The Name Game

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At Tom's Diner, at 601 East Colfax, I guess -- perennial fall-back position for the terminally restless and flapjack-addicted. I don't go to Pete's Kitchen anymore; fighting my way through all the club kids and drunks and drag queens and rock stars has become more of a hassle than a Pete's breakfast burrito is worth. Tom's, on the other hand, remains a 24/7/365 roller coaster of the human experience, a shot of street life and nightlife and highlife and lowlife all rolled into one insomniac bitch-slap. On its best nights, Tom's can be more fun than a room full of chimps and liquor. On its worst, it's a nightmare straight out of Stanley Kubrick's Hello Kitty dream journal.

While making my way up and down Colfax last week trolling for news, I saw a guy passed out in the back of the parking lot at Tom's with his dick still hanging out of his pants. I assumed that he probably went down for the count while trying to take a leak out of sight of the Colfax traffic -- but that's mostly because all the other possibilities that came to mind were just too gross. Or grotesque. But what was undeniably great about finding an unconscious man with his tackle hanging out lying in a puddle of his own piss in a Colfax parking lot was that it wasn't three in the morning when I saw him. It was more like three in the afternoon. So, yeah. Gentrify that.

At 911 East Colfax (former home of 911 Hot Wings, Gabriella's Catering and Gabriella's Cafe, among others), Pita Grill and Hookah has been open for just a month and change. The joint, which is owned by a tangle of partners who also have interests in Damascus on Colorado Boulevard and Pita Jungle on South University, is doing Mediterranean food for vampires: gyros, falafel, shawarma and the like, all served until three in the morning, seven days a week. And it's doing good trade, too. I talked to one of the managers, who said they're thinking about extending their weekend hours until four.

tHERe Coffee Bar & Lounge now occupies the former Oh My Goddess space at 1526 East Colfax and is very proud of both its lesbian orientation and its coffee. Partners Jody B and Kathleen are all over the website, and there's a big LavAzza sign by the front door. It's tough to miss either. And down at 1618 East Colfax, within sprinting distance of the #15 bus stop, Bourbon Grill still serves one of the best deals in town: a to-go box of Bourbon chicken -- whole breasts cooked on a smoky, char-black grill, then pulled off, assaulted with a cleaver, doused in sauce and thrown down over a mound of rice -- for a grand total of $2.99. Bourbon Grill also cooks up egg rolls, chicken wings, barbecue sandwiches, cheesesteaks and, for all I know, unicorn burgers, kim chee, cotton candy and authentic Philly soft pretzels. To be honest, I never walk away from the place with anything but the namesake chicken, but that's all a boy like me ever needs.

Further east, at Colfax and York, longtime occupant Sushi Heights is gone, replaced by Nohana Sushi. At 3015 East Colfax, partners Jesse Morreale and Sean Yontz are working to get Perry's back open to the public at their hotel, the All-Inn. Not far away, at 3525 East Colfax, Steve's Snappin' Dogs has a full lot and people walking from blocks around just to get a bite of Steve and Linda Ballas's two-month-old contribution to the Colfax street scene.

Linda is the daughter of Denver's own Blinky the Clown, which is why the place tries to move a bunch of Blinky-centric paraphernalia across the counter, but that does not explain why the sound system was blaring the soundtrack to Oliver when I visited. On that day, Steve's kitchen crew didn't have the fryers turned up hot enough, so the fries were soggy and the deep-fried green beans and carrot sticks were really just hot, greasy and crusted with salt.

The service was friendly, though, and the dogs were fine -- if overpriced. Steve's uses Thurman's hot dogs, which come in from New Jersey and have that distinctive snap of a well-prepared, stiff-skinned dog. But what's piled on top of those dogs can be scary. A friend from Chicago tried the "Chicago Dog" and was horrified by the use of spicy mustard. Another friend from Texas couldn't figure out why the "Dallas Dog" came smothered in out-of-the-can chili con carne and cheese. The "Jersey Dog" had red onions and bacon for no reason I could figure. And the "Denver Burrito Dog" was smothered in chili-with-an-I becauseŠwhy? It's not like green chile is tough to find in these parts. Take it from a pro: A good dog laced with a couple strips of Hatch and some cheese -- or even cheez-with-a-z -- is a wonder to behold.

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Jason Sheehan
Contact: Jason Sheehan