Denver has it going on when it comes to coffeehouses and restaurants specializing in decadent sweets made from scratch. Sure, there's a bit of coffee snobbery, but is perfect coffee such a bad thing to desire? Many of the coffeehouses on this list buy their beans from Colorado roasters, carrying on the focus on local sources that has long been trending on the restaurant and brewery scenes. For your coffee and dessert pleasure, we have a list that includes dedicated coffeehouses, dessert specialists and places that offer both--and then some. Stella's Coffee Haus is a fine example of a traditional coffeehouse, a place where local artists hang their work, local musicians play and friends gather for good coffee and conversation. Wednesday's Pie is only about pies--and serving as the secret entrance to Green Russell, a Denver speakeasy--while Crave Dessert Bar & Lounge offers a spot for late-night sweets and cocktails. The Market at Larimer Square has it all: breakfast, lunch, dinner, a coffee bar, pastries, desserts and hours that span the day and evening. Rooster & Moon designates itself a true public house, a place where people gather for excellent coffee, fresh-baked pastries, sandwiches and evening music with craft brews and cocktails. These inviting places are sprinkled across Denver neighborhoods, so wherever you find yourself when you're craving coffee or sweets, you'll be in luck.
The Market at Larimer Square
You can't miss the desserts when you walk into The Market. They're front and center, which is clearly by design. They look so tempting it's hard to focus on anything else. Also upfront is the coffee bar and pastry case, exactly why The Market is a popular stop for breakfast in the downtown area. But longtime patrons know that The Market is inviting at any time of day or evening. If you eat dinner at one of the top restaurants in the Larimer Square area, you can always tuck into The Market afterward for dessert in a casual, comfortable setting before heading home. Outdoor seating is available on pleasant days, making this a nice spot for adding people-watching to your coffee or dessert break. (303-534-5140)
Denver Bicycle Cafe
It may be an unusual combination--coffee shop, pub and bike repair shop--but it fits right into Denver's trendy yet utilitarian and sports-oriented aesthetic. Low-key Denver Bicycle Cafe is, first and foremost, a place where you can meet and converse with friends or sit alone and commune with your laptop during the day, all while sipping espresso, cold brew, French Press or other specialty coffees or teas. Eclectic music plays but doesn't assault your eardrums. The compact menu includes baked goods, tamales, breakfast burritos and other items from local vendors. The beer, which is poured starting at 5 p.m. when coffee production shuts down, has an emphasis on Colorado brews. If you want to bring your own food or order in from a neighborhood restaurant, you can do that, too. This place is all about community. (720.446.8029)
Steam Espresso Bar
This is a very coffee-centric establishment with a vibe that will appeal to hip purists. It's all about the craft of roasting coffee and producing exceptional coffee. "Our goal is to serve the best cup of coffee in the most beautiful environment," says the management, and that's exactly what they do. Steam Espresso Bar serves excellent pastries, and it has also made a name for itself with an extensive selection of gluten-free desserts. Among the options are gluten-free orange blossom cake, carrot cake and sables. And for those on a gluten-free regime who fear they're missing out on those trendy little French macaroons, not to worry--Steam Espresso Bar has those in gluten-free form as well. (303.952.9716)
Crema Coffee House
Crema serves fine-roasted coffee in the traditional ways, along with breakfast and lunch. Here's what the management says about the name and about espresso. "Crema is the lovely layer of thickly effervescent foam that defines well-crafted espresso, an emulsion of the essential oils contained in the coffee. This presence of a thick layer of richly aromatic, reddish brown crema indicates that all culinary factors were met satisfactorily during the preparation of the shot."
