Denver's Top Ten Diners
I know from diners; they are my natural habitat. And Colorado has some classics. Johnson's Corner was one of the first places I visited when I first went west of the Mississippi, and it remains a favorite even post-renovation. My recent meals at Silver Creek Diner got me thinking about diners again.
Davie's Chuck Wagon Diner, by Brian Butko.
The list that follows includes my top ten (yes, Sam's No. 3 counts twice) diners in the metro area:
1100 South Santa Fe Drive, 303-733-0795. The menu at this classic 24/7 diner is frozen in the early '70s -- long before mainstream American food began taking on influences from other corners of the globe. Like a culinary time capsule, the King still serves Coney Island hot dogs, chiliette (egg noodles slathered in red chili and served with Saltines), biscuits and gravy, and a ham dinner complete with a ham steak, canned pineapple rings and a hot vegetable. The King has atmosphere oozing from every cracked-vinyl seat, and serves its food hot, fast and in trucker-friendly portions.
Davies Chuck Wagon Diner
9495 West Colfax Avenue, Lakewood, 303-237-5252. Davies Chuck Wagon was built in 1957 -- maybe one of the best years for diners, definitely one of the last. When it's busy, the building seems to breathe -- taking in drafts of cool air from outside, exhaling customers -- and nothing is ever still as tables turn fast and coffeepots make the rounds. And all day, every day, Davies serves some of the best East Coast-meets-Wild West diner food around, including incredible chicken-fried steak. Although two other Davies have popped up around town, the original is the only true diner.
2323 South Havana Street, Aurora, 303-369-8307. No one does breakfast quite like this quasi-cafeteria-style diner, where the bacon-and-egg sandwiches are always greasy, the coffee's always hot, and the waitstaff is non-existent because of the order-wait-and-pick-up style of service. Johnny's has been a fixture in Aurora's Korea-town for years, its popularity buoyed by cheap blue-plate specials, generous portions, decent food, better company and bizarro-Americana decor.
2842 SE Frontage Rd. (exit 254 off I-25), Johnstown, 970-667-2069. Over the fifty-plus years that Johnson's Corner has been in business, it's collected accolades of a variety that most restaurants don't even dream about. Its name was read into the 106th Congressional Record as an example of "the industrious spirit and can-do attitude that have made America great." The Food Network dubbed it one of the top five truck stops in the country. And in 1998, it was picked as one of the best breakfast spots in the world by Travel & Leisure. We don't disagree, even though a recent renovation removed most of its physical charms -- but the food, particularly those cinnamon rolls, remains a constant.
14061 East Iliff Avenue, Aurora, 303-752-3663. From a distance, Rosie's Diner looks like another one of those '50s-style nostalgia joints. But once you sit down in this perfect replica of a diner, you quickly realize there's more to Rosie's than nostalgia. Great malts, for starters, as well as fast and friendly service. The kitchen cooks fresh every day, serving classic American road food in portions big enough to keep you going no matter what the modern world might throw at you.