Listen up, art lovers. Denver’s newest arts-focused neighborhood -- the RiNo Art District, short for River North -- is poised to please with art galleries, watering holes, restaurants, and indie boutiques. There’s even a gourmet hot-dog spot, wine and spirits boutique, and an artisan-coffee roaster’s café. Head to this part of Denver, just north of downtown, on the first Friday of each month, when businesses open their doors and show off their wares. Here are seven must-sees while in the ‘hood.
1. The Infinite Monkey Theorem
Just when you thought canned booze was retro, this virtual winery start-up shows us it’s cool. Crafting its wines (both canned and bottled) from mostly Colorado grapes -- and some surprising varietals like Semillon and Malbec -- the tasting room is attached to the winery. On weekend nights, a food truck is parked out back and the following evening is Saturday Night Fever (cue live music). You’re encouraged to linger, thanks to sectional sofas and an hour-long tour of the winery that includes five wine pours.
2. Proof Wine & Spirits
Drop by this boutique wine shop on Fridays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and you can taste samples of what’s on the shelves. Bonus: Colorado spirits and craft beers are also sold here. Owned by Liz Batkin -- who also organized Noble Swine Supper Club, a wildly popular invite-only dinner group -- this is a place where the curating is done for you, and you don’t have to worry about going home with a bad bottle of wine.
3. The Source
This food market includes both a bakery (Babettes Artisan Breads) and a brewery (Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project), tucked into a brick building dating back to the late 1880s. There are 15 merchants in all. Shopping-wise, Svper Ordinary is part art gallery, part design-goods, with rotating exhibits and designer-made apparel, totes, home goods, and jewelry.
4. Dry Ice Factory
For one-stop art gawking, this building -- boasting 2,600 square feet of gallery space -- is home to two art galleries. aBuzz has a tight focus on emerging Colorado artists, while Ice Cube Gallery is a cooperative run by members of the arts community, intent on hosting juried exhibits that get people talking about art. Case in point: February’s show is “Ridiculousness: Exchanges on Constructed Realities.”
5. Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs
Sure, it’s just a hot-dog place, but the RiNo casual eatery has a serious local following with unique takes on franks that include Alaskan reindeer meat, duck, pheasant, and boar. Opened by Jim Pittenger five years ago, patrons include celebrity chef Eric Greenspan who recently dropped by to try the dogs.
6. Boxcar Coffee Roasters
For a coffee break, head to Boxcar Coffee Roasters, where you can grab a cup of the full-bodied No. 7 House Blend, described as having chocolate and citrus notes. Tip: The shop is only open during the day, although on Friday and Saturday the hours extend until 7 p.m.
7. Larimer Lounge
To wind down the night, there’s no better place than Larimer Lounge, where live music and comedy acts fill this space every Thursday through Sunday. The vibe is all over the place -- in a good way -- with folk music, soul, indie rock and funk. Even cooler? Quite a few bands that played here early in their careers made it big -- like Arcade Fire, The Lumineers, and the Killers. If music's not your jam, Thursday night is bingo happy hour from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.