Denvers Prodigy serves up strong coffee, snacks and job skills

Editor’s note: This is part of The Know’s series, Staff Favorites. Each week, we offer our opinions on the best that Colorado has to offer for dining, shopping, entertainment, outdoor activities and more. (We’ll also let you in on some hidden gems.) 

Coffeeshops often flaunt their high morals with humanely sourced products, donations and feel-good jargon. And they should. But less common are cafes that make solid coffee and a measurable difference in their communities.

I’m lucky to live near Prodigy, which has been open since 2016 and teaches real-world job skills to its staff. It’s not just about learning to run a register but developing the mindset and skills to forge a career and real economic mobility. “Young adults disconnected from school and/or work are invited into a year-long apprenticeship as humble learners of life, self, and craft, within a high standards enterprise,” as Prodigy’s website puts it.

That’s not immediately clear from visiting. From open to close, the tastefully spare, airy space gives the impression of yet another crisply curated coffee shop chasing Denver’s new money. Botanical mural accents and an attached bike library only reinforce the feeling.

Prodigy floats in a lake of concrete just west of Colorado Boulevard at 40th Avenue, and across from a Starbucks with a drive-thru that is often packed. And yet Prodigy, which also has a drive-thru, hums along with its loyal clientele. In a Northeast Denver area that’s both a food desert and a historically redlined housing sector, it’s a magnet for quiet laptop jockeys and smiling co-workers. Maybe they know that Prodigy’s goal is similar to Englewood’s Purple Door Coffee, which offers programs for unhoused teens to get back on their feet.

Even if they don’t, it’s the coffee that keeps them coming back. At Prodigy in particular, the delicious global roasts (they do fruity and nutty quite well) and a modest selection of pastries, muffins and cookies — usually snapped up by lunch — are my foggy-morning milestones. There’s kombucha on tap and housemade chai and all those now-standard things, but also fresh waffles and breakfast burritos. Did I mention the atmosphere is improbably lovely and calm, almost without fail?

Prodigy is a quiet powerhouse, but the testimonials of past employees (in its regularly printed house publication) and churn of new faces is a constant reminder of its mission. Next time you’re near 3801 E. 40th Ave. and jonesing for caffeine or sweets, consider donating with your breakfast dollars. It’s so tasty you won’t even realize how much good you’re doing. prodigyventures.org

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