Eight years doesn't seem like a long time — unless you measure those years by the changes in the Denver dining scene. Many regulars still fondly recall the homey food and saddle-topped bar stools at the Rocky Mountain Diner, which closed at 800 18th Street in February 2011, but Denver's restaurant landscape has evolved so much in the intervening years that the eatery, which ran for twenty years before being booted (because the building was being sold), and its plates of buffalo meatloaf and chicken-fried steak seem lost to history.
But not the Rocky Mountain Diner's famous banana cream pie, which we can almost taste if we just close our eyes and imagine the generous wedge and its creamy flavor, augmented with a touch of white chocolate. One reader, John Forsmark, remembers the pie, too, and asks, "Where can I get the banana cream pie that the Rocky Mountain Diner used to serve?"
The odds of tracking down a recipe or resurrection of a dessert from a long-closed eatery are usually pretty slim, but those odds got better when we remembered that the Rocky Mountain Diner's co-owner, Tom Walls, who ran the place with partner Brad Anderson, also operates the Castle Cafe in Castle Rock. And a quick search online confirms that the Castle serves banana cream pie.
But is it the same recipe that Forsmark has been yearning for over the past decade? Walls's son Dillon (who's a co-owner at the Castle), says that, yes, the Castle Cafe serves the same pie once adored by patrons of the Rocky Mountain Diner. "In fact, the majority of our menu includes items that were at the Rocky Mountain Diner all the way back in 1991," Dillon adds. "And many of our cooks worked at the Diner as well."
These days, he says, about 70 percent of the Castle Cafe's sales come from customers ordering the eatery's pan-fried chicken, but the banana cream pie still has its fans.
As for 800 18th Street? After the entire building sold to Breckenridge-Wynkoop in 2011, that company ran Ghost Plate & Tap in the Rocky Mountain Diner's spot for two years before the restaurant was shuttered. The property sold again in 2017, but there hasn't been a restaurant in the space since 2013.
But the banana cream pie lives on in Castle Rock, a tasty pie in the face to downtown Denver real estate developers.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.