encouraged!

Larimer Square
The oldest and most historic block in Denver, Larimer Square has everything from boutique shops to revered restaurants. Similar to the 16th Street Mall, my favorite part of Larimer Square is the canopied lights over the block. It’s wonderful to walk around the square and window shop but if you’re eager to experience one of the restaurants or stores, I recommend stopping in! There’s a dog shop on Larimer Street called Dog Savvy Boutique. They have tasty treats for the pups but they also provide spa treatments which blows my mind.

Tattered Cover Book Store
I read about Tattered Cover Book Store in a magazine article sharing the best bookstores in every state. I can’t remember who published it but it was after I knew I’d be visiting Denver and I knew I had to visit being a bookworm myself. Tattered Cover is “a large indie bookstore and cafe with the cozy feel and comfort of smaller bookshops.” There are several locations but I recommend visiting the one by the 16th Street Mall in LoDo.

Visit Union Station
Union Station quickly became my favorite spot in Denver. Located across the street from the first hotel I stayed at, Hotel Indigo Downtown Denver, I ventured to Union Station my first night for dinner. It was exactly the welcome into Denver that I needed after a long day. The station has a very classic, old-time feel to it. The main area is full of seating and tables for people traveling through or for those who want a light bustle noise while they work. There are about a dozen restaurants, a few shops and The Crawford Hotel is within the building as well. If you like to feel as if you’re in an old movie, you must visit Union Station.