"It was the perfect fit," says longtime Denver restaurant consultant John Imbergamo of the 2008 deal that saved Annie's Cafe from disappearing altogether. Starting in 1981, Annie's had served comfort food in a spot just off Colorado Boulevard at East Eighth Avenue, but in 2007 the landlord revealed that the building was going to be demolished and replaced with a Marriott hotel (which never came to fruition — Trader Joe's now occupies the lot).
Unsure of how to proceed, owner Peggy Anderson and then-co-owner Diane Williams visited Racines, hoping to run into its owners, David Racine and Lee Goodfriend, who'd faced a similar situation when a demolition clause forced that restaurant to relocate in 2002.
As it turned out, that impromptu meeting resulted in an offer that lives on in Denver restaurant history. "It was a great story, because one group of longtime, iconic restaurateurs were helping out another group of longtime, iconic restaurateurs," Imbergamo explains. Almost thirty years earlier, Racine and Goodfriend had opened their first restaurant, Goodfriends, at 3100 East Colfax Avenue — but they were now planning to close Goodfriends because of rising food and gas prices.
"Little did we know...," Goodfriend says, reflecting on the hardships that restaurants have faced since then. But the impending closure offered an opportunity: Racine and Goodfriend offered to let Annie's take over the Goodfriends space on Colfax. "It was nice to sell to two women," Goodfriend remarks.
And so Annie's made the move from Colorado Boulevard to Colfax in 2008, inheriting a liquor license (which the original Annie's location lacked) along with a collection of retro tin lunch boxes and a whole lot of memories. This week, the restaurant celebrates forty years in business, a rare feat in an industry where many don't even last a decade.
"David and I were there last month," Goodfriend says of Annie's. "It looks a little different, but it's fun for us to visit, plus the food is really good."
Peggy Anderson still owns Annie's, and her sister Mary Meggitt has been running the place since it opened. It remains a favorite for all-day breakfasts, comfort food and cocktails. "It's nostalgic. Families grew up in these restaurants, and the kids carry it on," Goodfriend reflects, referencing Annie's as well as her own now-closed trio of Denver classics: Goodfriends, Dixons Downtown Grill and Racines, which shuttered in 2020 when the pandemic hastened retirement plans and a sale of the building.
But Annie's is holding on, and to celebrate forty years and thank regulars for their support, the restaurant is hosting an anniversary reception on Wednesday, June 9, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., with complimentary appetizers and drinks, and live music in the evening.
"The last year was so hard. We had corned beef and cabbage coming out of our ears when we had to close on Saint Patrick's Day," Meggitt says, remembering the initial restaurant shutdown on March 17, 2020. But Annie's made it through, and now staffers are wearing "I got my COVID-19 vaccination" buttons on their shirts instead of masks on their faces.
"We're just so thankful," concludes Meggitt, "and we're ready to celebrate."
Annie's Cafe is located at 3100 East Colfax Avenue and is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday, and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information, call 303-355-8197 or visit annies-cafe.com.
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