Retro Dining Guide for Littleton

Today I had onion rings as part of my lunch. One of my earliest recollections of eating onion rings seems to be at King’s Food Host in Littleton, Colorado. If you ever find yourself having traveled back in time to Littleton in the 1960s or 1970s, you’ll want to know something about the local restaurants available during that time period, so tuck this entry away to be prepared for such an occurrence.

King’s Food Host, Littleton Blvd – – A family restaurant with about 30 or 40 booths, informal dining featuring hamburgers. Distinguishing feature: you call in your order from the phone at your booth.

The Crestwood Restaurant, Littleton Blvd – – A family restaurant, a more complete menu than King’s Food Host, a little more formal and expensive as well. Distinguishing feature: the manager wants to serve as many head as possible each night, so he hovers over your table for any sign that you have finished your dinner, and will snatch up your plates if you’re not watching.

The International House of Pancakes, Littleton Blvd. – – Pancake place.

Romano’s Pizza, Littleton, Blvd – – A family-run Italian, surprisingly, restaurant.

Jose’s, Littleton, Blvd. – – A Mexican restaurant, one of the restaurants owned by the Trujillo family.

The Denver Drumstick, Santa Fe Drive – – Surprisingly, a restaurant featuring fried chicken. Distinguishing feature: a model railroad is installed on a ledge just below the level of the ceiling and runs continuously.

The Waffle House, Santa Fe Drive – – A waffle house. Distinguishing feature: Located right next to Littleton’s sewage treatment plant.

Tortilla Flats, Santa Fe Dr. – – A Mexican restaurant, surprisingly, located near the South Platte River. Distinguishing feature: the building gets flooded out from time to time by the South Platte River.

North Woods Inn, Santa Fe Dr. – – Family restaurant located along the South Platte River. Distinguishing features: giant Paul Bunyan sign at the entrance, landscaping that features large pine trees, log cabin style buildings, guests can eat peanuts and leave the shells on the floor.

Stonescape Restaurant, Santa Fe Dr. at Woolhurst Country Club – – Higher end dining in an old brick country club building at the south of the city. Financed by a bunch of long-haired hippies driving Maserati’s. Numerous LDS young men work there as bus boys or dishwashers. Distinguishing features: Greg Jones worked there as an underage dishwasher, Lyle Alzado ate there, some of the bus boys eat the unfinished portions of meals, bats in the kitchen, the building will mysteriously burn down in about 1975 after the restaurant fails.

Las Margaritas, County Line Road – – A Mexican restaurant.

Shakey’s Pizza Parlor, South Broadway – – National chain of pizza shops. Distinguishing features: my brother Doug worked there, great root beer, player piano.

Bronco Burgers, South Broadway – – Local burger place.

McDonalds, South Broadway – – McDonalds. Distinguishing features: None.

Jack-In-The-Box, South Broadway – – Burger place. Distinguishing features: talking jack-in-the-box.

Mission Trujillo, Ridge Road and South Broadway – – Mexican restaurant. Distinguishing feature: in subsequent years, from about 1985 to 1990, my father and older brother will average about 3 meals per week there, and every meal my father will order a chile relleno.

The Green House Tea Room, University Avenue at Southglenn Mall – – Casual lunch dining in a restaurant owned by The Denver department store and overlooking the center of the mall. Distinguishing features: Greg Jones worked there as a dishwasher, planters are suspended from the ceiling, some of the flora in the planters is purportedly marijuana plants.

Zuyder Zee, near I-25 and County Line Road – – Seafood restaurant. Distinguishing feature: the center of the building is shaped like a full-sized windmill, complete with blades.

Casa Bonita, in Arvada – – Mexican restaurant. Distinguishing features: mass production food, emphasis on atmosphere that includes foliage, water falls, and cliff divers, after the year 2000 the owners will accuse Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller of trade dress infringement for copying these concepts in the Mayan restaurant located at Jordan Commons in Sandy, Utah.

The Trail Dust Inn, I-25 – – Steakhouse. Distinguishing feature: if you wear a tie, they will cut it off and nail it to the wall.

The Country Dinner Playhouse, I-25 – – Dinner theater. Distinguishing feature: the building is shaped like a barn.

