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Taken for a Ride

We found much better fries at Miss Mary's Hot Dogs, Fries & Drinks over by Kiddieland. The hot dog ($2.25) tasted like one of the generic pups you get from the National Cheap Hot Dog Clearinghouse, but the fries were nicely salty beauties--golden and steamy, with a slight hint of Old Bay seasoning. This is the best place in the park to take kids, because the food comes out quick and hot; adults will appreciate the fact that the employees seem awake.

After all that salt, my merry band needed something sweet to finish off the day, so we stopped at a Dippin' Dots to get the "ice cream of the future." The people working at this cart didn't have the slightest idea how Dippin' Dots are made--the ice cream ($2.50 for a small) looks like dessert for rabbits, little pellets that melt in your mouth and impart a reasonably rich flavor. We scarfed down the dots--I don't think these Greeley guys know how to eat any other way--and then Big Red, Droopy Pants and Mary Jane snuck out to the car for another toke and some of the food and drink they brought with them from home ("Mountain Dew, man, is the shit").

You absolutely may not bring your own food into Elitch's--which means the park has a captive audience for its meals. Since picnics were a time-honored tradition at the century-old original site in northwest Denver, you'd think Elitch's would have gotten its food act together before banning picnics at its new Platte Valley location. But you'd be wrong.

Clearly, I wasn't the only one with complaints, because a week after my visit, Elitch's hired a new "Food Standards Manager." Dick Leonard promises that Elitch's will make "big changes in the quality and service," starting with adding more salads and fruit juices and switching to cholesterol-free oil. But in the meantime, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut never looked so good.

And as Big Red put it, "That's brutal, man."

Elitch Gardens, 2000 Elitch Circle (I-25 and Speer), 595-4386. Hours: Park open from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily; food service from 11 a.m.

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