I’d ordered the hash at my first breakfast at Mona’s because I’m a Mick, because I’m a Mick who grew up blue-collar, lower-middle-class in a neighborhood full of blue-collar Murphys, Doogals and McDonoughs, because I’m a lower-middle-class, blue-collar Mick who’s always had a weakness for girls whose families spent their Sunday afternoons complaining about the price of lox and brisket at the local deli. Because of all this, I am culturally, genetically and hopelessly incapable of not ordering corned beef hash at any restaurant that offers it.
I love the hash that comes in a can -- the greasy, mushy, horrible stuff that smells like cat food and would, if the can were left unopened, survive a thousand years beneath its slick white cap of fat. I love restaurants that serve hash right out of the can, slorking it out onto the flattop, mashing it flat with a spatula and letting it fry in its own grease. I love the places in Manhattan and on Long Island that make their own -- taking corned beef brisket, potatoes, onions and beef tallow and running them through a buffalo chopper until the texture is like a slightly chunky paste – and the places here in Denver that make their own the way Minnesotta Methodists make pot-luck casseroles, heaping up a pan with leftovers (fatty brisket ends, unused home fries, onions from the bottom of the bag) and then turning on the heat and praying fervently for a latter-day miracle of transsubstantiation. I thought I loved them all.
But what my server delivered when I ordered the hash at Mona’s was nothing like what I’d expected, nothing like I’d ever seen.
And as it turned out, this was also some of the best corned beef hash I’ve ever had. I kept going back for more to make sure -- and during my last visit to Mona's, I was so taken by my excellent breakfast that I completely blew my anonymity in an encounter with Mona’s owner Garren Austin.
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For the details on that little adventure, as well as the latest on the Mel's empire, pick up the next issue of Westword -- or just return to this space on Thursday. -- Jason Sheehan