206 East 13th Avenue (next to Watercourse Bakery)
13th and Sherman
Capitol Hill, Denver
Open until 2 am every night
Bus directions:take the 0 from Market Street Station to Broadway and 13th; walk east to Sherman
On an extended mosey up 13th Avenue to see the off-Colfax regions of Capitol Hill, I came upon City, O’ City. As soon as I stepped through the door I got a big welcome and went to sit at the bar.
I had heard this place was a hangout for the Capitol Hill crowd, but it looked far too laid-back for that. It was also fairly empty on a Saturday. And I soon realized it was a vegetarian restaurant, which I hadn’t expected at all. I must have decided in my head that it was a wood-paneled, dark, very masculine kind of place that served large helpings of meat.
I ordered one of the specials, a Garden Pie, which sounded intriguing. While dreams of quiche filled my head, I sipped my cup of Jasmine Pouchong tea, one of their top-shelf selections at $2.53 per mismatched cup and saucer.
The 10-inch Garden Pie was not quiche, of course, but a pizza unlike any I’ve ever had before: no cheese, drenched in the reduction, and covered with small pieces of arugula and tomatoes and asparagus and onion. When my waitress in the low-backed dress put it on the bar in front of me, it was steaming. Amazingly, despite the reduction everywhere, the crust was still crisp through the first and even the second pieces (I ate three and had to leave the rest because I didn’t want to carry it around). It was not elegantly presented, but for a salad on pizza crust, it tasted good and provided a lot of nourishment for $9—enough food for two people, or even three who wanted a light meal.
Sometime during the second piece of pizza, my leg began to go numb. I sat at the bar so I could talk to the staff, but I think a table would be more comfortable than the wobbly black-and-silver bar stools. The music, described as “down tempo” on the website, was funky and vaguely new age by turns. Behind me sat a young woman in a white beret, reading; another skinny young woman in black leather leggings came in to order some coffee.
One of the servers, who had corkscrew brown curls and was wearing a shiny red-and-black-checked shirt, told me that Watercourse Foods had been here until a couple of years ago, and after it moved to a new location in Uptown Denver, the owners opened City, O’ City in the old space. Right next door is Watercourse Bakery, where you can get gluten-free baked goods.
So the name has changed and the menu has (mostly) changed and a wall was knocked out, but the vibe is the same. Politicos come by for lunch or a drink and sit down with their opponents and relax. Then they go back to the Capitol and resume their battles. But it’s not just lobbyists and lawyers: the young artists who attend the Art Institute of Colorado at 12th and Lincoln like the cheap food too.
So what is City, O’ City, besides a place with a funny, vaguely poetic name? A vegetarian restaurant? A pizza joint? A coffeehouse? A bar that stays open until 2 am?