Dining in Denver – Ester’s Neighborhood Pub

Last week, I decided to take myself to Saturday brunch.  I don’t go out much on the weekends, since I’m always trying to find more time to sleep, but I decided I just needed to get out of the house and fortunately, the weather cooperated.  It was a bright, sunny Denver day and it felt good to be out and driving around.

I chose a place called Ester’s Neighborhood Pub for a couple of reasons, but mainly because I’m helping out with a “secret shopper” project that I won’t go into right now.  This place was on the list and I also knew the street it was on, so I felt comfortable driving there.  Since I’m still learning my way around Denver, I didn’t want to go somewhere and be worried about getting back in time for my pre-work nap, etc.   Lord, I sound old!

Anyway, I arrived around 11-ish and brunch was in full swing, but there wasn’t a wait for a table.  I chose to sit out on the covered patio, even though it was still chilly, just to have a little fresh air.  The whole place is kind of rustic, with barn wood walls, etc.  My table was up against the back wall, which was decorated with various flower pots in holders.  In spring and summer, I imagine they are bright with flowers.

The menu is pretty eclectic, ranging from breakfast standards to Mexican with burritos and huevos rancheros and foraying into Southern with chicken and waffles and Nashville hot chicken with greens.  I’ve never had Nashville hot chicken, but it seems to be a “thing” now, so I decided to try it.  Plus I’m always up for greens.  I decided to splurge with an Irish coffee.  Yum!

My server, Josephine-Marie, was excellent.  Sadly, she didn’t seem to know anything about the actual origin of Nashville hot chicken, but she could tell me how they made it there, so that was good.  My meal came in a large bowl, a generous breast/wing quarter with a smaller side dish of greens in the bowl and a pickle spear.  A slice of white bread is the traditional serving, but I’m not really into that, so I asked if I could substitute a biscuit and J-M was happy to do that at no charge, which was very nice.  It came with an interesting pineapple salsa/marmalade that was a very nice counterpoint to the heat of the chicken.

Now, I normally don’t eat fried chicken in public.  I know it sounds weird, but I don’t like eating messy things in front of other people.  I mean, I eat in front of people at my house, obviously, but if I slop something on my shirt at home, I can just change my clothes and toss it in the wash right away.  Can’t do that in a restaurant.  And I’m not crazy about eating fried chicken with a knife and fork, but I bit the bullet and tackled it.  The chicken was very well cooked.  Moist and tender, and easy to get off the bone.  The wing part, which I did pull apart manually, came apart easily and was quite meaty.  The spice mix was interesting.  The heat was good, didn’t slap you right in the face on the first bite, but kind of built up a bit until you realize you need that tissue you stuck in your pocket to blow your nose.  The greens were also excellent, tender but not overdone, and had onions and a bit of a vinegary kick which was a good balance to the chicken.  I personally don’t add vinegar to my greens when I cook them so this was a nice little difference.

The place has a very open and friendly atmosphere.  There were couples, couple groups, family groups, friends just hanging out, all ages, varied ethnicities, etc.  I felt quite comfortable being there alone and just enjoying my meal.  I struck up a nice conversation with my server, whose full name was Josephine-Marie Victoria, named for both grandmothers and a great-grandmother!  I thoroughly enjoyed my food (the Irish coffee was pretty darn good, too) and was too full for dessert by the end.  I’m definitely planning to go back, especially since I heard a couple of guys raving about how good the pizza is.  If you’re ever in Denver and want a laid-back place to just hang out and eat good things, Ester’s is the place.

 

Discoveries

I’m learning my new neighborhood. I’ve gone a few times to walk around the track at the middle school that’s just across the street. The other day I went in the morning right after I got back from taking E to school. As I did my laps, kids came from various direction, cutting across the old softball field below the track, through the gate and across the soccer field in the middle of the track and up the stairs to school. At least one teacher came that way, too. Then, as I was on my next to last lap, I heard the distinctly American sound of a snare drums and whistles, and the marching band from the local high school (only a little further away) came up the street, practicing, practicing. So much fun! I couldn’t help but walk in time with a big grin on my face.

