Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Goodbye, Gallagher's, and good riddance

Pouring out the memories.

After eight years, Gallagher's Steak House finally pulled up stakes in Denver last week. Landlord and longtime restaurateur Bruce Rahmani, who'd had the franchise deal with the small, eighty-year-old New York chain, has now leased the space at 1480 Arapahoe to J. Gonzales, who's opened 5280 Steak House there.

I have fond memories of Gallagher's -- not because of anything I ate there, but because the back story behind then-Westword critic Kyle Wagner's review remains particularly delicious. She'd gone there a few months after Gallagher's opened back in 2001; her dining companion at one meal had told a daily columnist about their awful lunch; he'd told the person doing PR for Gallagher's, who'd called me to complain before a word had been written.So knowing that this review would be closely scrutinized,I went along with Kyle on her final review meal -- and we took promoter Barry Fey, who'd accompanied Kyle on several previous steak-eating missions and had been to the original Gallgaher's in New York.

The company was great, but the steaks were dull, dull, dull. And the rest of the meal was no better.

When Fey asked for Heinz 57 to add some flavor to his kingloin cut, the kitchen had nothing but A-1, so he walked down the street to 7-Eleven. No Heinz 57 there, either, and he wasn't the first to ask that night. Finally, Fey hiked over to the Palm and borrowed a bottle -- but even Heinz 57 couldn't do much to help his steak, or our overall abysmal meal. Fey's adventures -- and his and Kyle's shared opinion that, with so many good steakhouses downtown, including the Palm and Sullivan's, Gallagher's would have to improve dramatically to get a cut of the market -- provided the backbone of the review.

Soon after it was published, I got another call, this one from the head of a restaurant industry group, who wanted to discuss our error in letting Barry Fey come on a review meal at Gallagher's when his son was best friends with the manager at Sullivan's -- which Kyle had reviewed favorably after a dinner there with Fey. But there were a few problems with this conspiracy theory, which seemed to be a Rahmani-fueled rumor: Fey had never eaten at Sullivan's before his Westword dinner, and although he'd since returned, it wasn't because of his son's friendship with the manager -- because his son was just nine at the time!

I assured the caller that I'd been at that dinner, and that it had been just as bad as Kyle described. Even steak sauce couldn't have saved it. “It was one of the few dinners where I stayed in shape,” Fey said, recalling his search for Heinz 57 when I called him last week to tell him that Gallagher's was gone.

But the story remains. Don't forget to stock the Heinz 57, 5280. -- Patricia Calhoun

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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