Twelve Denver Restaurants That Have Hit Fifty -- and Are Still in the Family
The Bonnie Brae Tavern back in 1934.
The Saucy Noodle, which Gretchen Kurtz reviews this week, celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in August -- a remarkable record for a restaurant that's still in the founding family's hands. But it's not the only place in the area run by family members fifty years after it opened. Up in Louisville, the Blue Parrot is just five years shy of celebrating its hundredth anniversary of continuous operation under the same family; next month, La Fiesta will mark its fiftieth birthday. Keep reading for our roster of a dozen Denver area restaurants that have been a family tradition for fifty years or more. See also: At Fifty, Sauce Noodle Ristorante Feels Like an Old Friend
12) Blue Parrot 640 Main Street, Louisville Opened in 1919 Blue Parrot is the oldest, continually operating family-run restaurant in Colorado. Mary Colacci used to invite the residents of Louisville to join the Colacci family for big Italian dinners on Sunday afternoons; she and her husband, Mike, finally opened their own restaurant in 1919. Their two sons worked there with their families; today the third through fifth generation of the Colacci family run the restaurant, which is a Louisville landmark.
11) Patsy's 3651 Navajo Street Opened in 1921 In 1921 Michael Carmine Aiello opened Aiello's Italian kitchen in a part of Highland then known as Little Italy. His son, Pat, joined him at the restaurant; when Pat left for the service in World War II, George "Chubby" Aiello stepped in to run the place -- and change its name. "We decided to make a name change and Patsy's was born," he reportedly said. "Overnight, we were Irish!" After Chubby passed away, the restaurant went out of the family's hands, but Ron Cito -- a cousin of the Aiello family -- and Kim Delancey took over in 2007, serving up the same red sauce and fat homemade noodles.
10) Sam's Number 3 1500 Curtis Street Opened in 1927 (across the street) Sam's Coney Island opened downtown in 1927, serving up chili, dogs and other diner standbys. Over the years, it grew into a mini-empire, and a dozen years ago the Armatas family returned to downtown, where it opened Sam's No. 3 right across the street from the original location. Today there are two other locations, in Aurora and Glendale, and the menu at all three is voluminous, with eight pages crammed with specials and sides and extras. All of it's big food, served in a down-home style. Keep reading for nine more family-owned restaurants that have lasted than fifty years.
9) El Chapultepec 1962 Market Street Opened in 1933 While the 'Pec has an international reputation as a jazz club, it's also a great place to grab some quick grub. Tony Romano opened a bar at 1962 Market Street right after Prohibition ended in 1933; Jerry Krantz, his son-in-law, inherited El Chapultepec in the 1970s. When he took over, Krantz kept the kitchen (great green chile) and the mariachi acts that Romano had been featuring on the weekends, but soon started booking jazz acts. Since Krantz passed away, his daughter, Angela Guerrero, has carried on the tradition of live music there -- and a kitchen that keeps things cooking late.
8) Bonnie Brae Tavern 740 South University Boulevard Opened in 1934 Carl Dire opened the Bonnie Brae Tavern in 1934, when University Boulevard was no more than a dusty road. Today photos of the Dire family are plastered across one wall of the expanded roadhouse, the other walls are covered in awards and pictures of the area over the decades. This summer, when the Bonnie Brae turned eighty, it was honored with a proclamation from Denver City Council noting how it's become a neighborhood joint for the entire city: "The Bonnie Brae Tavern's patrons are an eclectic group encompassing local neighbors as well as large extended families from throughout the Mile High City, priests from the parish down the street, business sector millionaires, lawyers on a lunch hour, politicians both present and past, hard-working everyday men and women, youth soccer clubs and University of Denver students."
7) Edgewater Inn 5302 West 25th Avenue, Edgewater Opened in 1953 Ben DiPietro and his wife, Josephine, started the Edgewater back in 1953 as a 3.2 bar. When the post office next door at 5302 West 25th Avenue moved out, they jumped at the chance to go for the bigger building -- and a full liquor license. "To accomplish this task, many hours of hard work were required," the Edgewater's website reports. "Ben and Josephine had to petition everyone in the neighborhood, meaning they had to go to every household to ask the residents if they were or were not in favor of a bar going into the community. This amounted to a total of 96 blocks." But they succeeded, and so today the Edgewater Inn has had a full bar to augment its pizza lineup. Although Ben passed away last year, his legacy lives on. Keep reading for six more family-run restaurants that have lasted fifty years or more.
6) Carl's Pizzeria 3800 West 38th Avenue Opened in 1953 Red-sauce joints keep disappearing in north Denver, but a river of the stuff runs through this family-friendly Italian joint on the true Northside of Denver. Carl's has been serving pizza, spaghetti and other Italian fare from its modest location on 38th Avenue since 1953. The decor is simple, but the food always hits the spot. Grab a big booth and take a bite of history.
5) Taco House 581 South Federal Boulevard Opened in 1958 Under the sign over the original Taco House, the restaurant maintains a roadhouse charm and tidiness that stand in opposition to the forces of decay along South Federal Boulevard. Owner Greg Risch's grandfather-in-law opened this spot in 1958 (the family also owns an outpost on South Wadsworth), and the tacos have been a Denver favorite for decades. Or go for the #4 dinner -- three cheese enchiladas, a bean chip, a queso chip and a guacamole chip, a Risch family favorite.
4) Bastien's Restaurant 3503 East Colfax Avenue Opened in 1959 Bastien's isn't retro; the rest of the world is. If you're looking for the cocktail culture of the '50s, a time capsule of early-'70s swinger swank still sealed and unchanged, then head straight for Bastien's. Its story starts in 1937, when the Bastien family purchased the Moon Drive Inn. The restaurant we know and love today came to life on January 1, 1959, after the original 'Moon was knocked down and replaced with the very cool, contemporary (then) Bastien's. And although the menu (and prices) have gotten some updates, the Bastien's family is still in charge -- and Sugar Steak is still the dish to order.
3) Columbine Steakhouse 300 Federal Boulevard Opened in 1961 The Columbine claims to have been "nationally known for fine steaks since 1961"; we're not sure about its national reputation, but it's a landmark on Federal. The Columbine is a survivor, the kind of place they don't make anymore, haven't made for decades: a steak diner, with a faded dining room in front and a dim lounge in the back. You tell the two cooks working the grill what you want from the menu hung right above them -- T-bone, New York or porterhouse, burger -- then pay at the register. Before you know it, you'll be digging into a great ten-dollar steak sided with a stiff drink.
2) Saucy Noodle 727 South University Boulevard Opened in 1964 Saucy Noodle Ristorante celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in August. Why has this family-owned spot in Bonnie Brae survived when so many of Denver's other red-sauce joints have gone dark? The friendly atmosphere definitely helps; newcomers and regulars alike can count on a warm welcome from the granddaughter of Sam Badis, who bought a pizzeria in 1964 and turned it into the Saucy Noodle. They can also count on finding a consistent menu, filled with old-style favorites smothered in a variety of sauces.
Courtesy of La Fiesta
1) La Fiesta 2340 Champa Street Opened in October 1964 Fans from all over town flock to La Fiesta for their midday meals. They're drawn by the convivial vibe of the huge dining room (this was once a Safeway), the friendly family that runs the joint (which is open for weekday lunches only) and the huge portions of delectably cheesy, greasy, addictive Colorado-style Mexican food, including great crispy chile rellenos and a hot -- very hot -- green chile packed with pork, tomatoes and peppers. You know the food is good: The patriarch of the Herrera family, who opened the place fifty years ago, can often be found eating lunch here.
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