This neighborhood is hilly! It’s a big change from everywhere else I’ve lived in town, which has been pretty flat as a pancake…or there were slight rises up to areas that plateaued into flat neighborhoods. This place has actual slopes. It’s an interesting change. This morning, after several gray/drizzly/wet days in a row, it was lovely, cool and sunny. I decided to tackle another part of the neighborhood and just walk. It’s a great place to walk…sidewalks everywhere, wide streets, very little traffic. The rain had energized everything and there was a lovely aroma of evergreen all around.

The architecture here is quite different. In my old neighborhood, houses had been around for a while…they’re the mill houses, build to house workers from CF&I Steel when steel was king and Pueblo was bigger than Colorado Springs. Lots of houses there from the 1900s, 1910’s and on up. Ours was built in 1940.

These neighborhoods are pure 50’s forward. Today’s route was probably even into the 70’s forward. But still, there was variety and even a little character, not the same-on-same sorts of development that look like they’ve been squeezed out of a Play-Doh tube and slice off with that little serrated plastic knife. I could get to like this place, I think. Once again, I live near a highway…this time, US Highway 50. A few years ago, the city put up a large sound wall along the road to help mitigate traffic noise. There’s an area where I could just walk along that wall for a good while and possibly end up at the college where I swim. Today, I just did a pretty good sized circle, noting street names and where they crossed at various places should I want to mix up my walk a little bit.

Also, I discovered that the little area where I walk down three steps to go into my apartment is the absolute perfect place for stretching my legs. As I look out of the door, the wall and a railing is on my right, but there’s a retaining wall on the left that’s a little bit above waist-high on me. It’s the perfect height for stretching my SI joints and putting my foot on to stretch my quadriceps muscle. I haven’t had anything to do that on in ages. It’ll be great even to step outside when I’m working just to loosen up the limbs and get some fresh air.

The people above me have hung up a tiny bird feeder from their porch railing. This makes me very happy. I’m thinking of putting up a hummingbird feeder just to see what happens.

I unpacked the last box today–well, one still has my shoes in it, but it’s stowed in the closet, so I might not unpack that one. The one had the photos. Some I filed, others I just moved to a smaller banker’s box with a top and put it on my closet shelf. My goal is to get a decent photo scanner that feeds, and scan photos while I watch TV. Then, if I can force myself to do it, I can toss the actual photos. I may or may not do this. The ones I threw out before I moved were easy, but what I have left is a lot of life/family history. Even if they’re digital, for me, there’s just something about being able to touch an old photograph that gives you something that just looking at a digital image can’t capture. We’ll see. No rush. No rules but mine now, right?

I finally broke in the kitchen and baked last night. A loaf of banana bread for E. I discovered that my coffee maker WILL fit under my kitchen cabinet (my eyeballing it said no), and so that will clear my little extra stand to put a microwave on. Still waiting on that, as I had to break down and buy a vacuum cleaner. I found a Shark at Lowe’s for a quite affordable price and this thing is equal to the Dyson at the other house. I’m very happy with it. E will now need to get into a vacuuming routine!

My phone still gets very iffy service throughout the flat. I finally was able to make and receive some calls at my desk…that was a relief. I still may go with the Vonage option, but for now I’m just going to see how it goes with what I have.

I’m still working on giving myself permission to be “lazy,” to watch a movie if I want to, or read a book or just sit in the chair and not do anything. E is looking forward to starting football soon, and I confess I am too. I’ll probably just hang out at the school in the morning and wait for him, so I can do more track walking there. Or reading. Or dozing in the car.  He was getting ragged on my one of his friends in a football group chat last night about his performance/what happened earlier this year, and I think he handled himself pretty well. He said he just wants to focus on school/football and not get caught up on that kind of stuff. I hope he can follow through on it.

I still have to get back over to the other place and get artwork. Those are the last things. I confess I am quite reluctant to go there. I don’t want to, I don’t want really to talk to her or see her. Without getting into a lot of messy detail, I feel like she has gone back on everything she ever said to me about “being fair” and I just want to cut ties and move on. But, the artwork is mine…a lot of it acquired before we met, or things that were to my taste and I want them here. My friend D said he would help me and she wants it out out the house, so I will just bite the bullet and do it…but not today.

In the meantime, I’m sure I have a lot more discoveries to make about this new space, new place and new life. Here’s to exploring.