Eating in Denver

We went to Denver to visit Sean and visit our old, favorite haunts. What we ended up doing was eating almost non-stop. At least it felt that way, even though we ate just two meals each day. For all practical purposes there is an infinite number of restaurants and other places to eat in and around Denver, and at virtually every one of them they leave you with an indecently large serving and wait for you to eat every bite of it.

On Friday morning we stopped in at Sam’s No. 3 for breakfast. This is Sean’s favorite place to eat out, he says, because each serving is enough to feed Coxey’s Army and, on those rare occasions when he can’t finish his order, he takes the rest home and polishes it off later as a midnight snack. We had no fridge in our room so that wasn’t an option for us and, as a resut, I had to leave behind more than half the stack of pancakes I ordered. My Darling B ordered biscuits & gravy and also had to leave at least half of it behind. Sean ordered some kind of sausage & egg dish and managed to drill all the way down to the plate but, even so, even he had to leave behind some of his dish. If I had the time, I’d like to go back one morning, watch the customers to see who orders the pancakes and see if any of them can polish off all three. They weren’t literally the size of manhole covers, but they weren’t much smaller. Who eats that much for breakfast? Who even has that much room anywhere inside their bodies? It’s a question that I won’t be able to answer until later, sorry.

We had dinner on Friday at The Wynkoop Brewery. This was one of our very favorite places to eat back when we lived here. We loved it so much that we ate our final meal in Denver there on the night we left, so it was truly enjoyable to go back and revisit it.

On our second day in town we brunched at Le Central where they serve meals in the French tradition, which does not mean that the wait staff is a gaggle of French-speaking gastrosnots who tolerate your presence only because they don’t have anything else to do. The staff, in fact, were warm and chatty and just attentive enough to make sure your water glass never went dry (our barometer for good service). I asked for “Oeufs Norvegiennes,” but in English so I wouldn’t swallow my tongue. “I’ll have the salmon and eggs,” is what I said, to which the waitress replied, “Oofs Norwegian, very good.” If I’d known I could have gotten away with saying “Oofs Norwegian,” I would have happily said that.

Sunday morning we met some old friends at Hot Cakes Diner where we mostly drank from our bottomless cups of coffee (we had a very good waitress) while we exchanged stories and, from time to time, looked over the menu. Eventually we each ordered a plate of food so they would let us stay longer. They brought two plates of food out to me, each piled with an insanely large portion. By this time I was pretty sure every restaurant in Denver was trying to kill me.

The best place we visited for any meal, and I think I speak for all of us on this one, was Domo, a Japanese restaurant just outside the downtown area. Not only did they have the most delicious, most authentic Japanese food we’ve eaten since we left Japan six years ago, they also had the most eye-popping ambiance I’ve ever seen in a restaurant. Inside and out, the building was dressed up to look like a traditional Japanese country house, and it was so authentically done that you might almost believe it was built from scratch using rough-hewn lumber and hand tools. Although I couldn’t say where they sourced the ingredients, the food appeared to be truly authentic. My Darling B ordered ramen; Sean had the donburi; and I ordered salmon teriyaki. As in every other place we visited, we were stuffed silly by the time we left and had to take a long walk after we got back to the hotel.


We wanted to take a look around the old neighborhood, so Sean drove us to Aurora on Monday. After he parked out front of Lansing Middle School, we walked up and down the block, amazed at how little it had changed. It looked exactly the way it had back in the 90s, which was exactly the same way it looked in the 60s. Very comforting. Then we walked two blocks over and one block up to the cul de sac on Moline where we used to live and got our minds blown.

The old house did not look so hot, even from a distance. The guy we sold it to was a handyman with all kinds of plans to fix it up and he’d obviously done some of that, but in the time since he sold it, the next owner had let it go downhill fast. Water melting from the snow on the roof was dribbling from the corners of the gutters where the downspouts were supposed to be, but weren’t any more. The trim around the edge of the roof was falling off, rotten or the paint was peeling – all three, in some places. The roof itself hadn’t been replaced, and it was old when we bought the house twelve years ago, so it was looking pretty gnarly. I almost didn’t want to get any closer than the sidewalk but, like a train wreck, I felt compelled to take a good, long look.

I tried to peek in the windows but couldn’t really seen anything no matter how flat I plastered my big schnozz against the glass. There were some cutsie-pie white shutters in the living room window, blocking a clear view. The bedroom windows were too high, even for me, and nobody volunteered to give me a boost, so we moved around to the side where we found the gate into the back yard. It was open and, while we were wondering how much trouble we could get into if we went poking around back there, the neighbor pulled up in the driveway.

It turned out she was the daughter of the older couple who used to live there back when we were still living in the neighborhood. She gave us the short version of the house’s history since we’d left and said that it’s been on the market for quite a while. The agent was only asking $119,000 for it – same amount we paid for it back in 1997.

