22 August 2010

Denver Snubbed: Playboy Proves It's Not Even Worth It For the Articles

And now, a very special Denver Dives editorial report.

No one likes being snubbed.  And no one likes one of their beloved getting snubbed.  So you can imagine my salt when The City of Dives got a finger in the eye recently.  Playboy just came out with its Guide to America's Greatest Bars, which included a list of their 15 all-time favorite dive bars.  Denver, with its well chronicled, well seasoned, and well respected (if having a large variety of dives can be called respectable) received a grand total of zero bars on the list.  Perhaps we can just blame Playboy - I see this sloppy bit of journalism as just another sign that Playboy is falling on hard times

Here's the list, for those who care:
  1.  The Saint, New Orleans
  2. Mean-Eyed Cat, Austin
  3. Subway Inn, New York
  4. Lee Harvey’s, Dallas
  5. Specs, San Francisco
  6. Jasper’s, Lompoc, California
  7. Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge, New Orleans
  8. Ted’s Hideaway, South Beach
  9. Lucky’s Lounge, Boston
  10. Cal’s, Chicago
  11. The Big Hunt, Washington, D.C.
  12. Kirby’s Beer Store, Wichita
  13. Springwater Supper Club, Nashville
  14. Ernestine and Hazel’s, Memphis
  15. Milano’s, New York
I will grant you that I personally have never had the pleasure to sleaze my way into any of the places on Playboy's list.  I'll also grant that there are many great dives outside of Denver.  In fact, one of my personal all-time favorites is a place called The Wheel Bar in Estes Park, of all godforsaken places.  However, Denver has the quality and quantity to deserve a token mention on the list.  Maybe I'll make up my own list of all-time favorites at some point, sans naked chicks.  Though that might get me a few more readers....

If anyone that has a history with any of the 15 joints that made Playboy's list, and would like to sound off on their quality versus some of Denver's hometown favorites, please do so.  Regardless, I'll bet that none of them has an airplane made of beer cans....

    16 August 2010

    Taco Dive-Off Part 2: Los Trompitos

    I loved the Choose Your Own Adventure books when I was a kid.  What better way to keep a bored kid from Iowa engaged than to give him a book that allowed navigating choices like A) Dive into the toilet, or B) Escape out the door to avoid catching something from the flies buzzing around the stool.  Yes, I did once read a Choose Your Own Adventure book that gave the option of jumping into a toilet.  With this in mind, I'd like to present you with the following, a mini-Choose Your Own Adventure, dive-style.  Choose wisely, though, or you might end up in the vicinity of a toilet yourself:

    You're heading east down Montview Blvd. and you're hungry, desperately hungry, and starting to get feisty.  Something small and quick will do, delicious would be nice, but at this point you're willing to settle.  You are unfamiliar with the area and aren't sure what to do.  You can:
    A) Quickly pull into the corner gas station in search of a rolling hot dog.
    B) Continue east on Montview, in the hopes that you'll soon run into a fast food crap merchant.
    C) Head south toward the safety and plentiful food choices of Colfax, with the risk of becoming thoroughly salty along the way and blindly driving your car into a pole.
    D) Venture inside the adjacent orange and white building, the one with the crazily dancing carrots on the sign that is questionably barred up like a prison, because you think there is a sign in the window saying something about tacos.

    Hopefully your dive-senses were tingling when you read choice D, and didn't get thrown off with the option of going to Colfax - that's usually a good choice.  My dive senses were definitely tingling upon going to Los Trompitos, the lucky establishment that I picked to take on El Taco de Mexico in the first ever dive-off. 

    There wasn't a soul in Los Trompitos on my maiden voyage in, other than the person lazily working the counter and one sitting around the kitchen that was jammed up into one corner of the building.  Both were pretty interested in the Univision that was jamming on the TV attached to one of the walls.   I stepped up to the counter, a granite one, no less, something I found extremely unnecessary in a place with bars on all the windows and doors, and perused the menu and its handy pictures.  I went with a trio of tacos - one Bistec (a special recipe!), one Al Pastor, and one Carnitas - similar to my order at El Taco de Mexico to keep things fair.   

    While waiting for the food to arrive, I perused what appeared to be a salsa bar sitting under the TV. The spread was pretty lacking, and only included a red salsa, a green one, onions, cilantro, and some dried out looking limes.  Not nearly as extensive as some salsa bars I'd seen, but a nice touch nonetheless.  The tacos came out wicked fast.  The steak one was unremarkable, special recipe or not, and was made doubly so with the addition of the useless red salsa.  Al Pastor was pretty much made up of dry little chunks of meat, that wasn't interesting, though I managed to save it somewhat with a massive slathering of the decent green salsa.  Finally, the Taco de Carnitas, which was absolutely the standout at El Taco de Mexico.  Los Trompitos version, one that lacked juice, flavor, and most everything else, fell well short of the bar.  

    I sat for a bit in the brightly colored dining area, trying to make sense of the blaring from the TV before wandering out, disappointed.  This dive-off goes resoundingly to El Taco de Mexico, a very nice blend of interesting crowd, an atmosphere propagated by the taco ladies that will keep you guessing, 100% washable ambiance that sets a dive standard, and a spectacular carnitas taco to boot.  Los Trompitos, despite all the promise of its dancing carrots, bars, and 99 cent tacos, was bland overall, and dulled the tingle of my dive senses to the point of considering a rolling hot dog across the street.

    Los Trompitos is located at 9755 Montview in Aurora.  Unless you are interested in green salsa tacos, go somewhere else.