Whether you're an espresso aficionado or not, Crema is an excellent choice for coffee and dessert. Many of the pastries and breads are made in-house. In addition to espresso, latte, cappuccino and macchiato, Crema offers French-press and cold-brewed coffee. (720-284-9648)
Stella's, on Old South Pearl Street, draws coffee-lovers, especially those who like to have their dogs along with them on the patio (where water bowls are provided). It also appeals to music lovers who appreciate the way local coffee and local music pair up. Local artwork is hung on the walls, with artists rotating in and out. All of that makes Stella's a very community oriented establishment in the best tradition of coffeehouses. Stella's coffee is roasted locally by Pablo's, and patrons who drink decaf will want to know that the decaf espresso is created with an all-natural water process. If you want to ensure a place to sit for morning coffee, it's best to arrive before 8:30 a.m., and free WiFi makes it easy to stay connected. (303-777-1031)
Crave Dessert Bar & Lounge
Sleek Crave offers a sexy urban look and feel, perfect for its 14th-street location. It's open from late morning until late evening. Crave gets its coffee from Colorado's Method Roasters based in Boulder, where every roast is still handcrafted using a signature open-air roasting process. As for desserts, they are made fresh daily and there are always 10 of them. The options change seasonally, but the most popular can run out by 5 p.m. so if you have a favorite, be sure to arrive before then. In addition to happy hour, Crave also offers specials, including on Wednesdays when half-price bottles of wine are on offer. A small parking lot behind the building is available for customers and is priced at just $5 for the day. (303-586-4199)
Rooster & Moon Coffee Pub
Rooster & Moon management defines the place as "more of a public house than a coffee shop," where the conversation is always buzzing. A full-on restaurant with coffee, food, dessert and a bar, Rooster & Moon has something for everyone. This is definitely not a place where you'll be confronted by one of those condescending baristas who feel superior to customers; Rooster & Moon baristas were voted the friendliest in Denver in 2013. Rooster & Moon is also a place where patrons can sit, sip and work; there are electrical outlets all over the place to keep everyone powered up. Pastries here, baked in-house, are both sweet and savory, with offerings such as traditional blueberry scones but also goat-cheese-rosemary scones. Rooster & Moon is known for its salads, so consider going green before satisfying the sweet craving. (303.993.2622)
D Bar Denver
The D in D Bar stands for drinks, dining and dessert. It's here that Food Network celebrity chef Keegan Gerhard and his team serve up seasonally inspired, upscale comfort food along with award-winning desserts. Everything is made from scratch, in-house daily. Customers who are all about pastries and desserts can sit at the dessert bar, which is connected to the coffee/pastry shop. There they can watch pastries being made right in front of them. One of the things the chef particularly likes making is ice cream and gelato, and a gelato case has recently been added to the restaurant. D Bar Denver uses Allegro coffee, a Colorado organic coffee company. If you're driving, don't worry about parking; there are 28 spots available in the drive-through breezeway behind the restaurant. (303.861.4710, 303.861.4710)
Huckleberry Roasters is a place for coffee purists--but not elitists. Huckleberry was started with the idea that good coffee is a vehicle for meaningful conversations and shared experiences, and that's the vibe that persists. The owners source coffee from the world's best producers and then honor it through careful roasting that yields complex and naturally sweet, not bitter, coffee. The owners like to expand their own coffee horizons and those of their customers. To that end, they create new coffee beverages every few months that are seasonally inspired. An example of a recent winter selection is a juniper- infused-milk cappuccino with house-made chocolate sauce--coffee and dessert in one delectable drink. (866.558.2201)
Once only open on Wednesday's, this pie shop became so popular it had to expand its hours to meet demand. It's still the quasi-secret front for Green Russell, one of Denver's hip speakeasies, but it's also the place to get fabulous, fresh-made pies--three kinds each day with flavors that rotate, some on a seasonal basis. The pies are the recipes of well-known Denver restaurateur Frank Bonanno, who makes his crusts more like shortbread than traditional pie crusts, with a little almond flour in the mix to sweeten the deal. There are just six seats in the pie shop. While complimentary coffee is usually on hand, guests can also order beverages at Russell's Smokehouse next door to bring into the shop and have with their pie. (303-893-6505)
About Christine Loomis
Christine has written about every aspect of travel, from romance and adventure to family and wellness. She is also lucky to have had three major home states through the years: New York, Colorado and California. Today she divides time between the Denver and San Francisco areas.
Christine loves shoe shopping and fishing; walking anywhere; horseback riding (she was on the equestrian team at the University of Oregon); and discovering menus that include small-batch whiskeys, craft beer and lesser-known wines.
She would go anywhere in an RV and believes summer is best when it includes a rafting trip.
Read more about Christine Loomis here.