Cafe Society

Big Talker

Monaghan's Tavern prides itself on Big. It's home to the Monster Beer (huge), the Monster Burger (not so huge) and--on Wednesday nights--the Monster T-Bone Steak (huger than some, smaller than others). This neighborhood bar is also Big on its own history. For instance, owner Niles Oppenheimer, who bought the place last September, wants you to know that it was built in 1892, that the current liquor license has been in force since the day Prohibition was lifted in 1933, and that future president Dwight D. Eisenhower downed a few in here.

The famous carnivore Alferd Packer, who once lived four doors east, is said to have frequented the place in his day. Presumably, no Monster Burger was safe when Alfie was in the house, and he likely talked your ear off (then ate it) if you sat next to him at the bar.

These past glories are colorful in a way that the present-day Monaghan's is not--at least, not at first glance. For one thing, the exterior of the building, at the quiet, otherwise residential corner of South King and Mansfield streets in Sheridan, is now covered in standard gray stucco and draped with standard (Big) banners advertising, among other things, Happy Hour (4 to 7 p.m., $1 drafts) and jazz on Thursday nights. Inside, you'll find the same beer-mirror, softball-trophy, $1,000 Reward--Dead or Alive themes featured in thousands of corner bars across the country. That familiar, shiny brown paneling made of who-knows-what now obscures the original walls, and the old tin ceiling has been painted a particularly anonymous shade of cream.

Pool table? You bet. Jukebox? Of course. High-volume patron speculations on the fate of the Denver Broncos circa 1999? Naturally. Bright kiddie mustard with your hot dog? What else?

In other words, it takes a little looking to find the fetching quirks in this out-of-the-way joint. Like the "patio," which looks more like a corral than a patio. And the dusty horseshoe pits--where the management stages a tournament and all-you-can-eat barbecue every Sunday afternoon for ten bucks a head. There's also a tiny back-room bandstand where, on one recent Saturday night, a local group whose name we didn't catch did great violence to a broad range of popular rock and country hits.

Amid the din, a patron who said her name was Lavinia explained, in no uncertain terms, the spiritual effects of magic crystals. Unsolicited, her friend Jamie offered that she was pregnant, unhappy and without visible means of support. Would someone please buy her a Monster Beer? The band struggled on.

In something labeled the "Mullen Booster Booth"--so named because Mullen High School is located around the corner--three beefy dudes were attacking their not-so-monstrous Monster Burgers and their 32.8-ounce Monster Beers ($3.75-$4.50, depending on the brand). These mugs o' suds look like grain silos and require a robust effort of wrist, forearm and bicep to hoist off the table.

Personally, we prefer the bar to Monagahan's back room. The bar is where you'll find decorations like a red-and-white can of Marvel Mystery Oil, a can labeled "fish assholes" and an oversized model steam locomotive. Last time we consulted the "Leave Your Friend a Drink" bulletin board, Juan and Ricardo had bought a Wild Turkey for Porquito, and Spike had sprung for a pitcher of beer for Judy and Knute. This futures board captures the spirit of the place--small-town, homey, vaguely distrustful of strangers.

It is said that old man Monaghan, who is no longer with us, used to fire his six-shooter into the ceiling to cool out rowdy nineteenth-century cavalry men eager to celebrate payday. Alas, the closest thing to murder (aside from the band's performance) we've encountered in the contemporary Monaghan's was this social comment by an hombre wearing black lizard cowboy boots delivered to a guy in a muscle shirt: "If'n you don't get your hands offa my gal, I'm gonna whip your sorry-ass city butt."

Wonder if the proprietor posted that on--get this--the bar's Web site ( monaghans)?

If you must, eat. The Bacon Cheese Monster Burger ($5.95) we ordered was, well, ordinary and arrived without a trace of the promised sauteed onions. The green chile is superior (lots of pork chunks), but the Monster Veggie Burrito (mushrooms, rice, black beans, etc.) talks a bigger game than it delivers. Our Monaghan's dish of choice remains the Buffalo wings ($3.75), an honest, spicy version with a reasonable facsimile of blue-cheese dressing.

Not in the mood for Monster Beer? You can still live large taking a gander at "Monaghan's Monster Liquor Selection," which offers, among other things, the Duck Fart ($3.75) and the Fucking Willy ($3). Say, isn't that Fort Logan Mental Health Center across the street?

Monaghan's Tavern, 3889 South King Street, Sheridan, 303-781-6514. Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

Denver is full great joints--neighborhood spots that will never rate a Zagat mention but always add flavor to a city. We'll be serving up looks at some of the town's true joints on a semi-regular basis; if you have suggestions for places we should visit, e-mail us at [email protected].

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Bill Gallo
Contact: Bill Gallo

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