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Bite Me

Social Studies

Forget race. Forget color, creed and sexual preference. Never mind religion or politics or any of that other socio-fascist demographic nonsense that some people use to put others into little boxes. In my world, there's only one division: diner people and coffeehouse people.

Personally, I am a diner person. So those early-morning sojourns to Java Moon (see review) are as much about playing anthropologist as they are about criticism. I want to see how the other half lives.

From behind a blind of coffee steam, I watch the ladies come and go, sharing the day's paper between them, passing and grabbing sections from a communal pile in the center of the table. They laugh, and the sound is like silver bells falling into water. When they open their mouths, they all appear to have been blessed with too many perfectly straight white teeth. Too many by half.

This is the beginning of their day. A gentle hour they've taken to ease themselves into whatever rigors their day will present. For me, the seven-to-eight o'clock span is close to the end, an ugly, bruised period of insomniac minutes that limp by in a mushy haze. It's not that I can't sleep; it's that I can't get to sleep. I can't wait for sleep, can't ever see it coming -- or it simply won't. This is what drove me to the diners, the truck stops, the all-night dives where I now feel so at ease.

Since recently being booted out of the Denver Diner (okay, not booted, exactly, but asked to leave and never return by a waitress pissed off that I'd cost her a table-turn and a chance at another tip), I've been haunting the Breakfast Kingagain. And Tom's Diner, or Pete's Kitchen. Sometimes the Village Inn or the Waffle House. I have no particular allegiance these days to any one joint, but only to the hours they keep. I can go anywhere and sit, passing the time with the night-shift waitresses (all of whom have husbands or boyfriends or fathers of their baby in jail for something they didn't do) and the sort of creatures the wind blows in at three or four in the morning. Working men. Bus drivers. Lovers in distress. Gaunt truckers with crystal-meth eyes. Women who talk to their silverware, men with broken teeth.

Coffee shops, on the other hand, have never really been my thing. Girls in tent dresses and guys in black turtlenecks smoking clove cigarettes -- all that just makes me itch.

But Java Moon is the other kind of coffeehouse -- almost a cafe, not quite a bistro -- and these I can tolerate. The hours are wrong for the crooked springs of my circadian clockwork, but even though I am an outsider here, I can almost believe I'm the only one who notices.

Pleased to meat you: In the January 22 Bite Me, I compared Burgers-n-Sports down in Parker to my all-time fave burger chain, the California-based In-N-Out Burger. Burgers-n-Sports looks like an In-N-Out, feels like an In-N-Out and serves a menu that -- if not cloned from the original -- is certainly a very close relative. In short, I wrote, if Burgers-n-Sports isn't an In-N-Out, then it's certainly the next best thing, and I mean that as a compliment.

Unfortunately, the good people at In-N-Out don't take it that way.

In-N-Out Burger is "in no way involved" with Burgers-n-Sports, according to the California company's general counsel, Arnie Wensinger, who got me on the phone two weeks ago. No way, no how, nowhere. Wensinger was adamant: All In-N-Out locations are company-owned and family-run; no license has ever been sold outside the charmed inner circle of the In-N-Out corporate family.

Of course, he was also happy that I'd shown such love for the In-N-Out chain and said that if I wanted to do my job properly, I ought to make a fast run to the nearest In-N-Out -- in Vegas, although he also told me on the sly that there will soon be a new outpost in St. George, Utah -- and grab a bag of burgers for a head-to-head comparison. He wanted me to taste the difference that In-N-Out's hand-butchered beef chuck, formed patties and secret formula make. But you know what? All I heard was "road trip."

Sin City, here I come.

Leftovers: Richard Sandoval's new spot, Zengo, finally opens its doors this week at 1610 Little Raven Street. Unlike Larimer Square's Tamayo, where Sandoval showcases his upscale Latino cuisine and still writes and designs every menu, Zengo will be a collaboration between Sandoval and chef de cuisine Troy Guard. Guard -- who has cooked his way from the Far East (the Raffles Hotel in Singapore) to the near East (Roy's in New York City) to the near West -- has been on the line at Tamayo for more than a year, getting accustomed to Sandoval's tastes and familiarizing himself with Latin ingredients. But now Guard will have the opportunity to do a little showboating of his own, because Zengo (Japanese for "give and take") is opening with a combination Latino-Asian menu.

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