The Broker, Downtown Denver – – High end dining, formal. Distinguishing features: one of the dining areas is the interior of an authentic bank vault, Greg Jones went there for a dinner with his father after graduating from high school, numerous other special occasions there.

The Red Slipper, Colorado Blvd. – – A nice family restaurant. Distinguishing feature: giant rotating red slipper at the top of a pole, bear claws.

Furr’s Cafeteria / Wyatt’s Cafeteria, Cinderella City and Bear Valley – – Cafeteria food. Distinguishing features: strawberry shortcake, restroom doors in the Cinderella City location have no writing, but instead bear the profiles of the head of a man or a woman, which Greg Jones found to be nearly indistinguishable.

Chateau Pyrenees, I-25 – – Over-the-top French place where high school kids would take their prom dates and pay a fortune.

(These are reflections from an experience on March 24, 2006, but this was written on April 21).

26 Responses to “Retro Dining Guide for Littleton”

  1. 1951 Littleton resident Says:

    2011 – found this checking whether the Northwoods Inn was there – guess it moved and then disappeared. The NWInns in California, like some other CO restaurants that moved, just didn’t measure up. I, too, remember many of these restaurants – King’s Food Host was great – deep fried cheese sandwiches!!!

  2. wporion Says:

    Perhaps I am wrong…it may have been dissolved and the newer location sold to a high bidder.
    8109 Blakeland Dr.
    Littleton, Colorado
    (303) 791-0500

    • Pamela Lloyd Says:

      It’s now the Scarlet Ranch.

      • Kendall Says:

        Actually, the location is Squirrel Creek Lodge and Squirrel Creek Wildlife Rescue. Scarlet Ranch is a client. Squirrel Creek Lodge is a private restaurant and has invested several millions into the renovations. Just the facts.

  3. Ray Says:

    From a 50’s resident; I worked at the North Woods Inn when it was the Country Kitchen, started as a “pot wolloper” did the bus boy thing and made it to the smorgaasbord table (the attraction at that time). Also did a stint as bus boy and car parker and skeet range trap puller at Wolhurst Country Club. It was a private club when I worked there, owned by and operated by Eddie Jordan, not a “hippie.” Saw my first strip show in the basement party room. I did not sample food there, but did go overboard one night while bussing drinks, probably the same night as the strip show. More about Littleton restaurants, I worked at Call O’ the Wild on So. Broadway, once again starting at the deep sink, became a full fledged waiter. Two steak houses were missed in the original blog. I worked as the broiler chef at the Prospector, I-25 and Belview, now of course leveled to accomodate the tech center. Just south of there was another steak house, the Flame. While I did not work at my next restaurant memory, there was a very family oriented cafe on Main Street, across from the town hall next to Littleton Drug. Last time I was in Littleton I think they had expanded into the drug store space. I also have fond memories of the Santa Anita Restaurant on South Santa Fe, where Prince joined the highway. I am talking about a plate of enchilladas smothered in melted cheese in the pre-microwave days. This Blog has triggered a lot of memories, my kids ate a lot of Bronco Burgers growing up.

  4. gregjonesorg Says:

    Hi Ray, thanks for your comment. I recognize some of the places you mention, but not all of them.

  5. Mary Richmann Says:

    Great memories! Thanks. However, you left out Abe’s Cafe on Main St.

    • gregjonesorg Says:

      Thanks for your comment. You know, I never ate at Abe’s Cafe, but I knew of Abe’s because my high school track coach would eat there most every morning. It should have been on my list.

  6. JC Says:

    When I was at Littleton HS in the late 70’s, we’d walk to Sambo’s on Littleton Blvd. just west of the school. I remember when they changed it from Sambo’s to Seasons. Also next to the high school was a Mr. Steak… remember that chain? They’re no more. How about the Dolly Madison retail store and ice cream parlor next to KMart at Broadway & Belleview? We lived for a while in the Carmel Park Apts. right across the street, and at night I could lie in bed and watch the neon sign alternate “Milk” “Ice Cream” “Milk” “Ice Cream”. Great shakes! And speaking of ice cream, we had many a great summer evening at Pat’s Twist-O-Creme at Lowell and Bowles. They don’t make the cinderblock soft serve palaces like they used to. Down on Main St., I seem to recall the family going for Mexican in the back of the Family Bar prior to Jose’s opening right next door. I don’t recall if there was a connection. I never ate at the Santa Anita, although its connecting lounge was one of the great racetrack dives. Finishing up with Crestwood: the owner was a big tall hard charging guy named Pete who personally roamed the dining room checking on everyone and keeping the staff in line. My younger brother was his “buddy” since his name was Pete also. My Dad said he could never keep them from filling his coffee cup when he wasn’t looking. It was like a game… they’d seem to sneak right up behind him! Many, many great memories of growing up in Littleton.

