Subway Tavern & Pizzeria: home of the Dago Dog

I don't get it. I hear people talk about this place, and they call it a dive. I see people write about it online, and they say they wouldn't think of coming here because of the rattletrap exterior, the dimness of the windows. But the outside of this joint is no worse than any other neighborhood Italian restaurant in a slightly down-on-its-heels neighborhood, and on the inside, Subway Tavern & Pizzeria is not a dive by any stretch.

True, it's been around a while — pushing fifty years now — but although it's not exactly the archetypal clean and well-lighted space, it is clean, friendly and nicely appointed, with the back bar covered in funny bumper stickers, a back room full of dusty cabinet video games, and the dining room crowded with locals here for the pizzas, the meatball sandwiches and the quiet of a place that is theirs alone. And yes, the food coming from the kitchen isn't exactly cutting-edge — but it comes out tasting like a long and solid history of north Denver Italian.

After several meals at Brooklyn M.C.'s Pizzeria (see review), I stopped by Subway last week looking for nothing more complicated than a couple of cold beers on a blisteringly hot afternoon, a pizza and a taste of the infamous house specialty: the Dago Dog. While the pizza was fine — slightly thicker at the crust than a classic New York thin, topped with the kind of sauce I've come to expect west of the Mississippi (more spicy than sweet), with a solid jacket of cheese and a hard shake of dry oregano — the real treat was the Dago Dog. A deep-fried envelope of pastry dough around a good, spicy sausage, cheese and chiles, it was basically an Italian street festival sausage-and-peppers sandwich gone Southwestern and carny at the same time. Do I need to say that it was awesome? I finished mine in all of six bites and would've immediately gone for another if not for the fact that this Dago Dog hit my stomach like a brick and stayed there for half an hour — requiring the application of another beer (or two) before I felt fit to stand.

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