Rediscover The Lost Restaurants of Denver With Robert and Kristen Autobee

Pagliacci's, gone but not forgotten.
Pagliacci's, gone but not forgotten.
Eric Gruneisen

Do you remember the Lotus Room? So does Robert Autobee, co-author of The Lost Restaurants of Denver, who will be talking about the book with his  wife, Kristen, on Monday, October 12, at the History Colorado Center. Since the couple published their history of Denver dining early this year, they’ve done about fifteen such presentations, Autobee says, and “reactions have been very positive.” The book even made the Denver Post/Tattered Cover bestseller list in March.  

But when you’re talking about a combination of history and food, what’s not to like?

After each presentation, the authors save time so that people can discuss the lost dining spots they remember. One of the most surprising? “A lot of people still have a fondness for the Drumstick,” Autobee says of the long-gone Denver comfort-food chain. “If someone were really clever, they would market that.” And it's not impossible, he adds, because the son of the Drumstick's founder is still around the area. The Drumstick isn’t Denver’s only loss. “They’re cross-cutting in north Denver,” Autobee notes, pointing to the end of places like Pagliacci’s. And he keeps looking for a spot that serves the kind of Mandarin-American fare that fans always found at the Lotus Room, which was in the orig

inal VFW Hall in the Golden Triangle. But there have also been some good additions, too. For example, Frijoles Colorado, a great Cuban restaurant, is out in Lakewood — and when he was growing up there, "Nobody knew what Cuban food was," Autobee remembers.

“The restaurant book has been fascinating,” he adds. “It’s fortunate the book came out now, because Denver is going through a big change.” The entire approach to dining out has changed, Autobee points out: "Dining isn't that special anymore. People used to get dressed up. I don't think this generation realizes that dining used to be an event."

The food industry has changed, too. “A hundred years ago, Colorado was the largest producer of apples of any state in the nation,” Autobee shares. “We’d like to tell that story.” And they’d like to tell it in a book they’re working on now, about the history of the fruit industry.

But first they have a book on Lakewood coming out on November 16, and before that, another opportunity to chew over Denver’s restaurant scene at the History Colorado Center. “We’re going to talk about the book a little bit, and what got us to the place to write the book,” Autobee says. Initially, they wanted to write about Denver’s influence on the hamburger, but then their publisher told him that “that would make a heck of a monograph, but we want a book instead.”

And they definitely got it with The Lost Restaurants of Denver.

After the talk, which starts at 1 p.m. on October 12, the Autobees will be signing copies of their book, which is for sale at the History Colorado Center. The center will also be displaying a collection of its menus from Denver restaurants. Find more information on the History Colorado website.

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