Top of the Line: Historic Union Station Emerges From a Major Face-Lift as Denver's New Draw
By Laurel Miller, Modern Luxury Aspen Magazine Since reopening in July, Denver's Union Station (1701 Wynkoop St., unionstationindenver.com)— its overhaul one of the nation's most anticipated historical renovation projects— represents a new incentive to brave I-70 for a winter getaway. Housed in a meticulously restored 1881 Beaux Arts building, the public market and transportation center hosts some of Denver's hottest new restaurants and bars; two pocket-size green-lifestyle boutiques; a nano-outlet of famed bookstore the Tattered Cover (tatteredcover.com); and a handful of top-notch, localcentric, fast-casual dining venues. Sealing the deal is crown jewel The Crawford Hotel (720.460.3700, the crawfordhotel.com), a luxe 112-room independent property occupying the upper three floors of the station's north and south wings. Named after visionary Colorado preservationist and Union Station renovation partner Dana Crawford, the hotel is a triumphant mix of historical high style and ingenious architectural and interior design. Each of the Crawford's three room styles pay homage to the glamorous rail travel era of the late 19th and 20th centuries. With a subtle art deco vibe, the Pullman rooms evoke a time when private sleeping cars meant high-class service. Classic rooms, a modern nod to the building's Victorian roots, feature lofty ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows, while distinctive Loft rooms, located in the former attic, flaunt original exposed-wood beams and vaulted ceilings. Providing room service breakfast for the hotel is the newest local branch of Snooze (snoozeeatery.com), and the much-loved Denver-based A.M. Eatery chain. Dig into a stach of pineapple upside-down pancakes with creme anglaise and cinnamon butter ($7.50) while lolling about in your cushy bed. For lunch and dinner, in-room options come courtesy of The Kitchen Next Door (thekitchen.com), an outpost of the wildly popular Boulder original. Art represents a major part of The Crawford's aesthetic, from vintage Western thematic images and found objects salvaged on-site to contemporary pieces utilizing repurposed materials (think original building blueprints inked on linen, images photographically reproduced onto old paintbrushes and lifelike wildlife murals bursting with color). The hotel's comprehensive printed art guide makes for a fascination self-led tour of public pieces lining hallways and stairwells. On Union Station's mezzanine level, with an entrance from The Crawford, you'll find the intimate Cooper Lounge (cooperlounge.com), a sexy 1930s-style bar modeled after a railway car. Helmed by Marcel Templet, formerly of Denver's Capital Grille, the focus is on sophisticated seasonal cocktails, like the seductive seasonal Café con Leche with Tequila Ocho reposado, Dancing Pines Zoranj, Novo iced coffee, piloncillo syrup and whipped cream ($13). The lounge affords views of the expansive Great Hall and LoDo; Templet suggests arriving just before sunset, when light streams through the massive windows on the hall's west side, bathing the marble bar and its vintage cut-crystal glassware in golden light. If you're not a hotel guest, you'll need to make a reservation for the lounge or sign up for walk-in access at the desk in the Great Hall (near Amtrak). Despite ultramod touches like iPad menus, the lounge's decor is emphatically vintage glam, with pewter, faux-eel skin barstools and leather and fabric seating, while nearby resto Stoic & Genuine (stoicandgenuine.com) provides raw bar items and cheese plates. Down in the 12,000-square-foot whitewashed Great Hall, beneath 20 original two-story plaster arches, is a convivial common area surrounded by restaurants, bars and boutiques. The moody, retro Terminal Bar (terminalbardenver.com) utilizes the original ticket windows and office to great effect, serving a rotating list of more than two dozen Colorado craft brews on draft, beer cocktails and contemporary takes on classic cocktails. Eats are from the adjacent Acme Burger & Brat Corporation (acmeburgers.com), which uses local goods like Tender Belly bacon, Continental sausages and rolls from Harvest Moon Baking Company. Other grab-and-go spots include Milkbox Ice Creamery (milkboxicecream.com), which scoops out small-batch flavors from local favorite Little Man Ice Cream; PigTrain Coffee (pigtraincoffee.com) with its local roasts; and Fresh Exchange for salads, sandwiches and wraps. For shoppers, 5 Green Boxes (5greenboxes.com) sells ethnic-inspired crafts and jewelry, while Bloom (bloomdenver.com) offers quirky decor, homewards and a cut-flower kiosk. The hall's main attractions are two outlets from well-known Denver chefs, James Beard Award winner Jennifer Jasinki's Stoic & Genuine offers a global take on seafood, from generously sized lobster rolls ($19) and Dungeness crab and mango salad with coconut-kaffir lime vinaigrette ($17) to the raw bar that features a variety of oysters ($3.50 each, with granitas such as lychee-sake and tarragon-cucumber). Past Food and Wine Best New Chef Alex Seidel's Euro-style Mercantile Dining & Provision (mercantiledenver.com)— all weathered hardwood floors, ecru walls and gleaming white tile— sells cheese, charcuterie, bulk spices and specialty foods. In the morning, drop by for house-baked treats like bacon sticky buns ($4). The rustic dinner menu highlights housemade cured meats and humbled ingredients like farro, root vegetables and marrow bones, prepared with classical European and Asian touches. Under the direction of Chef de Cuisine Matt Vawter, even a simple dish of housemade egg yolk pappardelle with braised rabbit, Colorado porcini, cauliflower and truffle ($14) is life-altering. Or order up a nightcap from the list of cheeky creations like Brom Bones: George Dickel No. 12 whiskey, maple syrup, roasted pumpkin, pepitas, baking spices, Angostura bitters and orange peel ($11). In early 2016, expect light-rail service to run between Union Station and Denver International Airport, making this an easy stop for travelers. All aboard!
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