You’ve hiked wickedly steep terrain through the Colorado National Monument’s remote canyons. You’ve rewarded yourself with visits to a dozen wineries, drinking enough tastes to fill a few bottles. It’s Sunday and you’re still in Grand Junction. Now what?
Though many downtown businesses are closed on Sundays, Main Street can still be the perfect spot for a lazy day. Even in winter, the weather here is milder than in much of the state, so be prepared to spend some time outside.
Gear up for the day at Main Street Bagels. Sip on locally roasted brews from Colorado Legacy Coffees or try the “Polar Express” hot chocolate, an ultra-rich concoction made with melted chocolate bars and topped with heaps of whipped cream. Locals liked the holiday drink so much that Main Street now offers it year-round.
The shop bills itself as an “Artisan Bakery & Cafe,” and with good reason. In addition to the homemade bagels baked throughout the day, Main Street offers a variety of loaves, including baguettes, ciabatta, challah and seasonal fruit breads. Stone ground whole wheat gives the house-made muffins and coffeecake a hearty texture and a rich, almost nutty, flavor. On the sweet end, the cinnamon rolls come oozing with sugary icing.
Fed and fueled, it’s time to walk through Art on the Corner (AOTC), an ongoing outdoor sculpture exhibit. Most pieces line Main Street, but the artwork can be found throughout the entire downtown area.
Now run by Grand Junction’s Downtown Development Authority, AOTC began in 1984 when local sculptor Dave Davis and a few friends wanted to draw attention to the arts and the downtown pedestrian park. He saw the project as an outlet for local artists and a way to build community pride.
“It was almost more successful than they planned,” said Allison Sarmo of the AOTC committee.
What started with a few dozen works has grown to almost 80 pieces, about 30 of which are on loan for the year. In conjunction with the city’s annual Art & Jazz Festival, new sculptures go up each May, and the public has the opportunity to buy any piece on loan.
“I think it’s not only become the signature of Grand Junction’s downtown, it actually has brought people to town,” said Sarmo. And not just tourists. She’s been contacted by 50 cities seeking to construct the same type of art exhibit. “Grand Junction is really proud of Art on the Corner and we’re really proud that so many people have run with the idea and done so much in their own cities,” she said.
When you’re done taking in the artwork, wander into Author’s Gallery Bookstore, just a few doors down from Main Street Bagels. New, used, old and rare books fill the shelves. Boxes of donated books, waiting to be sorted, fill a front section of the store.
There’s usually a sale rack, where bibliophiles with time can pore over the $2.50 buy-one-get-one paperbacks. And if you’re lucky, you’ll run into Cliff Pirnie. He’s been working at the store for much of its 16½ years and is happy to help visitors sort through the seller’s nearly 50,000 titles. Of those, about 19,000 are for sale online. So even if the store appears empty, don’t fear for lack of business. Customers are shopping all over the world.
You’ll be even luckier if it’s football season. There’s no television, but a circa-1950s radio with revamped innards spits out the Sunday Broncos games. Listen with Cliff while browsing the shelves or purchase your favorite title and take it outside.
There are plenty of places to sit and read under the trees along Main Street. But all that browsing and reading and lounging and wandering can make a person hungry. Walk toward the west end of Main Street, where the staff at Pablo’s Pizza is serving up some of Colorado’s most unique pies.
It doesn’t make sense how well the thin, ultra-light crust stands up to loads of thick-cut toppings. They say an 18-inch pie feeds four to five adults, but three hungry pizza lovers would have a hard time stopping at just one slice.
Pablo’s is no secret to residents. Recent Grand Junction transplant Frank Weller remembered the pizzeria from a trip through Colorado two years ago. “It’s just a place I always gravitated to,” he said.
“Well, Frank never met a pizza he didn’t like,” admitted his wife Deborah. But the couple did say that Pablo’s is the locals’ favorite.
Readers of Grand Junction’s The Daily Sentinel voted Pablo’s best pizzeria in 2005 and students at a nearby high school have an officially-sanctioned Pablo’s pizza club. They meet each week to sample different pizzas.
While Pablo’s best pizzas are the more traditional combinations, there’s no shortage of interesting and just plain weird ingredients. Don’t be surprised by corn, golden raisins, curry sauce or potatoes, but not all on the same pie, of course. For the kids, try mac n’ cheese and peanut butter and jelly pizzas.
Pablo’s accepts suggestions for its pizza of the week, or customers are always free to create their own topping combination.
If you’re smart, you’ll save room for two desserts. Pick up Pablo’s fat, chewy cookie of the day and use it as sustenance for the five-block trek to Enstrom’s Candies, just off Main Street. All that walking deserves a reward.
Enstrom’s is famous for its almond toffee, a sweet, crunchy butter candy covered in chocolate and coated with crushed almonds. As the folks at the retail store say, “Remarkable what four ingredients can accomplish under proper guidance.”
Chet Enstrom began guiding those ingredients in the 1930s, shortly after he and his wife, Vernie, moved to Grand Junction from Colorado Springs. A sideline to Enstrom’s partnership in the Velvet Ice Cream Co., the almond toffee slowly gained status. By 1960, friends, family and toffee lovers convinced Enstrom to open the business.
Still family-run and still using Chet’s original recipe, Enstrom’s produces over a half-million pounds of almond toffee each year. It makes the candy by hand, in small batches, and ships around the world. But since you can get it all in Grand Junction, what’s the rush to leave town?
If You Go
Main Street Bagels, 559 Main St., Grand Junction, (970) 241-2740
Author’s Gallery Bookstore, 537 Main St., Grand Junction, (800) 890-4198
Pablo’s Pizzeria, 319 Main St., Grand Junction, (970) 255-8879
Enstroms Candies, 200 S. 7th St., Grand Junction, (970) 683-1000
From the Editors: We spent a heap of time making sure this story was accurate when it was published, but of course, things can change. Please confirm the details before setting out in our great Centennial State.