While her peers are busy figuring out what it takes to run a competitive, successful business venture in Denver’s food and beverage industry, creative deviant Lisa Ruskaup is hard at work pioneering a groundbreaking concept that will force these poor souls to rethink their business models, toss out their business plans, and start all over again from scratch.
And so Carbon Beverage Cafe and Habit Doughnut Dispensary was born.
Ruskaup is the mastermind behind this novel enterprise, and she’s successfully executed on all levels; design, atmosphere, concept, food, innovation, quality, no stone is left unturned. It’s no stretch to say Habit & Carbon kicks ass, and we couldn’t be more inspired.
And so, let us introduce you to our pick for Denver’s best hangout, courtesy of Habit & Carbon, Feed Media, and Loki..
Carbon Beverage Cafe
Walking in to Carbon, the first thing you’ll feel is a sense of warmness and community. From the dimly lit bar top playing host to 18 taps to the smiling staff eager to please your tastebuds and brighten your day; there’s something very welcoming about this enchanting place. Renovated from a historical Denver hangout known as “Paris on the Platte” in the 80’s and 90’s an extension of “Muddy Waters on the Platte” a coffeehouse around the corner as far back as 1975, Carbon retains some of the artistic vibes and funky energy from what was once Denver’s oldest coffeehouse.
In it’s Muddy’s days, this was a hotbed in the 70’s for overnight jazz gigs, poetry slams, liberal ideas, political discussion, and a kind of refuge for all of Denver’s progressives. On any given night one could find the likes of Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, a who’s who of jazz musicians, and nearly all of Denver’s mayors and the state’s governors. Muddy’s inspired the free-spirited “Paris on the Platte”, which was initially a small coffeehouse built on to a bohemian bookstore.
As Paris on the Platte, the iconic Denver cafe played a similar role in people’s lives, a creative outpost for Denver locals, and in ways an extension of Muddy’s, for 28 years.
“There are definitely ghosts here, jokes Lisa as she cracks a suspiciously honest smile discussing the flickering lights and mysterious energy that permeates the building.”
In speaking with Lisa, it was clear that she both recognizes and values the role Muddy’s and Paris on the Platte played in the lives of local Denverites in the buildings decades long history. This is the place where locals drank their first beers, developed life-long friendships, and brainstormed artistic ideas. Lisa has fully embraced the idea of preserving this nostalgia and creating a place that delicately balances both old and new.
A palpable history encompassing years (and inches) of smoke, graffiti, and band art lines the storied walls of Paris on the Platte, now preserved in 9 sectioned frames at Carbon Cafe.
“It’s a dog friendly, music friendly, smoking friendly, eating and drinking friendly, kid friendly, place” says Lisa as she shows us the back patio where in warmer weather you can find people hanging out after concerts, bonding over doughnuts and Kombucha late into the night.
“I don’t regulate what people do back here” Lisa smiles, “I also didn’t want to make it too cleaned up, I thought it should be urban and gritty.”
As far as food goes, there is no shortage of incredible options, but our favorites included the “Lil’ Kim” (Slow-Cooked Korean BBQ Pork Sandwich with House Kimchi on a Red Hot Togarashi Blazed Doughnut), the “60’s T.V. Dinner (a New School take on an Old School Favorite), and the “Wu Tang Tots’ (Savory Golden Potato Tots) with a few “Hits” (House Sauces). Check out the photo gallery at the end of the article and try not too salivate on your screen.
Next door (and through a thick brick window opening) is Carbon’s sister establishment, Habit Doughnut Dispensary. Habit is an innovative doughnut shop that puts a unique spin on one of America’s favorite confectioneries.
The most interesting thing about Habit doughnuts is that they are all made on a Brioche dough that is made in-house. Brioche is a French dough that is enriched with eggs whipped in butter as opposed to a yeast-raised dough. Habit sweetens their dough ever-so-slightly using honey, giving the dough a supremely savory taste with a subtle hint of sweetness; a delicious alternative to the overly sugary doughnuts that are more commonly found in most doughnuts shops.
Also of note, Habit opts to make all ingredients in house, their bakers tasked with finding creative alternatives to things like colored sprinkles and food dye. The recipes are nearly all organic, and they are currently developing some Gluten-friendly options.
As far as a high-end dessert goes, you can’t get much more fun and playful than these doughnuts. That’s exactly what they are, a high end, highly imaginative dessert, in the form of a doughnut.
Habit & Carbon is truly the best hangout we’ve found here in Denver. If you’re in town, or a local, don’t be a stranger, stop on by and see why this place is quickly becoming one of the most talked about locations in the city. A piece of Denver’s history with a modern vibe, we couldn’t be more confident in our recommendation. Come hungry.
All Photos Courtesy of Brad Gustafson at Loki Media