535 16th Street (16th and Welton)
upper downtown Denver
Open 7 days a week; live music every night
Bus directions: take the mall shuttle from Market Street Station
Ever since I attended a Mile High Business Alliance event at the Appaloosa Grill, which featured impressive appetizers and local beer, I’ve been wanting to eat dinner there.
Alas, fate in the form of Stang Auto Tech intervened last Friday. The $3,000 of long-delayed service on the truck wouldn’t be done in time for us to pick it up and drive to downtown Denver by dinner. We canceled our patio reservation and settled for brunch on Sunday.
Appaloosa Grill is at the corner of 16th and Welton, in a beautiful red-stone building, the Masonic Building, which was gutted by fire in the 1980s. The Horse was originally owned by Mayor John Hickenlooper’s company, Wynkoop Brewing, but was sold to Johnny James Qualley and Adam Hill, members of the local roots rock band Oakhurst, and a couple of other investors.
When I walked in, I was startled by how empty the place was. I thought, brunch in downtown Denver, we’ll have to wait for half an hour, right? But I guess the hot places for brunch in Denver are Dixon’s (in LoDo) and Snooze on Park Avenue.
The Horse has a small patio, which was already full, so we took a booth with a view of the mall. One of my first sights out the window was a white horse and buggy carrying a white family down the mall. The second was of a black man in an apron on the corner. At first I thought he must be one of the cooks, taking a break.
“Hit the Road, Jack” was playing as we sat down, but luckily that wasn’t a hint about our brunch. I ordered the Spotted Horse Scramble, with cheddar, roasted red pepper, and black bean and corn succotash. It was barely warm when it came out, but I liked the cheesy egg flavor. What I noticed most was the mixture of textures: egg and bean and soft sweet pepper and juicy corn. The sourdough toast was light and crisp, and when I asked the waitress for jelly, she brought grape because that was all they had.
Todd’s breakfast burrito had a slightly spicy green chili and perhaps a few too many potatoes inside, given that I had half a plate of them sautéed in paprika.
Brunch neither impressed me overmuch nor depressed me. It was good, solid food, more originally presented than it would be at, say, the Hard Rock Café across the street, and in reasonable portions. I’ve eaten brunch at Dixon’s before in lower downtown Denver, but what I remember about that restaurant was the long patio that allows great people-watching.
I’d be willing to go back to Appaloosa Grill for dinner, but most of all I want to go there sometime after 10 and hear some roots rock and see the website-fabled crowd: “The crowd leans a little older than you’d find in LoDo . . . and far more accessible. It’s hip enough to be hip without making the tragically unhip feel completely unwelcome.”
What a relief.
Perhaps I could even see Oakhurst play. They used to play the Horse more regularly, but our waitress said they tour a lot. When they do play the restaurant, though, it fills up.
When we left, around 1 pm, “Georgia” was playing, and there were 7 people sitting at the bar. On the corner outside, the man in the apron was trying to convince a young man to part with his shoes for a shine. But the latter had headphones in his ears. He wasn’t ignoring the older man—he didn’t hear him.
Two different eras, on the corner of the 16th Street Mall where the Masonic Building sits.