If you ever had an 8 p.m. hankering for an omelet with a glass of wine (speaking from experience), Annie’s Cafe always had you covered. Though in the heart of Denver on Colfax Avenue, Annie’s had a small-town feel with servers who knew you by name, walls covered in kitschy decor—and diner classics like root beer floats, supersized pancakes, and hand-pat burgers. But now, after 41 years serving Denverites, the restaurant is closing its doors at the end of June.
Annie’s opened in 1981 on 8th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard. The family-run restaurant moved to its current location at 3100 East Colfax Avenue in 2008, where it continued as a staple of the City Park neighborhood.
“It’s hard to think of Annie’s ending,” says owner Peggy Anderson. “It’s really hard, but at the same time, there’s something sort of sweet about it, too, in the fact that I opened it, I moved it, and then I closed it. Four decades. And it’s encompassed raising a family and now grandchildren. It’s just been an era.”
The reason for closing isn’t because of a lack of love, but because the building’s owners sold the space in April.
When the space was put up for sale, Anderson said her sister and niece looked to reopen Annie’s in a different location, while 70-year-old Anderson planned to retire.
“They spent quite a bit of time and energy looking, and they found some workable places, but for them it was going to end up being the financing,” she says. “The dollar amount ended up being rather prohibitive, and it was like, ‘do we really want to take on this amount of debt at this time?’ So we just shelved it and just are focusing on being present at Annie’s now and really experiencing this.”
What made Annie’s so special is the trifecta of good comfort food, cozy atmosphere, and the loyalty of both its customers and staff. Anderson says the diner has served some of its regulars for decades, and there are employees who have worked there for just as long. Annie’s is a community gathering spot, whether for special events like its annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration with Irish step dancers or just for a weekend brunch or weekday dinner.
“Sometimes it feels like I’m almost consoling people; I feel like I’m at a memorial,” Anderson says. “[Our customers are] really blue, and I think they’re really sad because we’re just another indication of how things are changing in Denver. We’ve been there for so long, people have always sort of relied on us. And it feels weird for them for us all of a sudden to not be there, so it feels really good when I can just sit down and talk to people and reminisce.”
The diner will operate as normal (though without many of its old-school lunchboxes and vintage posters, which are being sold to customers) until closing June 26 at 3 p.m. Here are some classic Annie’s Cafe dishes you can (and should!) order before that happens.
1. Ramiro’s Burrito
Looking at Annie’s menu, you’ll notice a lot of dishes are named after people: Peggy Sue, Emily’s Grilled Cheese, Judy Brown’s, etc. One of the most popular is the Ramiro, a breakfast burrito smothered in your choice of chili, salsa, or sausage gravy.
“If you worked for us long enough, we put you on the menu; Ramiro worked for us for probably 35 years,” Anderson says. “We also had a lot of customers who would come up with a menu item, and if it sold, then we named it after them.”
All diner food is good diner food, but there’s something special about an all-day breakfast. And the T-Bird is a go-to for any time of day: a heaping plate of eggs and grilled potatoes, plus pancakes or French toast and bacon, sausage, or corned beef hash.
3. Annie’s Grilled Potatoes
The thing to know about Annie’s grilled potatoes, whether as a side dish for your omelet or as the main affair, is that it’s most definitely not your run-of-the-mill hashbrowns. The salty, crispy, hand-cut potato chunks are smothered in cheese and your choice of pork green chile or beef-and-beans red chili. Make it even better and top it with a runny egg for $2 more.
4. A Bowl of Comfort
It’s exactly what it sounds like: a bowl of spicy red chili or green chile. What you do with it is up to you. Make it a combo with a half sandwich or salad, or add cheddar and onions for a warm pick-me-up treat. Annie’s is also selling the soups by the quart so you can stock up and enjoy well after the doors are closed.
While you can’t go wrong with a classic float or (boozy) milkshake, Steve’s tops the list of Annie’s desserts. Picture a gooey mixture of chocolate ice cream, marshmallow and chocolate sauce, and Oreos smothered in whipped cream. It’s a must for satisfying your sweetest sweet tooth.
Annie’s Cafe is open Tuesdays–Thursdays, 8 a.m.–8 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays, 8 a.m.–9 p.m. It’s open 8 p.m.–3 p.m. for Father’s Day (June 19) and its last day (June 26). 3100 E. Colfax Ave.