I don’t often talk about the painted canvas here at Eat Mile High, and that’s a damn shame. Art can move us. It can take us to places we have never been. It can take us to places we don’t want to go. But it can also bring our wildest fantasies to life with nothing more than a glance across dried acrylic. That reminds me of a painting that, without fail, indulges my deepest fantasy. The painting is “Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper. It is a painting of a lonely New York City diner in the early hours of the morning. I look at that painting and I can smell the coffee. My mouth begins to water at the thought of perfectly cooked pancakes and greasy bacon.
The problem is, the painting is an artifact. No one goes to diner’s anymore, not in Denver anyway. So imagine my surprise when I stepped into Tom’s Urban 24 on a Friday night and found not a drab and desolate corner diner, but a rockin’ 21st century diner serving whiskey, pot pies and chicken and waffles. Maybe the diner isn’t an artifact after all. Maybe it just needed a face lift.
We arrived at the welcoming entrance to Tom’s Urban 24 with a half hour to go until our reservation. We were meeting a friend for a birthday celebration and he was running late anyway. So, like any sane person, I sauntered over to the countertop bar with my girlfriend and began perusing the drink menu. I didn’t expect to be challenged by the drink menu at a diner, but I’m sure that the Empire didn’t expect to be challenged by a band of unproven actors in the first Star Wars film. The point is, it’s good to be challenged sometimes. The menu had words and liquors in combinations that I had never even imagined before. They had names like “Rattlesnake Rye,” “Gunbarrel,” “Orange Buffalo,” and the coquettish “WTF;)”. They put the winking smiley face there, not me. But the wink got me. It gets me every time. The waiter returned with a red fizzy drink which he assured me was made up of the same ingredients listed on the menu, although I had a hard time believing that. The menu said that a WTF;) had Jim Beam 8 Star Whiskey, red wine, Coors Light, orange juice and simple syrup. So naturally, I assumed it would taste a lot like synthetic motor oil. In reality, it was the weirdest, best drink I’ve had in the Mile High City. I switched to the Rattlesnake Rye for my second drink and instantly regretted it. You gotta dance with the girl you came with.
We were finally seated and began our birthday celebration in earnest. We started out with the Classic and Truffle Deviled Eggs. Those are two separate appetizers, but my dining companions can’t get enough deviled eggs. They were devoured quickly. Then came the real test. Like all good diners, the menu at Tom’s Urban 24 is expansive (unfortunately, no pictures of the food on the menu). I was torn between multiple dishes but after a strong endorsement from the waitress, I settled on the Fried Chickenlooper and Corn Cakes. It’s like chicken and waffles, but with pancakes and a much funnier name. The chicken was matzo-breaded and served with corncakes (see: cornbased pancakes), syrup and butter. I began by eating the chicken and pancakes separately, but if you do that you’ll miss out on the synergy of flavors that occurs when tender breaded chicken meets syrup. After five minutes of feathers flying, the meal was gone. All that remained as evidence was my sticky fingers and a few chicken bones. I also stole a few bites of my girlfriend’s Truffled Lobster and Shrimp Pot Pie. In two words, I would describe it as aggressively decadent.
We walked out of Tom’s Urban 24 and I had a bit of a revelation. Art and reality had fused in my mind over the course of the meal. Diners don’t belong on the walls of a museum. Diners belong on the streets. And we belong inside of them.
True to its name, Tom’s Urban 24 is always open. There is absolutely no reason not to be there. In fact you should go now. Seriously, stop reading this blog and go eat there. Are you still reading? Really? Wow, well since I got you here, what’s the capital of Maine? No Googling. Portland or Augusta? You can’t decide can you. It’s Augusta.
ON LARIMER SQUARE
1460 LARIMER ST.
OPEN 24 HOURS