American Culture

The Scrogue's Guide to Denver and the DNC: East 17th Avenue

by Janet Manley

Every day is Mardi Gras on East 17th Street (punkier than the band), where you will find a sunny crop of bawdy bars, restaurants and delis flourishing just outside the shadows of Downtown Denver.

For those who like a wake-up call (or a wolf-whistle) with their morning coffee, you are invited to visit Bump & Grind coffeehouse, where your waffles are delivered by a pert, pink, lingerie-clad “waitress” with enviable cleavage and burly chest hair. Yes, the fellas do better in the heels than I could, all the while bringing buttery homecookin’ and a good dose of theatre to your table.

If asking for a muffin is likely to embarrass you while talking to 4ft high fishnet stockings, then get your beans elsewhere, but if you like a little boop with your eggs, then come on in. Personally, the cheeky – in every sense – remarks accompanying my ginger cookie made a nice change from having truckers honk their horns. Get your knickers in a knot for the Petticoat Bruncheon on Saturdays and Sundays, and keep an eye out for Dixie Normous – you just might get teabagged.

Next, take your hunger pangs to Denver’s diner royale, Steubens, a ’50s themed gem with booth seating and the lino you remember, even if you weren’t around 50 years ago. A retro drinks menu plumbs any conservatism toward ordering outlandish drinks at dinner; here you can have your mac’n’cheese and a mint julep, too. Once you’ve devoured your devilled eggs, fries (served in an old crabmeat tin), baked meatballs and Chicago dog (all haplessly cheap) you can max out on a rootbeer float and some old school candies – in fact you’ll even find pixie sticks and tootsie rolls incorporated into some of the drinks.

The staff aren’t on rollerskates, but a late night here is crazy enough without polyurethane, trust me.

Just across the road or so is Hamburger Marys, and Thank God Its Glittery Friday during the DNC. Come for the Denver Cycle Sluts’ cabaret show, and stay for the Foreplay (appetisers), Special Tease (chef’s specials), and don’t be afraid to get a Little On The Side. All the world’s a stage at Mary’s, and all the players riotous – there is enough joie de vivre on hand to fill a pitcher. Check your coat at the door – better leave your humility there too.

A hop, skip and a jump down the road you will find gourmet gastronomy paradise in Marzyck Fine Foods, a tempting pantry of things artisan and delectable. The lass at the cheese counter will have you by the first toothpick, and you will unlikely leave town without fond memories of your gruyere affair.

Cartwheel back across the road to veggie empire, Watercourse Foods, where wispy vegan bodies take their fill of all things meatless and meatlike. From the saki Bloody Marys to the Philly Cheesesteak, vegetables and soybean are king here, and the most steadfast carnivore will find culinary nirvana. Scroggin heads will be in paradise here, and will nary want to leave once the last of their vegan chocolate cupcake has been cleared. Most pleasing is the mix of clientele, which varies from wheeling and dealing bisnos to single-track students to aesthetes with asymmetrical haircuts. Yummo.

If that isn’t enough, troll the strip for Avenue Grill or the host of firefly bars in the area. Dress code: a lot or a little, after all, these are hot summer nights.

The E. 17th neighborhood is located less than two miles east of Pepsi Center. Click here for the map and directions.


Janet Manley’s developmental journey terminates before the flat, low, far end of the bell curve, somewhere in the upper-mid recesses. A mesomorph middle child with a recovering vocabulary – stunted by an overuse of ‘therefore’ and ‘henceforth’ in college essays – she pedals the average, and teases out the insides of all things, being always near the center.

An accomplished journalist and editor, Janet believes much of the misinformation out in the world proper is the result of reductionism, and so strives to complicate things back up; she is the milky cloud in your tea, the humid haze you see looking off a mountain.

Consequently, sesquipedalian dalliances certify finally that limbic semantics override reductionistic rhetoric – it’s simply more poetic that way.

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