If you are looking for European inspired coffee, St. Mark’s Coffee house is the spot. The Venetians were the first importers of coffee to Europe. After 400 years, the first coffee-house in Europe is still up and running in St. Mark’s Square. St. Mark’s Coffee house that opened in 1993 named their establishment from the Patron Saint of Venice, St. Marks. Long story short, Europe knows coffee.
Located in a quaint area of Denver on 17th and Race, Mark’s sits next to a local bar, liquor store, and restaurant. I had no idea this little area was hiding out here this whole time. The outdoor area has Japanese lights in the trees, floor lamps with lampshades on the roof lined in a row (I don’t get this either) and of course, rope lights hanging over the outdoor seating area for each establishment. It was actually really charming and I will definitely be back to check out the Thin Man Bar next door. I’m assuming that the Thin Man and Mark’s Coffee House are partners as the Barista working was wearing a Thin Man Tee and the design was very similar from what I could see through the window.
My first 5 thoughts when walking in:
1. This place is packed.
2. The lights are awesome.
3. I am 1 of maybe 4 people without their Mac Laptop.
4. Should I get the freshly made brownie?
5. I feel like I’m in a university’s library café.
Prior to coming to St. Mark’s, I did a bit of research. I came across a couple of reviews mentioning how packed it gets. When I pulled up to the café that was tucked away in an Uptown neighborhood I thought there’s no way it will be busy since it’s in a random area. I was lucky to find a table inside. Every single person in there was clearly there to get work done. Looks like I’m not the only one who can’t get anything done at home. The tables were pushed together to create long work station tables where a lot of people gathered to work on what looked like group projects, study groups and work meetings. There really weren’t too many other groups of people there looking to get a latte, bite and a chat.
The building itself is really neat. The front of the room is a glass garage door. On nice days they open it up that extends out to outdoor seating. The walls are white filled with local Colorado artwork for sale, pretty standard in a lot of cafes. The ceiling was painted red with red rope lights traveling from one end of the ceiling to the other. It really was what made the overall look of the cafe so cool. The windows were used as shelves for empty blue wine bottle style glasses that stood out against the white walls. I noticed a little shack inside the cafe and was so curious what it was. Was it part of the original building from the early 1900’s? Could it be part of an old church that once stood there? Was it imported from Europe? I couldn’t take it anymore. I went up to the counter… waited several minutes (customer service? Hello?) and then finally just asked the burning question, what is it from? The barista explained how it is meant to look like part of the St. Mark’s square in Venice. So, it wasn’t as cool as I was expecting but definitely helped connect the dots of the extremely strong latte and other european trends. The barista was extremely friendly and knowledgeable. However, he wasn’t super chatty and had a not-interested-in-getting-to-know-you attitude which is fine, he made some AMAZING coffee… oh, and I’m pretty sure he is the owner too.
The Venice inspired room has square house-like windows that allows you to peek into the kitchen where they bake the desserts and pastries. I stood by the pastry glass window for longer than I would like to admit checkin’ out that red velvet cake and the monster chocolate chip cookies. They have a decent choice of paninis as well if you’re looking for something not too sweet. I would absolutely get something there to eat next time I go. Word is their veggie soup (basically a veggie chili) isn’t half bad either. Of course their coffees are incredible. The coffee is very European authentic as you can even tell a difference in the taste compared to any other coffee shops. It’s much more real and less syrupy. They do have almond milk which is a definite plus. My vanilla almond milk latte did not have coffee art but the quality quickly made up for it. If you would compare a Starbucks Soy vanilla latte (no almond milk at Starbucks… I DON’T GET IT) and an almond milk vanilla latte from St. Mark’s it would taste pretty different. Don’t forget, this is also coming from a girl without a sense of smell/not-so-great sense of taste too. If you’re not feeling a coffee and find yourself there in the late evening, which very well could happen as they are open until midnight almost every night, they have a great selection of Microbrews. They even have a personal favorite of mine, White Rascal by Avery Brewing Co. TIP: Must try with an orange slice if you go there for beer.
If you are that kind of person always looking for a discount, deal or whatever else, BYOC. Bring Your Own Cup. You get 20 cents off your coffee.
The tables are mix and matched and a little different from other cafes. The table bases are older outdoor furniture with a different marble squares glued on top of plywood. The tables felt really sturdy and clean. The chairs mix and matched between old church pews lining the walls, what looks like basic flat back wood library chairs and I was lucky enough to snag two of their ‘throne’ chairs. No really, they were like 6′ tall with a design at the top and weighed probably 20+ pounds. There are taller bar stools lined up along a taller bar inspired table. Tables and chairs really were just about everywhere I found myself squeezing through people and chairs trying to make my way to the back.
The overall feel at St. Mark’s is a working environment. Just about every person in there was studying and working on their laptops. The ages ranged from what could be early college and grad students, to grandparents. Mainly a younger crowd was in there working which certainly added to the university library cafe feel. Occasionally they have film screenings there but it isn’t exactly consistent.
The only changes I would make would be the bathroom as it could use a little work and the music. Although I’m TOTALLY biased but I think that the style of music they have at thump would work really well at St. Marks. They had some catchy songs here and there that worked with the environment; it could be better.
Verdict: Check it out! It’s in a nice area and will definitely be busy in the summer. Whether you go in the early morning for the opening at 7am or in the evening at 11pm, it’s worth venturing out to. Will I go there again? Absolutely.