“Old” Denver

I’m a native to Colorado. Like a born and raised native.

When I was a kid there wasn’t a dining ‘scene’. Sure, we had some notable places – The Broker, The Palace Arms in the Brown Palace, The Quorum Restaurant in the Argonaut Hotel, Chives, Tante Louise, Strings, Bistro Adde Brewster, Cliff Youngs, and The Normandy just to name a few.

But most people I knew only ate at these places for special occasions. We were a very uneducated community – culinarily speaking.
My mom’s family grew up in Wheatridge. So, I remember Valente’s wine ice cream as a kid – made with real wine! And we’d have pizza from Edgewater Inn every Christmas Eve before church.
We’d go to The Organ Grinder after little league baseball games and I’d (reluctantly) accompany my family to the Gemini on Wadsworth – The first real “Fern” restaurant I’d ever seen. They literally had ferns EVERYWHERE.
We’d go to Round the Corner and I could prank call the kitchen when my mom was in the bathroom.
We’d frequent Mr. Steak a lot with my Gran too. They had the broiler in the middle of the restaurant and you could see the cooks behind the steamy glass firing up cheap ass steaks for us. It was magic. We were there once with my cousin Vaughn and my aunt Cheryl. She was sitting across from me once and I was absentmindedly kicking what I thought was a table leg, then BAM! She kicked my shin so hard the water glasses and silverware jumped off the table. Evidently, I was kicking her leg. Good times…
Chubby’s was of course a staple, but I grew up off of Florida and Sheridan, so we lived at the Tamale Kitchen. It’s still there. I still live there. Tacos al Carbon? That shit’ll set you free. And go grab a dozen tamales with their green chile on a cold AF winter Sunday. Heaven.
My first dishwashing job was at Dino’s. My buddy worked there as a pizza cook and I wanted to make pizza so bad, but dishwasher was what I was relegated to. They had these lasagna blocks made of stone that they’d throw in the dish pit and splash cold, soapy lasagna shit all over me. Fucking busboys.
Mom and I would get pizza from Bob’s Pizzeria on Sheridan. We’d get it to-go. You pick it up at the front of the restaurant and there’d be a bunch of cool looking people in the lounge smoking and drinking. They’d be sitting at small glass tables with the classic red candle holders. Dark. Dank. Classy. The pizzas were huge. Large pepperoni and Mushroom. Just like I like to this day. But there was something different about their pie. Near the crust, there’d be these huge giant – almost burnt bubbles that were the best fucking thing imaginable. Crispy, and toasted bubbles of just dough and sauce…it’s like they intentionally didn’t get the cheese all the way up – just so this extraordinary alchemy would occur. Magic.
I actually worked at The Normandy. My first Executive chef job. Straight up old school French. I was a disaster – But it taught me a ton.
I remember seeing my first drag queen at The White Spot after my band did a show at the Broadway.
Pete’s kitchen was and still is my go-to late-night breakfast joint. Get the Chef’s Special with gyro.
Rock Island where I smoked my first clove cigarette.
Modeans is where my hang was. I made life-long friends here. In fact, Martin Gore of Depeche Mode stole my hat here and ran out into the night – later to be arrested.
Paris on the Platte is where I learned how to play chess and we’d get so amped up on caffeine that we’d drive over to grab gyros at Jerusalem’s at 4AM.
I miss “Old” Denver. But, there’s so many amazing things going on today. So many creative chefs doing magnificent work. I stayed here to help make us an important city. Mission accomplished…

I love you.

4 thoughts

  1. Old Denver and no mention of Casa Bonita??? Magic shows, cliff diving, caves, skeet ball, glow necklaces and the worst food in town, but best place to go as a kid. Everyone in Colorado should experience it with their kids. Just make sure you don’t eat anything but the fajitas and the sopapillas!

    1. I thought about mentioning them – but to me it’s not a showcase of ‘Important Notable’ dining. Although one could argue that it started “Eater-tainment” Like Dave & Busters and maybe Hooters and organizations like Punch Bowl Social have clearly mastered.

  2. Such a fun blog! Sounds like we grew up near one another, just not sure of the time frame for you? I grew up on the Lakewood/Denver border (Estes and Yale for a bit, then Lowell and Yale) and remember almost all of the places you mentioned. Good times!!!

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