The Brown Palace's Ship of Booze

The Brown Palace comes close to what I’ve occasionally imagined heaven might look like: big and wide open, with a huge stained-glass skylight capping some distant ceiling, a well-connected concierge standing by, several restaurants to choose from and a nearby bar that not only stocks a fine collection of bottled Irish brain lubricant, but lets me smoke.

I’ve been to the Brown maybe a dozen times since coming to Denver five years ago, and I never get tired of walking into that lobby. Nor do I get tired of the booze, of the sound of hard-soled shoes echoing on the tiled floors, of watching the door around back where all the help — potato-shaped housekeepers, slumping cooks, young runners, whippet-thin dishwashers and off-duty valets—stands clustered, smoking, making fun of the guests, talking shit to each other in languages where I can only pick out the curse words.

A very few years ago, that’s where I would’ve been, too—standing out back with the help in full piratical regalia: knives and bandanas and nose rings, moving with the distinct swagger brought on by iced vodka and Dexedrine. And yet, here I am: eating at the Brown Palace now rather than serving someplace like it, merely nodding to the cooks and runners in passing, not hauling up and standing, humped up against the wall with them.

It’s a strange feeling, but one I’ve become at least somewhat accustomed to. And this week, I’ll be writing all about eating at the Brown, with a review of the decidedly downscale Ship Tavern, some suggestions for finding a date at the bar and a revisit to the Palace Arms—which, in my mind, still stands as one of Denver’s shining examples of old fashioned Grand Hotel dining. --Jason Sheehan