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 a 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 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 a couple of 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.
Because of his suggestions, I realized the potential of roasted cauliflower that night and ate a cranked andouille sausage – but his influence reached far beyond that. It reached into the next day, when I strode back in with blazing sunlight behind me; and 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.
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. The crunch they create when you bite into them sounds almost destructive, 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. The andouille sausages here are seasoned with cayenne, thyme, and brandy. The lamb merguez, made with harissa and Tunisian spices, is much more approachable than its name might suggest. There was kick, but not a Chuck Norris roundhouse per se. The casings bit apart with a good snap! The meat was juicy and well-ground. The only way I could think to improve on these would be to stuff them with $100s.
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, right?
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?
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, but still. Very satisfying poutine.
I left my waitress a social media card that day, with “I FUCKIN’ LOVE THIS PLACE!” scrawled on the back.
I brought that love home, where a new director at my company 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.
I think about this place now whenever I think about Denver now: the bar, the cooks, the beer, the hisses and crackles of meat on the grills, the servers, and the cuss words we shared. There’s a lot to get excited about when you plan a trip to the Rockies, and I’ll miss a lot of that stuff because I’d rather be lurking at Euclid Hall. If I get lucky, I’ll lurk too long and miss my return flight.