While we were ushering in the New Year with friends, family and booze, several Denver restaurants were closing their doors. Over the weekend, Pearl Street Grill, India's Pearl and OTOTO all shuttered; after fifteen years in its Park Meadows location, California Cafe quietly closed; and in what could be some of the saddest news we've heard since the ball dropped on New Year's Eve, yet another Denver restaurant -- one that survived for more than three decades -- served its last meal.
After 34 years, M&D's Cafe, which first surfaced in 1977, locked the doors of its expanded space at 2000 East 28th Avenue this weekend, leaving a gaping hole in the city's soul-food landscape.
M&D's, which was owned by Mack and Daisy Shead, who began their long career in the barbecue business in Texas in the 1940s, was renowned for its gospel Sundays, fried green tomatoes and catfish nuggets, peach cobbler and sweet potato pie, housemade hot links and rib slabs. In 1998, former Denver mayor Federico Pena, who at the time was serving as Secretary of Energy in Washington, D.C., was desperate for a fix, so his staff made a call and asked the Sheads if they'd fix up a lunch for the homesick politician. Pena was FedEx'd an overnight delivery.
"A 34-year family legacy -- my family -- has just shut its doors in Denver," laments Eulanda Shead, Mack and Daisy's granddaughter. "I grew up busing tables and learning family kitchen secrets at M&D's cafe, and my heart breaks at this loss."
Still, she says, "My grandparents' comfort-food legacy lives on. The things I've learned in the family restaurant business are truly transforming, and I'll always cherish those lessons. I've learned what type of person I should marry over a warm bowl of peach cobbler shared with my grandma, and I've also learned that mastering the art of wit comes best when shared over granddaddy's spicy catfish."
But while Eulanda has fond memories of M&D's -- as do thousands of others -- she's quick to point out that we need to do our part to sustain independently owned restaurants: "Support local businesses, people. Do not let community gems like M&D's go the way of the recession or lack of pockets."
And, she pleads, "Please pass this on."
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.