Local’s Only – Childhood Favorites You Can Still Dine at Today

Whether you are a native or not, sometimes even the best-kept secrets are worth sharing. This holds especially true when it comes to enjoying living embodiments of tradition, history and community in these longstanding restaurants that continue to endure the test of time. Here is a rundown of some of the most cherished and nostalgic restaurants so you can eat like a local – no matter how much of a transplant you are.

Lookin’ Good Restaurant and Lounge

Photo Courtesy of Lookin’ Good Restaurant and Lounge on Facebook

Where: 66 Sheridan Blvd., Denver

The Lowdown: If you are looking for a spot that serves Greek, Mexican and American cuisine somewhere between a family style restaurant and a dive bar that just happens to have been around for over 40 years – Lookin Good Restaurant and Lounge is the move, especially since they’re open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with lounge hours of 2 p.m. to 12 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Basically Lookin’ Good is a choose your level of comfort style of diner. Breakfast comfort? Order the Lookin’ Good Breakfast Special – two eggs, choice of meat, hash browns, two buttermilk pancakes and even a choice of fruit juice. Dropping in for lunch after sleeping past breakfast? The Greek salad with mixed greens, gyro meat, tomato, feta and Greek dressing is likely calling out to you. Dinner time already? Surely you couldn’t pass up the pork tamale served with Spanish rice and beans and topped with green chili and cheese. Don’t worry, nobody saw you go from chocolate milk to that strawberry margarita. Perhaps the real treats are its over sized and out of this world desserts – from the classically sweet, flaky baklava, the coconut bombed German chocolate cake, to a mile high chocolate peanut butter pie that just might make the edges of your mouth curl with each bite – go ahead, you deserve it.

Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner

local spots

Photo Courtesy of Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner on Facebook

 

Where: 9495 W Colfax Ave., Lakewood

The Lowdown: The history of Colfax is rooted in the Gold Rush of the mid-1800s, so there’s no wonder it lays claim to some of the oldest and most delightful diner style vibes around. Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner has been open since 1957, so it most certainly belongs on a locals list. You can expect the typical diner furniture, counter dining, and condiment holders, but let’s be real–you’re here because you’re hungry for breakfast. From 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. you can go big and get the breakfast burrito – ham, bacon or sausage, eggs, hashbrowns, green peppers & onions smothered in green or red chili & cheese, or the corned beef hash served with hash browns & toast or hot cakes. Missed your vegetables for the last month? The veggie omelet with onions, peppers, tomatoes & mushrooms is hearty with slightly less guilt. It’s classic, it’s a vibe, it’s sure to satisfy – that’s Davie’s for ya.

Bastien’s Restaurant

Photo Courtesy of Bastien’s Restaurant on Facebook

Where: 3503 E Colfax Ave., Denver

The Lowdown: 1958 called and wanted to remind you of its favorite Googie-style diner known as Bastien’s Restaurant.  Historic? Yeah. A Colorado icon – absolutely. While Bastien’s might be best known for their sugar steak – ribeye or NY strip rubbed in Bastien’s famous sugar and spiced dry rub – don’t worry you can apply this to your burger too. Expect a delightful whirlwind of other steak styles to choose from, like the coffee rub with avocado chimichurri or the black and tan with mushrooms, demi glace and gorgonzola reduction if you wanna go savor flavor. Give it your all, and opt for the breakfast for dinner style – bacon, hollandaise, blackberry jam, add two eggs. Fear not my non beef lovers, order a grilled caesar salad and top it with parmesan crusted salmon, balsamic reduction, caesar dressing, fresh parmesan, croutons – sub the salmon out for shrimp or chicken, or simply delight in the tangy caesar as it is. As expected, dessert is only an order away – and surely it’s gotta be the sizzling skillet apple pie – with hot seasoned butter and vanilla ice cream. So much more than meat and taters – but also, get the meat and taters.

Gaetano’s

Photo Courtesy of Gaetano’s Restaurant on Facebook

Where: 3760 Tejon St., Denver

The Lowdown: You want red sauce. You want old school Italian. You want to gamble upstairs with the notorious Colorado Smaldone crime family – wait, you didn’t hear that. What you really want is Gaetano’s Italian. This Highlands suburb hot spot with its dim lighting, rustic decor and the thick aroma of garlic and herbs in the air has opened its doors daily since 1947. While the Mafia and gambling stories might be just that – or maybe not – what you will find for sure is a menu full of every Italian staple you could possibly want. Sip on a hearty bottle of red wine and start your meal with the clams casino – top neck clams, green & red peppers, parmesan breadcrumbs and bacon – great to share or devour solo. The wild mushroom pizza with cremini mushrooms, EVOO, fresh mozzarella, Italian herbs, and feta cheese is made from scratch and perfectly baked. The lasagne – packed with ricotta, parmesan, ground beef and sausage, house-made marinara sauce, and melted mozzarella will bring you back to your nonna’s kitchen and standing on a kitchen chair stirring the sauce – packed with comfort and memories in one tender, creamy and hearty bite after another. Remember, if someone tells you to go to Gaetano’s – you better just do it.

Charlie Brown’s Bar and Grill

Photo Courtesy of Charlie Brown’s Piano Bar on Facebook

Where: 3980 Grant St, Denver

The Lowdown: Located in the Colburn Hotel with a menu that ranges from breakfast, steak, seafood and chicken options, to Greek and Mexican specialties and even pizza – Charlie Brown’s Bar and Grill has been a Denver icon since 1933. The immaculate old-time feel, vintage and historic  knick-knacks throughout, the piano in the corner – 6:30p.m. nightly – make it hard to tell whether you’re in the year 2024 or ravishing in the 1930’s.  Great for families or a date night, surely the menu has “something for everyone” – which happens to be the perfect motto. Retro dishes like chicken cordon bleu – stuffed with ham, American and Swiss cheese – fish and chips – with fries, tartar and coleslaw – bring together a multitude of options. Greek powerhouses like the gyro and souvlaki style plates or sandwiches, Mexican comforts from soft shell tacos to a chile relleno plate – two rellenos, rice, refried beans, smothered in green chili and cheddar cheese – provide that hearty, warm satisfaction we seek year round. Bring your kids, your spouse or your parents – join a sing along, and cheers to the end of Prohibition – whether you lived through it or not.

READ: Let’s Get Stuffed – The Best Bites in Denver That Are Filled with More than Flavor

Star Kitchen

A bun for all. Photo courtesy of Star Kitchen on Facebook

Where: 2917 W Mississippi Ave., Denver

The Lowdown: There’s just something extra special about those strip mall gems that seem unappealing at first – but instead impress by creating a life long craving. Star Kitchen opened in 2008, and almost instantly became a top recommended option amongst native Coloradans and your every day local – with a menu spread full of all that and dim-sum it’s easy to understand why. The best part? The dim-sum carts will come rolling steaming hot right out of the kitchen, so be ready to load your plate with a variety of buns – like steamed or baked bbq pork, chicken buns or go sweet with the baked double cream bun. Double up on dumplings with options including scallops, crystal leeks, or shrimp. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try something curious like beef stripe with turnips or crispy chicken feet. Star Kitchen additionally boasts an expansive offering of umami bombed Cantonese options from noodles to rice dishes. Get there early or expect a wait, and bring a few friends – you are going to want to try 1 – maybe 3 – of everything.