“You should have some wine instead, it helps get work done.” While looking at my blank Microsoft Word Doc, Josh set down my iced almond milk white chocolate latte in front of me 7:30pm on a Tuesday. It’s like he read my mind. If I weren’t already on my second cup of coffee and still fighting a headache from last night’s one-too-many-glasses-of-wine, I would have.
I have stepped out of Capitol Hill for once and ventured out to an untouched area, the Denver Highlands. Ah yes, home of the artsy it crowd in Denver. Located on the corner of 32nd and Meade in the Highlands Square, you’ll find Highlands Cork & Coffee. As the title gives away, Highlands Cork & Coffee is in fact a wine bar, café and coffee shop. The café owner turned her own 100-year-old home into one of the only privately owned coffee houses in the area in 2007. There are about four or five staff members total who work this trendy hot spot.
Leading up to the front door is a large front patio I am already dying to go to in summer for a cup of coffee/tea or in the evening for some live music and a glass of wine. Rumor has it that their live music in the summer Thursdays-Sunday nights takes over 32nd St. as the music fills the street overpowering the local restaurants and bars. The second you walk in you feel like you are walking directly into someone’s home. Except you walk in and there’s a bunch of tables in what looks like used to be a living room to your left and right that you almost have to climb over to get into the what was once a kitchen to place your order. The second you sit down, you get that feeling of instant comfort. Bust out that laptop, there’s free WiFi (password clearly posted at the register) or sit back and post up at a table for hours to chat.
The owner has to have some sort of love for rope lighting. Everywhere you look there are rope lights whether they are placed on the trees outside, patio, ceiling, walls… the list goes on. In some weird way, it actually works and looks great and not as if you stepped into a dorm room. It truly adds to the overall dim café feel. Especially being in an artsy district, the traditional Starbucks layout would struggle and come off flat. Another recurring theme around the café is bicycle art. The walls are filled with local glass artwork most of which, were bikes. In Denver, this is more than appropriate.
Highlands Cork & Wine is a very easy-going place. The crowd I’m sure varies since it’s located in such a diverse area but chances are you’ll run into a polished bunch of 20-30 somethings. You don’t need to be dressed up by any means but do yourself a favor and run a comb through your hair.
This entire place reeks. It reeks of local from the vegan homemade pastry bars to the Noosa yogurt used in dishes on the menu and just the way workers talk to you. I feel like I’ve been here a thousand times already with the kind of service I got. Update: about two paragraphs deep, Josh asked me about that wine I initially turned down. After he said the words, five-dollar Merlot I was sold. I even got my glass of Merlot topped off getting my five dollars worth and then some. My quick coffee shop stop turned into a two-hour wine event. Although they close at 9pm, I found myself at 9:30 sitting at the counter writing down coffee shop recommendations, drinking a free glass of red wine and talking about Denver things while the barista/everything worker did his closing routine. I’m starting to think it’s becoming a thing for me to get to hang out in coffee shops after hours.
The only criticism I have for Highlands Cork and Coffee is please do something about your window treatments. Having what looks like an out-of-style poncho/ throw blanket above one window and a velvet cloth passed as a curtain on another just looks bad. Were those poncho things even ever in style? Irrelevant. Also, there is a fake vine with grapes hanging over another window. I get it; I really do see what you were going for but… no. Just get rid of it.
Spotted: Wine rack doubled as a crème & sugar station. I dig it; it fits the wine coffee theme perfectly!
The menu is smaller (smaller menu = better food) and on the pricier side but has all of your traditional wine and coffee accompaniments. To go with your wine, there are perfect dishes including but not limited to the fresh Brie Cheese plate that caught my eye. For the early morning breakfast goers, try the house made granola and Noosa. Lunch rush? Grab a Boulder Panini. Don’t worry, I don’t know what a Boulder Panini is either but Boulder + Panini?! You just can’t go wrong with a title like that. When they’re busy for their breakfast service on weekend mornings, don’t except your basic bagel to take thirty seconds. Fact: last Sunday it did take an obscene amount of time to get a bagel out to a customer and I heard the entire story. Anticipate a longer wait if the place is packed to the max they still only have a handful of workers in a small space to get all the food made. Go for the experience not just to grab-and-go.
The low down on this highland joint is this just may be the best date café or best café for conversation. It will impress those who are a sucker for wine, coffee, local places aka the Mandy Groves’ out there. Even though there is a walk up counter to place your order, I was able to get my wine ordered, delivered AND paid for without leaving my seat. I even got my wine topped off. For a glass pour wine, I’m not mad! If that doesn’t show how great this place is than I don’t know what would.
This place is straight up unique yet charming. Any coffee shop where I am one of three people with their laptop and a glass of red wine is a total winner in my cup. It’s a great change of pace stepping outside of Denver’s typical microbrew and coffee trend. Words of advice though, if you are a wino do yourself a favor and start with a glass of wine. It’s uneatable at this corky place.