Breakfast and Brunch

What's Happened to Denver's All-Night Diners?

The Denver Diner closed on Colfax in late 2020.
The Denver Diner closed on Colfax in late 2020. Kenzie Bruce
Hungry for a late-night snack? You could be out of luck, unless your refrigerator is stocked. Even as most metro Denver restaurants return to full capacity and their standard hours, there's a notable exception: 24/7 diners.

All-night joints took a major hit during the pandemic. Tom's Diner, which was already planning to close in 2020 for a major project on the property at 601 East Colfax Avenue, cut its last hurrah short and never reopened after the March 2020 shutdown; the Denver Diner went dark last November and finally announced in January that it was gone for least from its 740 West Colfax location.

And while some chain outlets have now gone back to a round-the-clock schedule — the Perkins at 1995 South Colorado Boulevard; the International House of Pancakes at 1595 South Colorado Boulevard and the IHOPs in Aurora and Greenwood Village; all of the Waffle House locations; some Denny's spots — most independently owned diners in the area have yet to make it through the night. The problem isn't COVID-19 restrictions; there's nothing limiting the hours for restaurants.

Not officially, at least. But staffing longer hours is definitely a challenge.

That mainstay of nighthawks, Pete's Kitchen, at 1962 East Colfax Avenue, is still closing at 9 p.m., though the managers of the classic joint have high hopes of expanding hours in the near future. "We'll eventually open all night," says one. "It's a staffing thing."

Breakfast King, another longtime favorite of club-goers, at 1100 South Santa Fe Drive, is closing at 10 p.m., though it, too, plans to return to all-day-and-night service...someday. In the meantime, pay no attention to the "Open 24/7" sign glowing like a beacon in the dark hours before dawn.
McCoy's, the Northside institution at 4855 Federal Boulevard that closed in early 2020 for a one-month renovation that stretched an entire year as the pandemic hit, is staying open only until 9:30 p.m. for now. Until it returns to all-night status, diner fans may find solace in Nighthawks at McCoys, a new album from Time, Maudlin Magpie and A Thousand Vows that was inspired by long evenings at the spot.

Even Johnson's Corner, the truck stop just short of the Loveland exit on Interstate 25 that's fueled drivers with endless cups of coffee and giant cinnamon rolls since 1952, is closing both its dining room and deli at 8 p.m., though gas is still available 24/7.

One bright exception: The Great Scotts at 1295 Cortez Street (but not the second spot in Broomfield) is now open 24 hours on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Another cup of coffee, please!

Do you know of any other diners open 24/7? Post a comment or share the details at [email protected]
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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun