On a typical late Saturday night, the Denver Diner’s pink and green sign casts a neon glow over West Colfax Avenue and Speer Boulevard in Denver. The large window wrapping around the northwest corner of the diner reveals a full house. Almost every purple stool, booth and table is full, and the empty ones are being bused to clear a place for the next customers waiting at the door.
“Friday and Saturday night people can barely get in here,” says waitress Kelly Uhrch as she is called to the food counter to whisk away one of the hot plates of food.
Waitresses and waiters shuffle around the dining room — filling coffees, taking orders and delivering large portions of food. The graveyard shift holds the majority of the diner’s business, when the clubs let out and the bars close.
Denver has many diners, and the part of Colfax that runs through the heart of the Mile High City certainly isn’t short of them. But the Denver Diner is one of the most iconic 24-hour eateries in the city, boasting more than 45 years of business at the busy intersection.
Being open 24 hours puts the Denver Diner on a different schedule than most restaurants. The normal dinner hour sees a lot of empty seats and a much slower pace. For this place, dinner rush is 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., then business really picks up at about 1 in the morning.
“Our really late shift is really after the bars close. We get a good crowd in here,” says John Shover, who waits on the customers ending their night at the diner. “It’s almost like a party after the party — the crowd gets along with each other really well.”
The graveyard shift sees its fair share of late-night characters, from rowdy groups crowded around a table to tired loners sipping coffee in the corner. All through the night, the diner stays busy as people come in and go out, until those few hours before daylight when some are ending their night and others are beginning their day.
“Even at 4 o’clock we get a lot of people going to work and coming in here beforehand to get a good breakfast,” Shover says.
The Denver Diner sees a lot of action in the morning, too, when the breakfast menu really shines, although breakfast is served the entire day. The Two AA Egg Breakfast (with hash browns, toast and jelly) and the Mass Confusion A.K.A. Monica’s Idea (two buttermilk biscuits, crumbled bacon, two scrambled eggs, homemade country gravy and hash browns in a single pile)
are a staple order of the morning rush. Overall, the Santé Fe Burrito — with ground beef, hash browns and eggs smothered in green chili and garnished with lettuce, tomato and cheese — is one of the most popular menu items.
“We pride ourselves on good portions at a good price,” Shover says.
The heaping burritos, thick burgers and platefuls of sides could certainly satisfy any type of appetite that wanders in, and the homemade selections don’t hurt, either.
“The mashed potatoes, gravy, chili, bread — all are homemade,” says Yadira Guerrero, a waitress who sees a lot of chicken-fried steak and gravy over creamy potatoes served up. “Everyone wants something fresh… People like that and they ask for it.”
Throughout the day, people of all sorts come in for the homemade heaping helpings, from couples to families to groups of friends, many of them regulars, Guerrero says.
During the lulls in the 24-hour span, waitresses and cooks joke with each other. But when the rush hits, it’s go time, although their smiles usually stay on as the Denver Diner staff goes into overdrive to get the orders on the tables.
“We have a good time in here,” Shover says, speaking of the collective atmosphere created by the busy diner’s clientele and wait staff alike. “Everyone seems to really enjoy themselves.”
If You Go
740 W. Colfax Ave.
Denver, Colorado 80204