Little Finch Brings All-day Café Eats and Drinks to 16th Street Mall

Once the doors opened to Little Finch, it became clear that the rebirth of 16th Street Mall was in full swing. The buzzing, welcoming atmosphere that defines this all-day café reflects the woman at the root of it all, Mary Nguyen. Her passion for creating quality eats in a fast-casual, grab-and-go setting is evident in her newest installation.

Nguyen’s personality is the definition of nurturing. While producing delicious, healthy and swift food, she has a unique way of personally connecting with her customers. While walking through the café, patrons continuously stopped Nguyen. They praised her work, and she replied humbly, friendly and thankfully — a testament to the immediate success Little Finch has acquired, propelled by its creator’s kind nature.

Little Finch

Mary Nguyen

After leaving a career in finance to pursue serving others, she took on three new jobs to learn the ins and outs of the industry. She worked at Starbucks, Hapa Sushi and the Beehive, one of the only women-owned restaurants in Denver at the time. Immediately inspired by sites like the Market and the Beehive, she opened a European Bistro in Uptown titled P17 in 2005. Later on, she opened Street Kitchen Asian Bistro, but in 2013, the launch of Olive & Finch stole her affection. This site was her first that gave life to a passion for creating chef-driven food in a casual setting. 

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Little Finch is the baby concept of Olive & Finch, although the place is anything but limited. Upon entering, a pastry display case decked out in beautifully decorated, savory and sweet treats greets you. Baskets of baguettes, coffee and souvenir goods also line the walls, something that is necessary for the tourist attraction that is 16th Street Mall. “I am excited to redefine 16th Street and introduce the real Denver to tourists,” Nguyen reflected. A distinct feeling of warmth and comfort is evident in this site from the moment you walk in. 

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Intelligentsia is its barista brew of choice — a rare commodity in Denver — and it’s absolutely delicious. We recommend the Café de Olla ($5), a witty mix of espresso, steamed milk, turbinado, cocoa and cinnamon, finished with orange zest. However, coffee is not the only drink on its extensive menu. This café serves cocktails, mocktails, wine, fresh-pressed juices and more. One of Nguyen’s personal favorites (and ours) is its Green Martian ($13) with vodka, matcha and sweet cream cold foam; it’s an enticing play on the infamous White Russian. For those still chasing a sober lifestyle well after Dry January, try its Monsoon Rain ($7), a light sipper of honey-turmeric and ginger syrups, lemon, pineapple and a splash of soda.

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Its food is fresh, seasonal and clever. Whether grabbing on the go or chilling out for the day, a delicious meal or snack is always promised. For a warming eat, go for the roasted tomatoes & goat cheese pesto ($11) served with a warm, toasted baguette. The Southwest flatbread is a favorite on its current rotation of specials, so grab it while you can. Its Chicken Spinach Artichoke Pasta is the definition of comfort and is perfect for sharing over a bottle of wine. But the illustrious sweet treats, including its Salted Caramel Éclair and matching cake, are a highlight. Each choice is guaranteed to be rich, full of flavor and impossible to put down.

Its happy hour is affordable, too, available daily from 4 to 7 p.m. and all day on Sundays. Along with its featured or classic cocktail, wine, beer and beer back options, the best deal of all has to be its Eat & Bottle ($30) — a bottle of wine and any one of its eats, including a warm artichoke spread or brie en croute.

“I wanted to create a third place,” Nguyen said. “Nothing here is an afterthought. Everything we do is meant to make a difference in everyone’s day”. This attitude mirrors the versatility of Little Finch. Go for a first date, a casual friend get-together or use as your new go-to remote workplace. Its promise to be welcoming to all has already come to fruition, and it’s on track to become a “third place” for many in an unlikely but swelling location.

Little Finch is located at 1490 16th St. Mall, Denver. It is open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

All photography by Julia vonDreele.