By Alan Prendergast
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By Melanie Asmar
I wasn't sure if I was reading a restaurant review about Rodney's or was a fly on the wall to Laura Shunk's pity party about "poor me and my divorced friend." As a Denver native who has grown up with Rodney's, the food, the bar and the patrons are what make it special. In an area that is filled with thirty-somethings who moved to Denver ten minutes ago and flock to every trendy P.O.S. restaurant in Cherry Creek North, Rodney's represents all that used to be good about the area. A restaurant doesn't survive 27-plus years (in CCN, no less) without doing something right besides shlepping booze.
Laura, my suggestion is that you dine somewhere that mirrors your writing as well as your review (you know, very blah and bland), and I guarantee you would just love the food, loaded baked potato girl. Too bad Wyatt's Cafeteria (where the mall now stands on First Avenue) is no longer in business. You and your friend could sit for hours and cry in your tapioca. Trends come and go, but standards remain: Rodney's is an institution in CCN, and deservedly so.
It's unfortunate that the impulse is to attack the quality of writing when you disagree with the critic's opinion of an establishment. To call Laura Shunk a poor writer because you disagree with the objects of her criticism is childish and bullying. I would say that you should be ashamed to do such a thing, but would only expect it to fall on deaf ears. Stop expecting your free/weekly paper to provide the next great restaurant critic. Jason Sheehan was a decent writer but a mediocre critic at best. Go read the archives: You'll read him waxing poetic about nuclear nacho cheese and salmon soup that would make an alley cat go hungry at night.
If you re-read the Rodney's article, you actually see a lot of what Jason would do in weaving his personal life into the review to provide context and a narrative. Rodney's doesn't serve great food. It's not supposed to serve great food. It serves a respectable club sandwich that doesn't get in the way of your drinking. That being said, it's a restaurant that has a great community and is a hub of sorts for the old Cherry Creek, the pre-appletini Creek that a few people probably still remember.
To those trolls complaining that Laura is a crap critic, grow some stones, for fuck's sake. Think you have a big dick? Start a blog and tell everyone on Cafe Society where it is and let's see how thick your skin is. If you're awesome, maybe Westword will give you the thankless job of trying to appease the masses.
By way of disclosure, I worked for Rodney Utz at his Cherry Creek location as a bartender during the '90s and remain a regular customer. As such, I resent Laura Shunk's generalization of the clientele as "a crowd of divorced men...sipping Scotch and talking shop."
Had Miss Shunk taken the time to visit with someone at the bar other than her friend Lillian, she may have hit a vein of conversation more interesting to report than the details of her parents' divorce. On any given evening at Rodney's, the crowd probably includes politicians, doctors, real-estate agents, stockbrokers, golf pros and newspapermen. But these are just their occupations. They are also a generation that has seen and served in wars, sacrificed to get children through college, survived their own second childhoods and, in many cases, lost mates to death or divorce.
If these men and women choose one another's company (and newcomers are always welcome), it is probably an appreciation of good companionship and camaraderie rather than a case of avoiding "their own broken homes." I also disagree with Miss Shunk's criticism of the food, but 27 years in the same location in the restaurant business speaks for itself.
As a passionate and great admirer of the beloved (and sometimes misunderstood) Jason Sheehan, I just want you to know that you have filled the void in the Cafe section of Westword. After a sketchy start after his departure, Laura Shunk's columns are so brilliant! They are intelligent, honest and straightforward in the right measure, and make you want to visit the venues of even her most critical reviews.