Colfax Tour

By Sarah Ford, with Abby Templeton-Greene and Nache Greene
Photos by Kacey Coffenberry

Colfax Avenue is the spine of Denver, home to much of the city’s history as well as some of its newest and hippest locations. With diversity in businesses, restaurants, and bars, Colfax reflects each of Denver’s unique personalities. 


Art by Book Williams, Jr.1. Denver’s Largest Used Book Collection 

What was once a local soda fountain became Capitol Hill Books 35 years ago. Now it’s home to over 35,000 used books, all listed on an online database. If you shop online, though, you will miss out on family-like staff, a huge array of meticulously organized books, and the original malt shop counter at check out.

Location: 300 E. Colfax Ave.

Hours: Mon–Sat 10 a.m. –6 p.m.,
                 Sun 11 a.m. –5 p.m.

Contact: 303-837-0700,


2. A Distinguished Dive 

Colfax is known for its dive bars. The Nob Hill Inn is one of its best, getting Denver drunk since 1954. There is a lot of life in this little place that was once crowned Denver’s best dive bar (by Westword in 2009). Drinks are inexpensive, and the dark interior is enlivened by the jukebox blasting classics throughout the night.

Location: 420 E. Colfax Ave.

Hours: Mon-Sun 8 a.m.–2 a.m.

Contact: 303-860-7557

Vendors Lando Allen and Brian
like the breakfast at Pete’s Steak House. That is its official name, though both men call it by the name on the sign in the window, “Pete’s Café.” This is not to be confused with the several other businesses on Colfax owned by someone else named Pete. Pete’s Steak House is at 514 E. Colfax Ave. 

Brian: “Good breakfast at a decent price.”

Lando: “Oh my God, that’s good food.”


Schuyler Colfax, the former vice president of the United States for whom Colfax Avenue was named, allegedly wrote: “[L]et Colfax Way be a den of avarice, a cauldron of covetousness, a peccadillo wharf in a sea-storm of morality. Let not a man walk Colfax Way and wonder, ‘Where shall I deposit my virility this eve, where may I encounter mine intoxicant?’ for he shall find all he seeks on Colfax. Curse these vexatious rickets!”


3. Rolling with the Times 

The Fillmore Theatre was built in 1905, and originally operated as a roller rink. Over the past century, the space has been everything from an automobile manufacturing plant to a farmer’s market. Large chandeliers dangling from the ceiling make for a unique atmosphere—and you can still catch Denver’s roller derby performing here.

Location: 1510 Clarkson St.

Hours: Box office open Mon–Fri noon–6 p.m.,
                 Sat 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. (See
                 concert schedule for more information)

Contact: 303-837-0360,

Vendor Patrick Balerio has lived in Denver for most of his life. He grew up in the Northside—now typically referred to as LoHi—but he has many memories of life on Colfax in the 70s. There used to be a bar behind what is now Sancho’s Broken Arrow called the Music Box: “If anything was going to happen, it was likely to happen at the Music Box. It was a dark, dingy, dusty, anything goes type of bar.”


4. Ice Cream Colfax Style

Ice Cream Riot offers unique flavors that make it worth a special trip to the ‘Fax. While there are the traditional options, the real reason to stop in is for one of the distinct flavors.  Combine breakfast and dessert with cereal ice cream: Fruity Pebbles, Honey Nut Cheerios, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch are a few on offer.

Location: 1238 E. Colfax Ave.

Hours: Mon 1–10 p.m., Tues–Thurs 2–10 p.m., 
                Fri–Sat 1–11 p.m., Sun 1–10 p.m.

Contact: 720-475-1853


5. American Street Food

Husband and wife team Tom Lieber and Lien Vo opened Bourbon Grill 13 years ago and it has had a cult following ever sense. The bourbon chicken is gorgeously charred, lightly sweet, and delicious. Parking is limited (a cardboard sign in the window gives customers heaps of information on why they should not park in the Burger King parking lot) but the wait and walk are well worth it: the award winning lemonade and grilled bourbon chicken make you feel like you are enjoying a 4th of July BBQ in the park even if you’re sitting on a small four top on Colfax avenue.

Location: 1618 E. Colfax Ave.

Hours: Mon–Sat 10 a.m. –9 p.m.

Contact: 303-355-3821