Cafe Society

Mouthing Off

Deli dose: Venturing an opinion on politics and religion is one thing, but don't mess with people's favorite delis. That was the message delivered in a flood of responses to two recent columns.

In the February 29 Mouthing Off, I responded to a reader's query about good Italian and Jewish delis. That prompted Rachel Genatassio to write and suggest that I visit the nearby Laughing Dog, at 1925 Blake Street. In fact, I'd already patronized the place--to the tune of $60 spent on several problematic meals, which I wrote about on March 14.

That piece prompted several angry calls and letters, including another missive from Genatassio, who said she was surprised by my "outrage"--something I normally reserve for child molesters and pet abusers--over the fact that she had suggested the Laughing Dog be included in Jewish and Italian delis because the Dog does serve "these types of foods and more." Sorry, Rachel, but the only things Jewish on the menu are lox and bagels and pastrami; contrary to popular belief, corned beef is British.

Genatassio went on to say that my suggestion that co-workers, several of whom also have had problems at the Dog, only go there because it's convenient is "ludicrous and manipulative." Apparently she didn't understand that I was basing this observation on what many fellow employees have actually said to me. (Several Westworders still swear by those egg sandwiches, however.) "Whatever Kyle Wagner may feel or think about Laughing Dog," Genatassio concluded, "it is just one person's opinion, and I choose to strongly disagree."

So did many others, who cited the deli's importance as a neighborhood hangout. Some said it was obvious I had never "been" to the Dog, by which I inferred they meant I hadn't stepped foot inside it. They're right: All five Laughing Dog meals I tried--three more than I normally waste on a place with that many production problems--arrived via delivery. But the snafus I encountered weren't things that would have fixed themselves had the food left the Dog in my own hands: forgotten pesto, sloppily executed and bland spring rolls, a sandwich that had no onions one day and contained a whole onion the next. And since there are no more than eight tables at the Dog and the deli's fans agreed that the place is always packed, that means very little food is consumed on the premises. The bottom line is that if a restaurant offers delivery--something sorely needed in this part of town--it has an obligation to get it right or stop offering it.

At least the Laughing Dog is a homegrown product, which is more than can be said for many of the establishments scheduled to invade LoDo, like Planet Hollywood and T.G.I. Friday's. A colleague who recently visited Dallas reports that she was horrified by its "historic" West End, which, like lower downtown Denver, is filled with renovated turn-of-the-century warehouses--which, unlike LoDo's (for now, at least), are filled with national chain restaurants that are no more native to Texas than snowmen. "But it could be only a matter of time before LoDo looks the same," she whines. "With the chains coming in, this neighborhood is looking more like FauxDo."

Then again, I'd be willing to trade a mediocre, if local, sports bar for a branch of Dallas's Sonny Bryan's barbecue any day.

--Kyle Wagner

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Kyle Wagner
Contact: Kyle Wagner