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Chef Luke Accornero's massive Iowa pork tenderloin sandwich —Photo by Hannah Morgan

Q&A: Dan DeShano of the Midwestern Saloon

Dan DeShano talks about bringing the Midwest to the mountains.

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“Hey! How’re ya doin’?” co-owner Dan DeShano greets customers as they file into the four-month-old Midwestern Saloon on Tennyson street in the Berkeley neighborhood. Dressed in a sky-blue denim button-down and tattered baseball cap, Michigan-born DeShano leads diners past the cowboy-chic tin walls (crafted from a silo from his grandfather’s farm in Auburn, Michigan) to windowside tables. Diners peruse the menus, which include everything from beer cheese soup topped with a spicy popcorn garnish to a caramelized onion-loaded Wisconsin brat.

As the name suggests, Dan and his wife, Andrea, opened this laid-back spot as a testament to the food—and genuine hospitality—of the Midwest. Being natives of Ohio and Iowa ourselves, we were impressed that the saloon’s meat-laden menu had callouts to both of our home states (the Ohio Beef ‘N’ Cheddar sandwich and the Iowa Pork Tenderloin sandwich). We caught up with Dan to talk about how he translates that Midwestern charm for the Colorado crowd.

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5280: How did you go about creating a Midwestern-inspired eatery?

DD: You girls know coming from the Midwest just how nice everyone is. It’s “How ya doin,” and just kind of down to earth, you know? That’s how we want our staff to be. Order-takers here get to know the people. That’s the atmosphere that we want. We’re not a club, we’re just a bar-restaurant and it’s just hearty comfort food.

What makes the food authentic?

I think size. There’s nothing real skimpy where I’m from. Every time I go to my grandpa’s house, it’s three courses and it’s huge and family style. It’s just real simple, really good quality, and nice portions. It’s hearty, it’s fresh, and you’re going to get a lot of it. I think that defines the Midwest.

Do you ever miss your hometown?

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I think it was a great place to grow up—but unless you wanted to be a farmer or go into construction, there’s not a lot of opportunity. So, I moved out here when I was 20, and I was like, “I’ll try it for a year.” That was 18 years ago.

What inspired the state-specific classics that dominate your menu?

Andrea and I said, let’s get all of our Midwestern friends together and ask them, “What’s the first thing you get food-wise when you go back home that you can’t find here?” That’s how we made our menu.

Family recipes are trademarks of the middle of the country. Were any passed down?

My grandma used to make the goulash recipe all the time. Luke, our chef, tweaked it a touch, but it’s 99-percent her recipe. The tater tot hotdish is my wife’s family recipe. She’s from Minnesota. Once, we stopped into this church event back in Minnesota, and everyone brought a hotdish. There were like, 20 different ones. It’s like a casserole, but they cover it in tater tots and sprinkle cheese over it, so all the fixings are on the bottom. You’ve got your loose meat and corn and green beans and a mushroom kind of gravy. We also have a good recipe from my dad for a homemade red chili, but we didn’t think it’d sell in the summer. I think the heartier dishes will do better come fall. When it’s 100 degrees, you’re not really craving pot roast.

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What is your most popular dish?

Iowa pork tenderloin. It’s a jaw-dropper. Everyone from Iowa has not been disappointed.

As a Michigan native, which item on the menu are you most excited about?

My favorite is the walleye sandwich, because it’s really tough to get walleye out here. You get cod everywhere. Halibut? Everywhere. But walleye is such a big Midwestern thing, it’s such a specialty.

What’s an example of something people can only get in the Midwest or at your Tennyson Street location?

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We do the Bloody Mary right. You get the big skewer with bacon, a cheese curd, and celery—and you get the beer back [beer chaser]. Anywhere in Michigan or Minnesota, you get the Bloody Mary and then you get a little beer back of Budweiser or Bud Light on the side. Just a three or four ounce beer chaser for it. It automatically came with it [out there], but when I came out here I was like, “Can I get a beer back?” and they’d give me a pint of beer.

What’s on the horizon for The Midwestern Saloon?

The upcoming football season will be big for us because we have 14 TVs and not a lot of other bars on this strip offer that many. We don’t want to be known as a sports bar, but people from Wisconsin who want to see the Brewers can’t see them anywhere else. People keep bugging us saying, “We can get a big group in here and it can become a Wisconsin bar or a Michigan bar,” but we don’t want it to be so specific. We’re more of a Big Ten bar.

How would you describe the restaurant’s atmosphere?

I always use the word cozy. We’re not a club or a hipster place. We’re just a good bar-restaurant to come and watch sports and enjoy the good, down-home feel.

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3961 Tennyson St., 303-455-0954

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