Things just aren't the same anymore. I think it's the fault of the Democrats. Or maybe the Republicans, the Catholic Church, the Air Force Academy, carbs, your parents, fraternities and football (but not any members of frats or football teams, much less the coaches, athletic-department heads, regents or university presidents who allegedly supervise them), Internet porn, the advent of the SUV, outsourcing and Dr. Phil or Oprah, depending on who's using the brain that day.
One of the things that's changed the most is the bar at 4301 East Kentucky Avenue. For decades, this was the Riviera ("the Riv," to regulars), a notorious den of iniquity, political intrigue, killer margaritas and strippers on break. An old Quonset hut from the early days of Lowry Air Field had been moved to Glendale (which by then had already changed from a dairy farm to a tiny enclave best known for big fun) and transformed into a roadhouse-style bar -- as we Air Force guys are wont to transform anything. In its day, the Riv hosted football players and rugby parties and dinners of the Glendale Tea Party. It was also the home of a piranha named Adolf Scarf, whose treatment typified how the clientele should be handled: Keep them fed and watered with good Mexican food and stiff margaritas, and they wouldn't mess with you.
Adolf's gone now. So, for that matter, is the Quonset hut. After the Riv was purchased a few years ago (by a family that two decades earlier had founded what would become one of Denver's most successful Mexican-restaurant chains) and turned into Las Delicias #5, the old building came down and a new, sadly clean one went up. And while the neon martini sign stayed, these days it's just so much false advertising.
I determined that last week when my daughter, Allison, and I went there to get some Mexican food and try out both the adult and the "virgin" margaritas. Before everyone heads for the phone to call child-protective services, they should know that in Europe, the pub is a family affair where the only consequence of taking children is that they might get lung cancer by the time they're teens, because everybody smokes -- and that includes the babies in their carriages that you see at any given pub. So my family unit is a throwback to the Old Country. In fact, on one occasion, Allison helped us close down the Irish Hound, going toe-to-toe with the Institute of Drinking Studies' former Head of Research. He finally passed out, an unfinished Irish martini in his hand, while she just kept putting away those Shirley Temples.
At Las Delicias, Allison quickly noticed that Adolf had been replaced with a much less noble fish. "Look, Dad," she said. "It's Dory from Finding Nemo." And the evening only got worse from there. Our request for a virgin margarita was met with a blank stare. I went ahead and ordered an adult version, and what the waitress put in front of me was a low-cal, low-carb margarita that I could have given to my daughter without fear of prosecution. Perhaps the kitchen was laboring under the misguided notion that the thin drinks were needed to quench the fire of its Mexican food, but there was no heat to the stuff we were served.
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Yes, things have changed. And not for the better.