Cafe Society

Mouthing Off

That's Mr. D to you: Little did I know that a chance visit to Mr. D's, at 2121 South Sheridan Boulevard, would turn into a history lesson on Denver dining.

But then, I didn't know Mr. D's was owned by Todd Goldman, a trained pilot with a master's in marketing who's also the son of Don Goldman--the "D" in Mr. D's, and the man who ran the Blue Onion from 1958 to 1978 at 8615 East Colfax. "That neighborhood is terrible now," Don says. "But back then, it was the place to go. We were the biggest purchasers of lobster tails in the city then. Oh, we had marvelous food."

Don's been involved with "eleven or twelve nightclubs and restaurants" around town over the past forty years; Mr. D's was his last. Since he built it as Arthur's in 1974, he's had a love-hate relationship with the place, selling it twice and taking it back again--and finally renaming it--when people didn't treat it right. In 1985 he sold Mr. D's to Todd, who is now the man in charge as Don eases into retirement. "I'm still around here helping out," Don says. "But it's his place now." And while Don believes his son is doing a good job with the food--and for the most part, I agree--he says Mr. D's still doesn't compare with the Onion. "I had Jimmy Wong in the kitchen then," he remembers. "We did Chinese food and steaks and, of course, the lobsters. Back then the military was the biggest outfit in Denver, so you had Air Force personnel, pilots, all the bigwigs coming in. Me and Jimmy started working at 7 a.m. and kept going until 2 in the morning, with no break. We served food until 1 a.m. and, oh, did people drink. It was quite a place. Quite a time."

Sitting in Mr. D's dimly lighted lounge, one of those bars that's meant to be a part of the restaurant and not some embarrassment hidden away where no one has to look at people having a good time, I can almost hear echoes of the Blue Onion crowd. Mr. D's is another throwback, like this week's review spot, Gussie's, that changes your mood the instant you walk in. It begs you to have a cocktail in one of the deep-burgundy booths that sit beneath dark plaid--yes, plaid--walls, and steak with potatoes and an iceberg salad is the meal of choice.

When I first stopped in, though--after driving along Sheridan a million times and somehow resisting the draw of the top hat and champagne glass that serve as Mr. D's logo--I was looking for Best of Denver candidates and wanted to try the chicken-fried steak. Bingo--it was a winner, and a bargain at $6.95 for the steak, soup or salad, potato, vegetable and rolls. On a subsequent visit I downed the nicely roasted prime rib ($10.95) with a beefy vegetable soup and a ball of mashed potatoes perfectly hollowed out to hold thick, meaty brown gravy, along with too-mushy green beans; my husband ordered the Bar-B-Que pork ribs ($9.95), which the Goldmans smoke out back in a hickory smoker. The bones were juicy and only slightly greasy, with a wonderfully spicy sauce; they came with the same soup and a side of peppery coleslaw with enough mayo to cool the barbecue's fire.

That second stop was on a Thursday night, and many in the 35-and-older crowd seemed to be there to socialize rather than to eat (although I saw the bar menu get a workout, too), and to sing along with Mr. D's state-of-the-art karaoke setup. "We get that going around 8:30 at night," Don says. "Unless there's a game or something. You should see people get into it. Too bad we didn't have that around at the Blue Onion. Now, that would have been something."

Unfortunately, not everyone with past successes is able to make a go of it again in this town. Closed already is Mostly Seafood, at 2223 South Monaco Parkway, the third venture of the same name from Perry Warren. This fish house suffered from so many problems that it would be hard to pinpoint exactly what sank it (although the rotten fish should give you a clue), but according to restaurant "promoter" Pat "Gabby Gourmet" Miller, it was me. On a recent radio show, she called my review ("A Rough Sea," July 4) "mean-spirited" and added that it read, "to me, 'Let's try to close the place down.'" I wonder if Gabby would have felt the same way if it had been her granddaughter, whom she refers to as the "Goo Goo Gourmet," instead of my two-year-old, who had to sit there listening as Warren repeatedly used the F-word to describe his radio visit with Gabby to his buddies...all the while ignoring unhappy diners desperate for service.

--Wagner

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Kyle Wagner
Contact: Kyle Wagner