Food News

On April Fool's Day, Eat Like Elvis at Nick's Cafe

No joke: Denver and Elvis have history, by way of peanut butter, jelly and bacon.
No joke: Denver and Elvis have history, by way of peanut butter, jelly and bacon. YouTube
News flash: Elvis has been sighted in an infamous Denver sandwich. And also on the hot sauce bottles, and in the memorabilia all over the walls, and in the stories told by Nick Andurlakis, owner of Nick’s Cafe, at 777 Simms Street in Golden.

No fooling.

The notorious sandwich in question? It’s called the Fool’s Gold, and it’s a monster. A hollowed-out loaf of sourdough bread is slathered with margarine, filled with a full jar of creamy peanut butter and another jar of sugary blueberry preserves, topped with a ludicrously wonderful pound of crisped-up bacon, and then buttered up and baked.

Elvis Presley was a fan of the original version at the Colorado Mine Company; he once flew out all the way from Memphis just to pick up a sack of the sandwiches. It was, and remains, a treat fit for — yeah, we’re going there — a King.

Andurlakis met Elvis when he was only sixteen years old, working at the Colorado Mine Company restaurant back in the ’70s. The high-end Glendale steakhouse overseen by owners Buck and Cindy Scott was the site of a major Elvis sighting when he came through Denver. Elvis wasn’t alone in loving the Colorado Mine Company: assorted Denver police bigwigs and politicians, along with Clint Eastwood, Goldie Hawn, Telly Savalas and the Monkees, were fans, too. Oil magnate Marvin Davis — the guy on whom Aaron Spelling is said to have based the character of Blake Carrington in Dynasty — was there almost every day, sometimes picking up the tab for his fellow diners.

The Fool's Gold was something of a lark — a fun item that the Scotts added to the menu — which is why the price on the menu was so high, and why it was negotiable. "The ladies were told they could keep whatever they sold the sandwich for over a certain amount," recalls Andurlakis. "They'd make quite a bit of extra money that way."
click to enlarge A Colorado Mine Company menu from its heyday in the 1970s. - KATHLEEN ANDURLAKIS
A Colorado Mine Company menu from its heyday in the 1970s.
Kathleen Andurlakis

Although it was relatively common for the Colorado Mine Company to host celebrities — some came in late after shows, and the restaurant staff would stay to prep and serve meals for them and their entourages — Andurlakis particularly savors his meeting with Presley, who was shepherded through the kitchen for a meal at the restaurant. “He was standoffish at first,” the owner says, “but how could he not be? All the fame and meeting people all the time. He’d just come from a concert; he just wanted some food. He asked me what was good, and I told him — sort of being a smart aleck — that we had this thing called the Fool’s Gold sandwich.”

As Andurlakis recalls it, “Elvis told me to bring him a big burger, but bring the sandwich, too, because he wanted to try it. He ended up eating three of them.”

One night, Elvis made a special trip out to Denver for the sandwiches. It was on the occasion of his daughter’s eighth birthday, and Elvis wanted to treat everyone. The Lisa Marie — that was the name of Elvis’s personal 727 — landed at the airport, and the Colorado Mine Company was there with bags full of Fool’s Gold sandwiches to feed the party-goers.

Despite the celebrity connections, the Colorado Mine Company closed with the oil bust of the early ’80s. The era of steaks and stars and sandwiches was over. Or so it seemed.

click to enlarge Kathleen and Nick at Nick's Cafe. - KATHLEEN ANDURLAKIS
Kathleen and Nick at Nick's Cafe.
Kathleen Andurlakis
Not long after the Colorado Mine Company closed, Andurlakis opened a new place with his wife, Kathleen: a classic Greek-American diner known as Nick’s Cafe that still pays tribute to Elvis and his Colorado connection through the Fool’s Gold. The sandwich is pretty much the same as it was forty years ago, even if the blueberry jam has been switched to strawberry and the full-sized Elvis experience is now $64 (including fries), not $37.95 like the original. A modest slice of the loaf — also with fries — will only set you back $8.

While many of Denver's diners — 20th Street Cafe, Denver Diner, Tom's Diner — have disappeared over the past year, Nick's Cafe has managed to survive. "The pandemic was definitely a challenge and called for creative adjustments," says Kathleen Andurlakis. "What was on our side is that we have established customers that helped us through the tougher times."

And they had a special draw. "We're unique in that we are a small cafe but also an Elvis attraction," she explains. "The power of the Fool's Gold sandwich will always attract Elvis fans." Elvis fans, and complaints from Colorado Mine Company regulars who say that Andurlakis has exaggerated — and worse — his Elvis connections...although everyone agrees that Andurlakis was in the kitchen that day when Elvis was ushered into the restaurant through the back door.

So on this April Fool’s Day, you probably won’t see Elvis sitting at a table, downing a loaf-long sandwich at Nick’s. But the King is there nonetheless, both in spirit and in the huge celebration of sweet and meaty deliciousness that is the Fool’s Gold. Nick and Kathleen Andurlakis will both be there, too, and if you ask, they’ll tell you their stories, and you can trade memories of celebrities and high-end steakhouses and no-fooling Denver pop-culture history.

At least when your mouth isn’t full of sandwich.

Nick’s Cafe is open at 777 Simms Street in Golden from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday for your peanut-butter-jelly-and-bacon pleasure. For more information, call 303-238-9670.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to remove disputed information, to note that there is disagreement over Andurlakis's version — which has been reported by many media outlets over the years, including this one — and to clarify other details about Elvis's visit to Denver.
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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen