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Food halls like the Denver Milk Market (above) have their roots in the Yum Yum Tree.EXPAND
Food halls like the Denver Milk Market (above) have their roots in the Yum Yum Tree.
Danielle Lirette

Reader: The Yum Yum Tree Left Fond Memories, Like Much of Old Denver

Food halls are popping up all over the Mile High City. Many feature big-name chefs (Frank Bonanno is behind all the spots in the Denver Milk Market); authentic, exotic fare (Icelandic food at Zeppelin Station, for example); and contemporary cocktail bars (the centerpiece at Broadway Market).

These food halls are a far cry from the Yum Yum Tree, the city's first big (600 seats!) food court that opened in 1968 on South Colorado Boulevard and served up much less authentic, if weirdly exotic, fare. Even so, it was a place that kids and stoners alike clamored to go, and five decades later, they're serving up memories of this former must-stop on Denver's dining landscape.

Says Toby: 

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Who from that era doesn't remember that place? Nobody had an argument as to what to eat. It was a preferred stoner dining destination...brunching was also big. Gluttony ruled the day.

Adds Dale:

 I was just telling my wife about this place the other day. I grew up in Boulder, and my parents would bring us to the Yum Yum Tree as a treat.

Remembers Jill:

The Yum Yum Tree left me with fond memories, an ingredient lacking in restaurants today. I miss Old Denver.

Recalls Lynne: 

Such a fun pile of pseudo-foreign foods. Unique in its day.

 Comments David: 

Ate there over fifty times, at least, as a kid. Very good, actually. Got caught trying to dine and dash one time. Thanks for bringing this up...yum yum.

And Ellen offers this:

Now, there is a memory that has escaped me all these years. My first job while in high school was cleaning tables at this food court. After two weeks, I quit because my hands reeked of chlorine from the cleaning rag. I knew after that, I had no interest in pursuing any job in the food industry. In a venue where tips were not expected, I do recall how finding someone's change left on the tray was like hitting the jackpot. Keep in mind that in 1970 that meant pennies, nickels and an occasional dime.

Keep reading for more on the Yum Yum Tree and today's food halls.

Reader: The Yum Yum Tree Left Fond Memories, Like Much of Old DenverEXPAND
Danielle Lirette

"A Photo Tour of Denver's Food Halls"

Reader: The Yum Yum Tree Left Fond Memories, Like Much of Old Denver
courtesy of a Yum Yum fan

"Before There Were Fancy Food Halls, There Was the Yum Yum Tree."

Eight eateries called the Yum Yum Tree home: Tommy Wong’s (Chinese), Adam’s Rib (barbecue), Reuben’s (deli), Apple Annie’s (desserts, sweets), Fellini’s (Italian), Hofbräuhaus (German), Pancho’s Patio (Mexican) and Fat Eddie’s (steaks, chops). A hippie tchotchke shop was also shoehorned into the place.

You'd get a ticket when you entered, cruise the giant hall picking dishes from this spot and that, then pay as you left. Taken together, the Yum Yum restaurants offered up 302 dishes, according to The Lost Restaurants of Denver, a book by Robert and Kristin Autobee.

Our story on the Yum Yum Tree inspired other memories of lost restaurants: Paul Bunyon's Steakhouse, the Organ Grinder, Red Barn, Shakey's, Richburger, "and let's not forget the first Der Wienerschnitzel across the street in the ’60s," advises one reader.

What lost restaurants do you miss the most? Post a comment or send an email to cafe@westword.com.

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