Hardly a day passes at Denver Public Library's Western History/Genealogy Department that someone doesn't mention massive changes that have swept the Mile-High City over the past few years.
Nowhere is the pace of change more visible than in the constant churn of restaurants and bars that keep the Mile-High City fed and watered. Plenty of beloved Denver eateries have been sacrificed at the altar of growth, seemingly leaving nothing more than memories of hot meals and good times with friends and family.
The graveyard of Denver eateries is the subject of a wonderful new book by Colorado authors Robert and Kristen Autobee titled, Lost Restaurants of Denver. This meticulously-researched gem recalls dozens of shuttered restaurants going all the way back to Denver's earliest days. Of course the sections most of us will head to immediately are those that cover restaurants from the 20th Century including The Flying Dutchman, Valente's, The Yum Yum Tree, Round the Corner, and many more forgotten favorites.
Besides detailing a bit of each restaurant's histories, the Autobees unearthed plenty of historical gems including photos of table settings from some of the restaurants and plenty of recipes. One recipe that stands out both for its simplicity and its unassailable Denver pedigree is the North Denver Canoli.
The North Denver Canoli is nothing like the creamy dessert most of us are familiar with and is more like its mainstream cousin, the calzone. This dough-wrapped sausage with a slice of pepper was the brainchild of Denver sausage impresario Richard Carbone. Carbone, legend has it, was reluctant to toss out leftover pizza dough from his North Denver kitchen and used those scraps to create the canoli.
While no one is quite certain how the name canoli got attached to this tasty treat, the name stuck and is still used by those whose time in Denver pre-dates any neighborhood with a marketing slogan for a name. (LoDo and RiNo, we're looking at you.)
Though most of the restaurants the Autobees recall will leave readers longing for the good old days, some of them will leave readers with a bad taste in their mouths that wasn't caused by a poorly prepared meal. In the early years of the 20th Century, Denver was home to a particularly racist chili restaurant called, The White Peoples Chile Parlor.
This not-so-charming eatery stands as a stark reminder that the good old days weren't that good for everyone.
The Autobees drew on a number of sources while researching their book, including WHG's Digital Collections and Menu Collection. In doing so, they've created a wonderful document that's useful for researchers and foodies alike.
Whether you grew up in the shadow of The Yum Yum Tree, or just moved here last year, Lost Restaurants of Denver can provide you with a crash course in Colorado's culinary history that will leave you longing for meals you'll never be able to enjoy, like a bowl of Pagliacci's unforgettable minestrone.