Danny's Carnation in Lakewood Has Closed But Its Owner Is Opening Danny Ray's Nearby | Westword

Danny's Carnation Has Closed, but Its Menu Will Live on at Danny Ray's

The diner shuttered after more than forty years but owner Danny Hopkins is set to open a new and improved version — with booze — on April 4.
Danny Hopkins (right) with his daughter Samantha at their new all-day diner, Danny Ray's.
Danny Hopkins (right) with his daughter Samantha at their new all-day diner, Danny Ray's. Molly Martin
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"We're the diner still. The menu is exactly the same as over there, and it's still me," says Danny Hopkins, who has worked in the food industry since he was sixteen, including an eleven-year stint as the general manager of Breakfast Inn on East Evans Avenue starting in 1988.

"Over there" refers to the diner at 1395 Wadsworth Boulevard in Lakewood that was known as Carnation Restaurant before Hopkins took it over from its previous owner fifteen years ago, adding "Danny's" to the name.

On Sunday, March 26, longtime customers gathered at Danny's Carnation for one last meal in that restaurant, which had been open for over forty years. "It was going under contract to become apartments," Hopkins explains. But another building, just a few minutes away at 11353 West Colfax Avenue, offered a new opportunity.

"That could be perfect," Hopkins recalls thinking of the space that was most recently home to sports bar Piflers. "The parking lot, the size of the kitchen, the dining room, the patio. So we bought the building." The business is family-run and will continue to be, with Candace, his wife of 32 years, doing all the baking, and adult twins Samantha and Daniel helping out.

"It's a big investment," Hopkins admits, but by purchasing the building, he is now able to leave a lasting legacy for his kids.
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Danny's Carnation served its last guests on March 26.
Molly Martin

The closure of Danny's Carnation is bittersweet. "It was sad. It was hard," Hopkins admits. "Fifteen years of my blood and tears are in that building. But it was also exciting. If I didn't have this and that had to close, I think I'd have been devastated."

His customers echoed that sentiment. "They're sad. There's a lot of memories. My mom ate her last meal there," Hopkins notes. "There's a lot of great memories over there, but they're excited for me. [The new restaurant] is their place. They're my family. I know everybody that comes in by first name. That's what the diner feel is all about."

Hopkins did not want to use the Carnation name for the new project, mainly because this iteration will also serve booze, including beer, wine, Bloody Marys and mimosas. Instead, he's calling it Danny Ray's (Ray is his middle name). He plans to open on Tuesday, April 4, "as long as everything falls into place," leaving longtime customers just an eight day-gap before they can get another fix.

Danny Ray's will have the food and spirit of Danny's Carnation...after a lot of hard work. "It was dingy," Hopkins says of the new space when he got the keys on December 1. "I could've opened it up [as is]; it would have been a perfect diner. But I didn't want that, so I redid it all. From top to bottom, it's redone."
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The new Danny Ray's is ready to welcome longtime regulars and new guests.
Molly Martin

And there was a lot to redo. The new building is huge; it seats 270 people, and the expansive kitchen is now decked out with the equipment the staff needs to make all 144 items on the menu. They'll be served from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, with happy hour available from 3 to 6 p.m. "We just have the space and storage to do the job now," Hopkins notes.

Danny's Carnation served an average of 16,000 meals a month with just 82 seats. Operations there were "turn and burn," Hopkins says. "So the way we do business will change completely. Here, we want you to hang out."

Hopkins describes the theme as "breakfast sports bar," and there are nineteen televisions throughout, including two on the large front patio, which is also decked out with a fire pit and heaters. On one of the outside walls is a colorful mural by artist Grow Love, which was put up by the 40 West Arts District. Hopkins hopes to have live music on the patio in the future.
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Molly Martin

Inside, there are a variety of seating options, from a more bar-focused area to comfy orange- and teal-hued booths to a pair of high-tops and other setups in an area dubbed "the green room."

A glowing neon Danny's Ray's sign that was gifted to Hopkins by his sister hangs on one wall. In the bathroom hall, there are framed black-and-white photos of the owner and his family, including one of his late mother and one of his dad, smiling proudly during a meal at Danny's Carnation. One sign reads, "They call it chaos. We call it family." Hopkins embraces that as a motto.

When the doors open, guests will be welcomed by many longtime employees, as well as some new additions — Hopkins is doubling the size of his staff at the new spot. "In these difficult times, we're actually going to open up a bigger place, three times the size, and we're going to do the same thing we did," he notes.

While it's been a lot of work to get Danny Ray's ready for its debut, "this is all about fun," Hopkins says, "If it's not fun, I don't want to do it." And he hopes to be having fun here for many years to come. "We plan on being here a long time," he concludes.

Danny Ray's is located at 11353 West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood and will be open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily starting April 4. Its website is still being finalized, but in the meantime, get more information and updates on the Danny's Carnation Facebook page.
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