What: Compact coffee shop, cafe, and bar with nautical overtones that caters to Denver’s growing commuter population.
Where: 415 S Cherokee St, Denver
When: Tentative hours are Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m. – 10 p.m., Friday, 7 a.m. – 12 a.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. – 12 a.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
After testing the waters in February and incrementally rolling out elements of its three-pronged concept, the White Whale Room hosted an opening party on March 10. But unless you commute from Alameda Station, or live in the adjoined apartment complex, you may have missed it.
Located at the base of Denizen, the mixed-use residential and retail development at Cherokee and Alameda, the White Whale Room joins the growing trend of comprehensive concepts that offer everything from coffee to cocktails. And while it may have opened without much fanfare, as the city begins to embrace the multi-billion dollar transit overhaul slated to double the miles of RTD light rail and boost passengers by 45 percent by the end of 2016, the White Whale Room may serve as a hub for the city’s commuter population.
For owners Rachael Gass, Dakin Cranwell—childhood friends who grew up in Tennessee and reunited while bartending at RiNo Yacht Club—and Brad Argullo, formerly of Über Sausage and co-founder of Avanti Food & Beverage, this unique setting is a driving factor. “It makes sense that we’re located on a train station. A big part of our philosophy is we’re getting people ready for their day,” said Cranwell. “The day might be long and the day might be hard, but we’re here when it’s over to repair those wounds.”
Guests can get their day started with a full-scale espresso and coffee program, which features local Boxcar Roasters. Two sandwiches (both $7.50) and three salads (ranging from $6.00-8.00) populate the food menu, courtesy of executive chef Cranwell’s diminutive kitchen, which isn’t much more than a prep station with an electric oven. Similarly, the bar keeps things minimal with draft and canned beers, a selection of wines, and six classic cocktails including a Negroni ($10) and Vieux Carré ($11). While Cranwell says the bar can accommodate requests, the deliberate menu encourages interaction. “It’s part [out of respect] for the patron and part out of reverence for ancient cocktail history,” said Cranwell. “It’s a more humble way of doing things.”
The cozy space balances whimsical, nautical overtones with an industrial aesthetic: bench seating is designed to embody spinal cords, and an intricate mural by Argentinian-based artist Mariano Padilla extends its abstract tentacles across the concrete floor. While the 40-seat space is small, an outdoor patio that overlooks the light rail station will expand things. Ultimately, Cranwell explains that the White Whale Room has as much to do with Melvillian philosophies embodied in Moby-Dick as much as the, “wild, wild west mentality and who we are as a city.”
In addition to providing proverbial remedies for Denver’s growing transit population, and balancing its roles as a neighborhood coffee shop, cafe, and bar, the White Whale Room intends to serve as a community gathering space, with patio events and curated First Friday shows in the works.
All photography by Noah Berg.