Second Helpings

There's Another Ophelia's in Town — And It's Not an Electric Soapbox

This week Gretchen Kurtz reviews the sexy, sultry Ophelia's Electric Soapbox, restaurateur Justin Cucci's latest carnival of colors and flavors, which Kurtz writes is his "raciest — and riskiest — plan yet, and it’s every bit as maddening as it is genius." But far from the late-night scene of booze and revelry in the Ballpark neighborhood where Ophelia's makes its home in a former flophouse/adult bookstore, there's another Ophelia's — one that's been quietly serving Mexican food and American diner fare in quaint Olde Town Arvada since 1977.

Louise Vigil has been the owner the entire time, but points out that the space housed another restaurant before she took over. Old photos in the window at Arvada's Ophelia's reveal that Ralph's Cafe opened at this address  in 1947. Ralph's original owner, Ralph Longnecker, was apparently the Justin Cucci of his time, converting what had been the Nicholas-Wagner Garage into a shiny new eatery, much as Cucci did when he converted an old garage to Root Down.

Since Cucci's Ophelia's opened this spring, Vigil says she's been getting phone calls from trendsetters trying to make reservations — before they realize they've dialed the wrong restaurant. And the Facebook page for the older Ophelia's (an unofficial page not maintained by Vigil) is peppered with photos of cocktail sippers unaware that they've just shared their night lives with Arvada old-timers.

If you head to the original Ophelia's, don't expect to knock back craft cocktails until the wee hours; the place is only open for breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Vigil says that most of her regular customers have their favorite dishes, which they order day in and day out. For newcomers, the Mailman burrito — which Vigil's husband named after a mailman who came in years ago and requested something different — offers a typical taste of Ophelia's kitchen.

But the two Ophelia's restaurants do have one thing in common: a taste for history. Denver's Ophelia's is full of it, and if you eat at Arvada's Ophelia's, you can sit at the formica counter-top that dates back to the diner's days as Ralph's.

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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation