Prior to coming to Denver, I made a travel plan of some sort for myself. On my day offs I will engage in touristy attractions. But on days when I do have work, during my time off, I will find things locals do during their spare time. I did have a couple of hours to spare before my PM shift for my internship. I headed down towards 16th Street Mall where this secret cookie place lies. At first I couldn't find it because it wasn't on the main street, but of course it was on a lower level. It totally adds to how discrete it is. I walked in and it was everything but also nothing like I thought it would be; the shop itself was small with the actual kitchen itself taking the majority of the space. So from a customer standpoint, there wasn't much to see: essentially, you walk in, grab what you want, pay and leave. And even though the process itself is meant to be quick and easy, it has the experience of any awesome bakery. Behind the counter, you can see the owner and baker rolling dough with cookie prowess, placing a tray into the oven and then taking out a fresh batch full of warm cookie-goodness. Don't even get me started on the smell. How can you not like fresh-baked-goods-smell?
And if you ever experience this for yourself, don't be fooled. The owner and baker herself lays out a very wide variety of sweets for you to grab-and-go. There are cupcakes, brownies, muffins, roll-ups, bars, and of course, at least twelve different flavors of cookies all bagged and ready in groups of three. So despite everything being great already, what really put the cherry on top for me was the method of payment. I know, weird right?
I didn't really know what to do so I honestly stood there awkwardly because she was busy speaking over the phone. While I was browsing, a gentleman came in, tossed a few coins into a jar, and grabbed a bag of cookies, and left. A part of me was like "Wait...did he just steal cookies..?" Another woman came into the store and I just greeted her because why not. She asked if this was my first time here and it certainly was. And just like every friendly person here in Denver, she welcomed me and also gave me a rundown of how it works at Santa Fe Cookie Company. So the sign you'll see in the front is "3 Cookies for $1" which is a ridiculously crazy deal. These aren't puny cookies; these are large, freshly baked, warm cookies. All you have to do is pay however much you need to pay and grab whatever you want to eat. So for example, if you want a bag with three cookies already packed, just put a dollar into the jar and you're good to go.
I personally have never seen this ever before and I think it is the coolest concept ever. But I this was so risky to me! It's so easy for anyone to come in and grab whatever they want and leave without paying. While I was in that bakery, I saw about ten people come and go; each and every single one of them paying. And though ten people isn't the greatest pool for any probability testing, there's really something fundamentally humane about this place. If anyone were to ask what the secret ingredient is, I really think it would be trust and loyalty. It seems like the owner just continuously bakes as people come and go and to make it easier on herself, she just puts her trust in her customers to pay. She bakes the best cookies Denver has ever tasted and in return, everyone stores her trust by paying.
With cookies, I always start with the classics first. After four quarters tossed into the jar, I grabbed a bag with three chocolate chip cookies. And just like I expected, they were warm, crunchy on the outside but warm with chocolatey gooeyness in the inside. And to my readers, this is what my definition of control is. Luckily, I didn't have much cash on me because imagine if I had like five dollars? I could have potentially left with fifteen cookies. Trust me, this is ordinary for me.
So all in all, what makes this place so great is that it's the epitome of a hole-in-the-wall. Santa Fe Cookie Company doesn't have a website and doesn't even have its own Facebook page or Twitter handle or anything. The only way for you to really find out about this place is either through true word-of-mouth or I guess customer-lead sites like Yelp. Tucked away along one of Denver's biggest tourist streets with one of the smallest spaces ever, it sure packs a huge punch in not only sweetness but also experience. If you're interested in learning more about the history and background, visit Denver Post's blog "The Best Secret Cookie Place in Denver". I love reading about upbringing of places like these because it helps you understand the owner and it makes the experience that much better.
Have you ever been to a place similar to Sante Fe Cookie Company? And for kicks, what's your favorite cookie flavor?