From the back yard we could see into quite a few windows. The kitchen was a godawful mess. Someone had put down gray linoleum floor tiles and over the years the corners had turned up. It looked like the floor was covered in a caked-on layer of gray muck that cracked into pieces under a blazing desert sun. The walls were patched in places but the patches weren’t painted, leaving white squares and blotches of raw spackle everywhere. And the bastards yanked out the intercom system! The kitchen used to be home to a genuine 1960s-era Nutone intercom base station that still worked when we lived there. Nothing left but a spackle square now. It had a radio built into it and I used it to pipe music from Boulder radio station KBCO to every room in the house while we were painting. Big hit that summer: “The Old Apartment” by Barenaked Ladies.

The view from the dining room was even more heartbreaking. The finish on the hardwood floors was worn completely away and the wood had gone gray. More spackle on the walls. Trim broken. Fixing up the place would take a ton of money. The kitchen alone would probably cost twenty thousand, or whatever amount you would need to completely gut it and start over. Too bad. It was such a nice house.

We got away from there and back toward town. I wanted to say hi to the T. Rex skeleton in the lobby of the Natural History Museum. The first time we went there, I put Sean up on my shoulders to get a good look at the T. Rex. He was so ga-ga for dinosaurs at that age, I knew he was totally geeking out about it. “I’ll bet you could touch him,” I suggested, so he did, only he wasn’t satisfied with only touching. He grabbed, and that skeleton isn’t as solid as it looks. The steel frame it’s mounted on is flexible, so the whole thing swayed back and forth when Sean let go, and I thought, Oh, Holy Shit! We broke the T. Rex! But we didn’t, it just shook for a while, then stopped.

The T. Rex is still there. I didn’t put Sean up on my shoulders to touch it this time.


Hello. Back from Denver. Can barely keep my eyes open even though it’s not quite six o’clock in the evening. Batting out some drivel in an effort to avoid slumping into an unconscious heap before the sun goes down.

I’m not exhausted because My Darling B and I walked eighty-seven blocks through downtown Denver (and a little in Aurora). We did that, but that’s not why I’m exhausted. I’m about to crash and burn because, on our last night in the Brown Palace Hotel, a couple drunken knuckleheads whooping it up in the hallway kept me awake from about one o’clock in the morning until about three, when they pulled a fire hose off the wall, flooded the hallway and set off the fire alarm, which kept on bleeping until about three-thirty. Maybe the management couldn’t reset the alarm until the fire department finished checking out the building? I don’t know. When the alarm finally stopped bleeping and we lost interest, we went back to bed and were just about to drop off to sleep when *BLEEP!*BLEEP!*BLEEP!* “… normal operations. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused you.” *click* Okay, I guess they probably have to announce the all-clear, too. But geeze.

Guess what happened at about four-thirty? I don’t know what set the alarm off that time, but we didn’t bother trying to go back to sleep after that, seeing as how we were going to leave at six anyway. We just started getting ready a little earlier than we had to.

While we were checking out, the night manager apologized for the disturbance, to which I responded, “Are you offering any kind of a discount for that?”

“What do you think would be fair?” he asked.

“I think I would be fair if you didn’t charge me for last night at all, but I’d appreciate any kind of a discount, really.”

He thought about it for a second or two, then took the last night off the bill, which was damned decent of him, I’ve got to say.

My Darling B managed to find the one coffee shop on the 16th Street Mall that opened at six o’clock. We were there a couple minutes early, but the barista let us in anyway and cooked some scrummy egg sandwiches for us while we sipped coffee and slowly came to life. I had scrambled eggs on an English muffin, while My Darling B had eggs and sausage on a croissant. We had plenty of time to relax and enjoy them before we had to meet our express bus to the airport at seven-fifteen.


I went to visit Caboose Hobbies this afternoon while My Darling B joined The Seansterator in the Occupy Denver march through the downtown area. We split up for two reasons: One of us should have remained “on the outside” in the event, however unlikely, that it would become necessary to post bail and arrange for legal representation. Also, I really wanted to walk amongst the toy choo-choos once again.

A visit to Caboose Hobbies was one of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday morning back when we used to live in Aurora. Even if I didn’t buy anything, I still had so much fun wandering through the aisles of what is still the biggest model train store I’ve ever been in, and I’ve been in a lot of model train stores. Now that the hobby is mostly served by on-line sales, stores of any size are not at all common, but Caboose is still there, thank dog. I spent a happy ninety minutes poking at boxes, flipping through magazines and books, and making a long mental list of all the cars, engines and other neat-o stuff to search e-bay for after I got back home.

Then I rode the light rail back into town. Not only does Denver have the biggest, coolest toy train store in North America, the store is just a few blocks up the street from a station on the light rail line that goes right through the city center. I could hop on the train and be back at our hotel in about twenty minutes. I could have done that, if I had known enough to change trains at the Osage stop, but I didn’t, so I ended up at Union Station. No problem, I thought to myself, I’ll hop on the free shuttle that runs through town, a work-around that would have worked if the Occupy Denver protest march hadn’t disrupted all bus service in the downtown area. Small world.