With all the changes taking place in the University Park neighborhood, on and off campus, we wanted to feature three long-standing restaurants that have survived the test of time. Two did it by hardly changing a thing. The other did it by changing to meet changing consumer tastes. The others? Well, they’re gone.
The retail restaurant business is already difficult enough without being near a college, in this case the University of Denver. With clientele turning over every four years and the bulk of classes on campus for only 30 out of 52 weeks, you have to be creative – and/or provide a rock solid offer. But, Mustard’s Last Stand, Jerusalem Restaurant and Spanky’s Roadhouse got there following different paths.
Mustard’s Last Stand is all about comfort food, consistency and centered on Chicago style hot dogs. Going into their 41st year at 2081 South University, veteran red hot fans and students from the Windy City know the drill — a generic bun (merely a delivery system), Vienna beef hot dog, yellow mustard, chopped white onions, bright green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, pickled sport peppers and a dash of celery salt. On nice days, customers can sit out on the patio at picnic tables and enjoy the Colorado sun. The original owner, Daniel Polovin, has another Mustard’s Last Stand in Boulder on historic Pearl Street, opened the same year. Polovin’s only concession has been the addition of a few vegan options. Otherwise, the same old comfortable hole in the wall.
Jerusalem Restaurant located at 1890 East Evans is a family-owned business that is all about serving authentic Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine at Evans & High Street for over thirty years. A dessert display greets customers as they enter the restaurant (gotta’ try the baklava). Once past the pastries, customers are led to indoor and outdoor tented seating areas to the west and east of the restaurant. Serving Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cuisine with traditional recipes in a relaxed and casual dining atmosphere. Many local fans of Middle East cuisine go for the sampler platter, the Combination which includes the best hummus in town, tabouleh, stuffed grape leaves, falafel, baba ganouj, gyros, chicken kabob and shish kabob. And what does LetsGoDU legend Damien Goddard order on every trip to the Mile High City? The Lamb Shanks are Goddard’s ‘go to’ dish. The staid formula for Jerusalem is simple – deliver quality Middle Eastern food at a reasonable price.
Spankys Roadhouse at 1800 East Evans opened in 1991, 28 years ago by the Shipp Family. They still offer the usual happy hour drink specials and hamburgers of the ‘original’ Spanky’s. But, keeping up with the times, they recently added punch buckets – giant plastic cups with handles and Spanky’s logos – you get your choice of mixes, such as the Mermaid Punch or the Rosé Brunch Punch, both of which involve flavored vodka (boom). And, on weekends, they offer an extensive Bloody Mary offering with a self-service garnish cart. The updated menu includes brussels sprouts with sesame sauce, chili cheese fries, fried pickles, fish tacos along with creative milkshakes with mix-ins like Funfetti cake mix and Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal among other things. Not exactly the beer and burger place many patrons enjoyed in the 90’s. Breakfasts food choices are fantastic with coffee served in a fishbown size mug. On nice days, customers can be seated on the outdoor covered patio area which can be opened up to allow for a view of Evans Avenue and a glimpse of the mountains to the west.
So there you have it. On your next visit to University and Evans, you may be disoriented by many of the changes going on in and around the University of Denver – but don’t forget the old stand-byes. They have withstood the test of time, taste, and change.