Never Too Far Away: Euclid Hall in Denver
I found Euclid Hall for the first time on a Saturday night. I had toughed out both sessions of the Great American Beer Festival that day, and gotten some good time in at the Left Hand Brewing Company after-party. I must have walked 15 miles that day. From the party to Euclid Hall was another mile. I found a little two-person table in a dark corner there and crumbled apart like freshly-hit vase. Bag, arms, feet, ass and cap fell about everywhere.
My plan was to get some cheap food and just fester a while, but Euclid Hall wouldn’t have it that way. I hadn’t even finished my first exhale when a thin, hairy dynamo named Nate showed up at my side. He stuck his arm through my sweaty, stale aura and said “Hey, I’m Nate.”
There was nothing phony about his hello. It seemed like he actually wanted to meet me. Shit. I sat straight up, opened my eyes all the way, and met his hand with mine. “Frank.”
He flipped open the menu, and made two killer suggestions. We made jokes about Great American Beer Festival-goers we saw, and he brought me possibly the most-needed glass of water I’ve ever had. I hope this is the closest I ever come to being resurrected.
I realized the potential of roasted cauliflower that night, and ate a cranked andouille sausage. The next day, I strode back in with blazing sunlight behind me; the day after that, I trundled out of a snowstorm with luggage clunking in tow. I chatted with the cooks while they worked. A waitress and I grooved cuss words to each other while I got tipsy before leaving town. I chose a meal from the Poutines menu. I ate chips and dip with a fork.
Every way a fellow could fall in love with a bar, I fell for Euclid Hall that weekend.
THE BASICS: Euclid Hall is headed up by Jennifer Jasinski and Beth Gruitch, who also run Denver’s Rioja and Bistro Vendôme. The bar is named after Euclid, a Greek mathematician who lived around 300 B.C. and penned one of the most influential works on mathematics. The building Euclid Hall sits in has a history worth reading completely. It may have previously been a brothel for local A-listers. It’s definitely at the site of Denver’s City Hall War of 1894. A con man won a standoff with Colorado’s governor that year. Seriously, read this history page.
You should have seen how excited Nate was for me when I ordered the roasted cauliflower salad. He’s a carnivore, he said, but he’ll take this dish any day. I know why. Cauliflower florets are perfectly roasted. They bite with a solid crunch, like the one a monster truck makes when flattening cars. A good cover of goat cheese and a run through poblano jam turns this into – I don’t know how else to describe it – a fucking phenomenon. If I could have this dish anytime, and Pajarito’s elote-style Brussels sprouts anytime, a vegan turn would be a real possibility for me.
On my second trip, a quick visit on a gleaming Sunday afternoon, a young woman with blonde dreadlocks and manicured nails helped me through my trademark beer-choosing pains. Do I get Russell Kelly Pale Ale or Escape to Colorado IPA? Her solution: have both. The Russell Kelly was a net positive, for sure, but I preferred the Escape.
Crafted, Not Cranked Out. It’s on the website, and it’s written on the chalkboard you see when you first enter the place. They’re talking about sausages. Nate brought me the andouille sausage that Saturday night; the young woman on Sunday slid me the lamb merguez.
Andouille sausage, at least in my experience, has countless times been the clinching ingredient in chilis and pastas. It’s made here with cayenne, thyme, and brandy. The lamb merguez, made with harissa and Tunisian spices, is much more approachable than its name might suggest. Neither sausage was spiced to death. They both had kick, but not a Chuck Norris roundhouse per se. The casings bit apart with a good snap! The meat was juicy and well-ground.
Each sausage comes with four mustards to experiment with, including a black berry brown and a mustard made with Left Hand Milk Stout. They don’t come on buns, and that’s a good thing. If you came for one beer, you’re probably going to have two. Save carbs where you can, y’know?
I walked from Union Station for my third visit. It was a half-mile walk through heavy snowfall, and I didn’t care. My last meal would be had here, at that same bar counter, to the crackles and hisses of meat being cooked. A gal wearing glasses and a tight ponytail caught herself cussing in a conversation with someone, turned to me, and began to apologize. It was nice of her, but anyone who has ever driven with me knows how fluently I speak BLEEP.
She talked me into an order of chips and dip. This isn’t a joke. They’re house-made potato chips, with lemon goat cheese, smoked duck breast, dill and duck confit. These were the first chips and dip I’ve ever eaten with a fork. They were perfectly balanced between hot and cold, funky and sharp, crispy and creamy. Scroll back up. Have you ever seen chips and dip come out like that? They were incredible.
I drank two pints of Escape to Colorado, and a cocktail made with bourbon and Left Hand Milk Stout called Final Thoughts. Euclid Hall showed me that Colorado can also make a bangin’ poutine – not quite as much cheese as a Wisconsinite would use, not quite as much gravy as a Canadian would use. Very satisfying poutine.
I left my waitress a social media card that day, with “I FUCKIN’ LOVE THIS PLACE!” scrawled on the back.
Where am I with Euclid Hall now? During one of the first conversations I had with a new director at my company, he told me about a trip he was taking to Denver. I pressed him, hard, to hit Euclid Hall. I’m probably being overly sentimental, but I think I sounded like Nate when he sold me that cauliflower. That director came back and told me he loved it, too.
My fourth visit will be during the week of my birthday. I’m flying to Denver for Euclid Hall, even if I don’t do anything else. I’m going to sit by the bar, chat with the cooks, and have a beer. I’m going to listen to the hisses and crackle of meat cooking, and probably groove cuss words with a server. Then, I’m going to eat and drink until one of those puts me into a coma. If I get lucky, I’ll miss my return flight.