By Jamie Swinnerton
By Mark Antonation
By Lori Midson
By Jonathan Shikes
By Amber Taufen
By Cafe Society
By Juliet Wittman
By Jonathan Shikes
If you serve prime and it's not bone-in, you may as well be a fucking Sizzler."
That's Barry talking. Mister Fey, to some. Concert promoter and ticket broker, the guy who's rumored to have once pulled a gun on a recalcitrant Axl Rose when the kilt-wearing prima donna dared to walk out on one of Mister Fey's shows. In his heyday, Barry was the Man-with-a-capital-M. Colorado's own Bill Graham, who brought the best and brightest of rock royalty to Denver -- by force, if necessary. Wandering acid casualties and hippies now sporting the gray-ponytail skullet (a badge of honor among the deathless ranks of free-love counterculture idealists) still remember the Family Dog, Fey's psychedelic nightclub/playhouse for Denver's flower children. The rest of us know him as the name at the top of the ticket: BARRY FEY PRESENTS, followed by U2, the Rolling Stones, Guns N' Roses, what have you.
But tonight, at the Northwoods Inn, Barry's all about meat. And he's pissed. Our waiter -- not exactly one of those sure-footed pros who work the floor at the Palm, but smiling, happy and competent in an energetic, second-string high-school-quarterback kind of way -- has just informed us that the kitchen is out of pork chops and prime rib, and even if there were some prime left, it would be of the non-bone variety. The waiter apologizes, then walks off to give us a minute to look back over the menu and regroup. Barry decides to take a stroll, stomping around the cavernous main dining room that holds 250, easy, with every damn chair filled on this Wednesday night. He leers hungrily over the shoulders of complete strangers, checking to see what everyone's eating, what looks good, and threatening to snap up the leftover prime from any diner who's not quick or mean enough to fend him off.
8109 Blakeland Drive
Littleton, CO 80125
Region: Southwest Denver Suburbs
Top sirloin: $27.25 (or market
Prime rib: $20.25
Chicken-fried steak: $12.25
Fried chicken: $11.25
Lobster tail: market price
By the time we were seated, I'd already spent an hour and a half with Barry, lounging outside the restaurant while we waited for a table to open up. So already, I know a little about the guy. I know he's going through a rough stretch right now. I know he's moving -- looking for one of those hip downtown lofts after leaving his Cherry Hills home of more than three decades. I know he's bankrupt; I know his best friend just died. I know he's got that pall of fading celebrity about him, but he's wearing it well. Better than most would. Better than some of his former rock-and-roll associates (has anyone seen Axl lately?). And yeah, some of his act's a put-on, but it's solid. You gotta respect a guy who can't tell a story from his past without famous names blowing through like confetti: Mick and Keith, Bono, Janis. I don't like name-dropping, but this isn't that. This is just his life, and if Mister Fey wants to tell a story about the best meal he's ever eaten -- in France, with U2 -- then he will, with minimal hubris, like hasn't everybody shared a chocolate torte with the Edge?
In terms of steakhouses, Barry's an addict and a purist and a man who's been asked (sometimes politely, sometimes not) to stay away from almost as many beef temples as he's welcome in these days. For insulting the allegedly "world-famous" garlic mashed potatoes at Brook's Steakhouse. For going up the street to the Palm and smuggling a bottle of Heinz 57 into Gallagher's when he was eating there with my predecessor ("We Came, We Sauce," May 31, 2001). He knows the number for Morton's by heart and later will call it -- boldly defying the Northwood Inn's zero-tolerance cell-phone policy -- to check the price of its lobster tail. (For the record, Northwoods comes in at about half that price.) This is a big man with big appetites, who loves and hates on a massive, extravagant scale, and these credentials are enough for me to trust his opinion on what separates good cow from bad.
Then again, he's also a known pistol-waver who despised me within minutes of my arriving in town for using a racial slur in my first restaurant review. (Actually, I was quoting the anti-Semite at the table next to mine at Venice, but that didn't matter to Barry -- I was the asshole for repeating it.) But that's fine: People who hate my guts so thoroughly are at least honest, and they have nothing to hide. Plus Barry, I'm pretty sure, didn't come to dinner packing heat.
If he did, though, he probably wouldn't be the only one dressing Southern-style for dinner at the Northwoods Inn. The main dining room (as well as any of the adjoining porches and lounges) would be ideal for a meeting of the local NRA brain trust. The moldering heads of dead things hang from every peeled-log wall, their acrylic eyes looking out over hundreds of plates where their butchered brethren are being wolfed down by a solid meat-and-potatoes kinda crowd. Straight-up country folk in tent dresses and their best steel-belted dungarees with 48-inch waists mix with squawking early-bird-dinner habitués and extended families taking advantage of two-fer coupon night. Citified Denver cowboys in $500 Tony Lamas rub shoulders with the real unincorporated article, while parties of two, of four, of eight and eighteen are all admirably attended to by a small army of red-vested servers and busboys who keep the kitchen door swinging nonstop for hours.