Book revisits Mile High City restaurants of the past.
A lifetime ago and two time zones away, I co-authored a book called Pennsylvania’s Historic Restaurants & Their Recipes. The premise was that the buildings in which the restaurants were located (though not necessarily the restaurants themselves) had to be at least 50 years old, which is no trick at all in one the country’s original 13 states. I traveled all the Keystone State, interviewed restaurant owners and chefs — and then vetted and tested recipes.
Robert and Kristen Autobee, the husband-and-wife team who co-authored Lost Restaurants of Denver, gave themselves a different mandate. Their restaurants they covered were ones that had closed, some decades ago and some within Robert’s memory. As a native Coloradan, he wrote that he “probably ate at all the places mentioned from the fourth chapter onward to the book’s conclusion.” They are both interested in food and are history nerds with both the personal passion and professional skills to delve into libraries, archives and even museum resources, as well as personal interviews with individuals who made or observed recent Denver restaurant history.
The result is a fascinating journey into the past of Denver’s hospitality business. They wrote about food in frontier boarding houses and as Denver grew up, glamorous haunts in facy hotels, 19th-century oyster houses in the middle of the country, modest lunch counters, burger joints and ethnic restaurants where the foods of various old countries were served. Sometimes, the “old” country was Mexico. There were, of course, growing pains. The authors therefore included the good, the bad and the ugly of the local dining scene. What would today be considered gender discrimination was seen a way of protecting “respectable” ladies a century or so ago.
In 1909, for instance, an order was passed “forbidding women unaccompanied by escort to enter restaurants serving liquor after 8:00 p.m.” Then there was also overt racial and ethnic discrimination without the guise or protecting any group. Therefore, the authors also wrote about the unfortunate times when hospitality was not always extended to African-Americans, Asians and other immigrants of various stripes. The book is in many way a sociological history of Denver within the enticing wrapper of restaurants that used to be.
The book was published by American Palate, a division of The History Press. Its 160 pages include photographs, menus, promotional items and documents. In case you want your bookstore to special-order it if it is not in stock, tell them that the ISBN number is 9781626197152. Click here to order directly from the publisher. (And if WordPress has added a strike-through, click anyway, and you should get to the publisher’s online store.) The cover price is $19.99.