By Jamie Swinnerton
By Mark Antonation
By Lori Midson
By Jonathan Shikes
By Amber Taufen
By Cafe Society
By Juliet Wittman
By Jonathan Shikes
While two totally separate establishments, Roslyn Grill (504 East Colfax Avenue) and Nob Hill Inn (420 East Colfax) nonetheless comprise a flaming binary star of degeneracy around which many of Denver's down-and-out orbit. Because they're less than a block apart and both cheap as hell, they attract the same crowd at different times: when one happy hour ends, the circus travels; if one crew has beef with another, it's posse out. People who love films that don't end well "because they're more realistic" would adore the shit show that bounces back and forth between these two joints. It's so urban, so gritty, ya know?
An actual craigslist Missed Connection from 2009-01-14, 4:35PM MST, titled "roslyn grill – 28 (colfax)":
ME: sitting at the window table at Roslyn blonde hair, blue eyes and big tits!!!
YOU: black cracked out missing most of your teeth, you may have had several std's. We met eyes and i think i might of felt something i know you did at least it looked like you grabbed your cock!! so if you read this and are interested i would love to grab a drink or crack rock!! hope to hear from you soon. yours truly La Roslyn.
So there's that. There's also a piece of lined paper twine-tied to the stoplight just out front of the Roslyn that reads "Eggs, Grits, Bacon, OJ" (???). There's a kid with a skateboard who hits me up for a buck and a smoke while muttering, "Some bitch just stole $10 from me." Sitting inside and looking out onto Colfax, I see a woman fail to notice that she's dropped her pocketbook; I scurry out, pick it up and give it to her. When I return to the bar, four haggardly dudes – shady opportunists, all of 'em – give me shit for doing the right thing. They eventually call me a good guy but don't mean it.
There's no easy way to say this, so I'm just going to: Roslyn Grill is a fucking halfway house with a full-service bar and a breakfast-all-day menu. It attracts a mostly male, hard-luck crowd banging down the door at sunrise and paying with pennies come sunset. For the past twenty years, the Roslyn – spacious, red, with a massive golf-framed mirror behind the bar and oddly feng shui glass bricks leading to the bathrooms – has been located in the middle of East Colfax's meanest stretch (if not on its meanest corner); before that, it was downtown where the Colorado Convention Center currently stands. Across the street is Denver's most beautiful church (Immaculate Conception) and only two-story McDonald's (where the bathrooms are locked and on a timer).
If the Roslyn is the loud, large, windowed workout room at the YMCA, Nob Hill is the locker room – private (no view from the outside) and quiet (a horseshoe-shaped bar, a few booths, some terrible art and a five-plays-for-a-buck Hyperbeam Laser Disc jukebox). In a hilarious attempt to keep out the riffraff and enforce its zero-tolerance policy against slinging rock, selling stolen goods or possessing "firearms, knives, brass knuckles, etc.," the Nob, which just celebrated its fiftieth birthday, pumps classical music from a speaker just outside the front door. This doesn't keep a dude in a Mizzou long sleeve and Harley cap from trying to sell me hot PS2 games. It doesn't keep a Haight-Ashbury expat two stools down from screaming about how District 6 cops are "fucking fucks," and about how once he organizes the Native Americans and the bikers, "it's kill time, man." And it doesn't keep over-anxious Danny from unwrapping a pair of ladies' Isotoners to reveal his shank. "Can't trust nobody, man," he tells me. Then: "Y'all in here the night before last? Bitch was taking off her top. It was unreal."
My sentiments exactly.