Cafe Society

The Grill Next Door

The evidence of where you are (and what you are) presents itself at 8:35 a.m. on a balmy Monday when, in the company of strangers, you order the Roz Eye Opener--served 7 to 10 a.m. only. Annie the bartender, who's been doing this for years, brings it on--a foamy glass of Bud and a shot from the well, something called Kentucky Beau. $2.50 for both.

This will clear the cobwebs, if you've got cobwebs. It will ease conversation, if you're in the mood for conversation. It will carry you along toward 9 a.m., if you choose to be carried.

There's no Roslyn in the Roslyn Grill--and not much of a grill. Just wine-red walls, employee caricatures drawn by a man from the apartment house next door and a sense of purpose along the scarred mahogany. But in the slanting morning sunshine, under the quicksilver effects of a Roz Eye Opener or two, the old tattered hope comes flooding up from the darkness: Get through this, you get through anything. It's hard not to notice that in twenty feet of bar there are twenty brown-glass ashtrays. Each one a little tombstone. It's hard not to notice that the face of the man who is explaining that he couldn't get his hands out of his pockets fast enough last night is covered with bruises and scabs.

He's an Eye Opener, too. Annie shakes her head in sympathy and draws herself a thimbleful of Bud. From the jukebox (five plays for a buck), good advice drifts up like a dream: "You don' lahk the way I'm livin', leave this long-haired country boy alooooone."

Feel like moving up? Jameson is three bucks, Crown Royal $3.50.
With one foot in the aura of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and the other on Mean Street, the Roslyn gives you exactly what you need at the moment you need it: a shot and a beer, right now. An East Colfax institution for ten years, it's one of the few saloons in this town (Duffy's is another) that picked up and moved. The original, smaller, silver-fronted Roz used to be situated in what is now the front yard of the Colorado Convention Center. Migration has changed almost nothing but the faces. "Lot of the old ones are dead," Annie explains.

But not the motto of the place, which hangs behind the cash register and is emblazoned on business cards, under the drawing of a tilted martini glass: "We Install and Service Hangovers."

Witness the Roz Eye Opener. And the ad hoc first-aid department--neat little ranks of individually-wrapped Tylenols and Alka-Seltzers and Bayers and Anacins lined up over the bar. Those are Dutch Masters Presidents in the big boxes--no nine-dollar cigars in here.

Hungry? Well, okay. "Eye-opener" takes on a second meaning on Saturday and Sunday mornings, when, between 8 a.m. and noon, you can have a life-saving plate of steak and eggs for $2.99, pork chops and eggs for $3.25. Out from the kitchen they come, the skinny chops warped, home fries steaming. Not bad. Bonus time: The Roz serves breakfast all day, every day. Just in case you don't know what time it is.

The leathery sixteen-ounce T-bone, the top ticket in here at $6.99, won't put Morton's on notice. But who could miss the touch of ancient pride on this menu: The overstuffed Mexican specialty of the house is called the Roz-a-Rito Supreme ($4.75), and the plump Raydar Burger ($3.75), named for old patrons, is slathered with Swiss, American, bacon and startling rings of jalapeno. Comes to the bar next to a little lumberyard of thick-cut fries, piping hot and still a-glisten from the deep-fryer.

But should we really talk food? Alone in a booth sits George Armstrong Custer, staring into his golden schooner and dreaming of his lost battalions. The man wearing a hot-pink watch cap removes it to reveal the essence of a bad-hair day. Among the happy and the hard-used, we go Kentucky Beau one more time--pink cap and I--under Annie's expert eye. There's some talk of basketball and the stark injustice--a concept some Roslynites must know well--of the Holyfield-Lewis decision. "Goddamn shame," another new friend says. "All that hard work."

The man's hands are thick-callused and crooked. He knows hard work himself. The man with scabs on his face allows that once upon a time, long ago, he stayed married to the wrong woman for too many years. That's Patsy on the juke now, sorrowful as a battlefield: "And I'm crazy for luuhhh-vin' you."

Need to clear cobwebs? Or find what you are? Go early. Annie's gone by noon most days. And by ten each night (eleven on weekends), the Roslyn's a memory that says: Get through this, you get through anything.

Roslyn Grill, 504 East Colfax Avenue, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m (11 p.m. Friday and Saturday), 303-832-4840.

Denver is full of great joints--neighborhood spots that will never rate a Zagat mention but always add flavor to a city. We'll be serving up looks at some of the town's true joints on a semi-regular basis; if you have suggestions for places we should visit, e-mail us at [email protected].

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Bill Gallo
Contact: Bill Gallo

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