6 Outsider Misconceptions About Denver

While living in Los Angeles for five years, I was asked many (really dumb) questions about my hometown. Below are the most common misconceptions outsiders shared with me about Denver, Colorado (and yes, these are all real and recurring assumptions):

1. Denver is perpetually buried in several feet of snow.
Hardly. We have over 300 sunny days annually (just short of Miami and more than San Diego). The average annual snowfall in the metro area is 57.5 inches, it lands sporadically six months out of the year, and only 40-50% of it sticks. With the average winter temperature above freezing (between 34 and 51 degrees, depending on the month), the snow that sticks melts in a few days.

2. Most people in Denver are cowboys and dress accordingly.
I can think of five people who wear cowboy boots and zero people who wear cowboy hats casually. Yes, Colorado maintains a lot of agriculture and has rich cow-town history. But the large majority of people do not dress or act the part.

3. Everyone skis.
I don’t. I know many people who never have. It’s really expensive.

4. Columbine High School is the main high school in Littleton.
Jefferson County, Columbine’s home district, has 22 high schools, serves nearly 85,000 students, and blankets a 700 square-mile area with half of a million people. Columbine isn’t even in the Littleton Public School District. Just because the school was televised 12 years ago doesn’t make it the masthead for an entire town.

5. Denver is a violent city.
Two high school students and a few scruffy wildlife hunters do not make an entire city “violent.” The funny part? These assumptions were made by people living in South Central Los Angeles. Denver had 33 murders last year. Los Angeles? 291.

6. Denver is in the mountains.
Seriously? Look at a map. Denver is easily 20 miles away from the nearest hill, let alone the depths of the Rocky Mountains. Do Southern Californians take geography?

Advertisements

10 Favorite Restaurants in Los Angeles

Before departing Los Angeles, I am visiting as many friends and favorite local spots as possible. When people ask what I will miss about Los Angeles, I tell them three things: friends, movie screenings, and food. I take comfort in knowing that other cities have great food, but I will definitely miss the following ten local spots the most and recommend them all. This is not a food critic’s ranking by any means; these places carry for me unforgettable experiential or cultural value beyond the plate. They may not all be the best in town, but I promise you: they are damn good and will show up in my dreams.

1. Twenty Five Degrees (Hollywood, American) [website] [menu] [yelp] [map]
As far as I’m concerned, the best-valued burger in town (the most food and highest quality for the price). Located inside the Roosevelt Hotel on the Hollywood strip. Open 24 hours, $15-$30 per person. Killer cheese plate, beat salad, Guinness milkshake, sweet potato fries, and garlic parmesan sauce.

2. The Bazaar by José Andrés (Beverly Hills, Tapas) [website] [menu] [yelp] [map]
José Andrés takes Spanish Tapas and small plate dining to a whole new level by experimenting with molecular gastronomy and other modern culinary methods to create some of the most inventive tastes and textures I’ve ever put into my mouth. Expensive and swanky as hell, but a fantasy nonetheless. $50-$200 per person. Last I checked, $16 valet. Located inside the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills.

3. Kogi BBQ @ The Alibi Room (Culver, Mexican/Korean) [website] [menu] [yelp] [map]
First popularized by their food truck armada, Kogi BBQ also serves an expanded menu from the back kitchen of the Alibi Room bar. Like most bars, you must fight for a seat and order at the bar – but it’s totally worth the hassle. The Korean short rib tacos or breakfast burritos are always good; I strongly recommend the Pacman Burger, tofu & citrus salad, and Vegan Sesame Leaf Tacos. Decent cocktails, too. Stay current with any weekly specials that sound delicious. $12-$25 per person.

4. Palms Thai Restaurant (Hollywood, Thai) [website] [yelp] [map]
I crave their Panang Curry and Chicken Pineapple Fried Rice all the time. Some of the best Pad Thai I’ve ever had. Big menu, haven’t really ever been disappointed. Far less traditional (and probably less healthy), but so very delicious. Very fast service, quite the operation. Karaoke Thai Elvis is always a treat. $9-$18 per person. Cheap valet lot or unmetered street parking.

5. Elite Chinese Restaurant (Monterey Park, Dim Sum) [website] [menu] [yelp] [map]
The best valued dim sum we could find. Large menu that you can order fresh from (no carts). Astoundingly affordable and always filling – the most glorious food comas I’ve ever had. Recommend you get there as they open in the morning to beat the rush (dim sum is traditionally a breakfast food). $8-$14 per person.

6. Crown of India (Hollywood, Indian) [website] [menu] [yelp] [map]
The best Indian food I could find for a very reasonable price. Solid lunch specials with vegetables, rice, and naan. The dinner Thali special is plenty enough to split with another person and comes with two vegetables, rice, salad, and naan. Chicken Coconut Curry is revolutionary. Hole in the wall, decent service. $9-$16 per person.

7. Legend Noodle (Rampart Village, Vietnamese) [website] [menu] [yelp] [map]
Best Pho I’ve ever had and insanely cheap. Enough said. $7-$14

8. Grub (Hollywood, Breakfast) [website] [menu] [yelp] [map]
I am too cheap to eat breakfast out, so it’s a big deal that this place made this list. Their “sweet & sassy” thick cut bacon cannot be beat. And the Ooh La La Egg Sandwich cannot be described with words. The blueberry lemonade or homemade ginger ale will refresh you in ways you’ve never been refreshed. Everything is good here, including their alcohol and lunch menu (an unrivaled list of BLT sandwiches). $10-$20 per person.

9. Western Doma Noodles (Koreatown, Korean) [yelp] [map]
Run by a sweet little Korean lady, this place feels like Korean home cooking. Amazing side dishes, uncanny dol sot bibimbap, delicious ox tail soup, and amazing galbi stews. Know your Korean food or bring a Korean; otherwise, this may intimidate you. Bonus points and dishes abound if you try to speak Korean with the owner. $9-$20 per person.

10. Daikokuya (Little Tokyo, Japanese) [website] [menu] [yelp] [map]
The best ramen I’ve ever had. According to Japanese friends, this competes with the real thing. Cash only, long waits, and meter parking – but worth the fight. $11-$16 per person.

Dangerous City, Lost Angels

In what kind of place does a man wake to sirens and screams, gaze upon his neighbors’ house engulfed in flames, close the glass slider to cut the sound, and return to bed having done nothing? Within minutes of waking, I fell back to sleep in spite of the bright flicker on my wall and common urban murmur outside. A mere annoyance, nothing more.

The morning after, I reflected on my apathy. It made me sick to think of all the similar experiences I have had in Los Angeles. I realized how cold I had become.

I have resided here for five years and seen things I hope you never see. A car on fire riddled with bullet holes in South Central; a woman mugged across the street in Venice Beach; a bank evacuated on bomb threat by USC; a motorcyclist flipped and crushed at 65 mph on the 5 Interstate; the corpse of a homeless woman lifted from a gutter downtown; a tanker truck explosion on the 105-110 overpass; prostitutes fighting over a fare in Hollywood; a SWAT-grade drug bust in Koreatown; and far too much more. My heart froze over long ago to endure such things. I am not proud of the man this city numbed me to be.

It takes a thick skin to survive in Los Angeles.