  7. Kevin Smith Says:

    Remember Georgia Boys, home of the rosin baked potato? The smell of hickory outside the restaurant was magical to a 12 year old boy! Great post. On a whim I thought I would look for something on Crestwood… I got that and more. Growing up I remember eating at all these restaurants. Northwoods Inn? My first job. Bronco Burger? I didn’t think anyone but me remembered the place. Kings Food Host? We rented an aparment about 100 yards from there when I was 6 and ate there often. IHOP? My dad took me there for breakfast on my first day of school at East elementary. I could go on and on. A memory in each restaurant you noted! Thank you!

    • gregjonesorg Says:

      Thanks for your comments. Georgia Boys? Memories of the place seem to be coming back . . .

      • Kevin Smith Says:

        Georgia Boys was a block or so north of Bronco Burger, as I recall. Good food, smelled amazing both outside and inside . Two more restaurants for the list – The Library was a favorite prom spot on Colorado Blvd, and the Country Dinner Playhouse where I have have multiple memories of dinner and a play, including “fiddler on the roof”, “how to succeed in business without really trying” and “a funny thing happened on the way to the forum”

  8. Kevin Says:

    I was just thinking about the hamburgers at Kings Food Host. They were terrific. Does anyone know what Kings did differently in the preparation – cooking of there hamburgers that gave them their unique and delicious taste?
    I remember them as a bit “peppery”.

  9. Tom Anderson Says:

    We ate at many of these places!

    Don’t forget The Hungry Dutchman, with the famous split pea soup and the windmill (we would go there for Christmas Day dinners, because it was actually open, and I would always be a little irritated because I wanted to get back to my toys!), The Hungry Farmer (not sure if there was a relation) which was more country-themed. There was White Spot, kind of like a Dennys. I always got donuts there, don’t ask me why. The Walgreens near our home in Littleton, does anyone remember this, had a RESTAURANT inside it! If my mom was out of town visiting her mom my dad would take us there, they always had a “special”. How about Bear Valley, the small mall there, had a May D & F that had a restaurant there. My mom one day was buying clothes and she said I could pick out a toy and then get started on lunch in the restaurant they had upstairs. For a while, we were eating at Wyatt’s Cafeteria in that same mall almost once a week! Yes, we ate at King’s, I always got a hot chocolate, my sisters were always getting some “Frenchie” thing. Furr’s Cafeteria actually was pretty good, one of the dining areas was surprisingly upscale and they had a lady pianist there for years. I always got a shrimp dinner. Ladies with carts would come by to refill your water. We would go there after watching movies, like “Oliver”, which played down the street from Furr’s for like a year!

    Someone mentioned Pat’s Twist-o-Creme. I still remember that place, getting chills driving past it in the snow when it was closed for the season! I always thought I would get the Twist but always ended up getting the dipped in chocolate cone…the chocolate was so good and nothing like the crummy tasting do-it-yourself stuff that came out later. I can still see that place, I think the sign was turquoise. Like our 1966 Buick. A lot of nice things are turquoise. But never mind…

  10. Karen Bloom Says:

    Oh my gosh, yes, we loved the Cheese Frenchies [Frenchees?] and onion rings at King’s Food Host! And those phones were so cool. Bronco Burgers were the best. In addition to the train at The Denver Drumstick, the kids meals-one drumstick, corn and mashed potatoes-were served in cardboard firetrucks [or some red cardboard vehicle]. We loved those things and always took them home! And, I think I usually ordered a French Dip sandwich at Crestwood with a side salad. Pat’s Twist-O-Creme also made amazing limeade that really hit the spot on a hot summer day. And, didn’t Shakey’s have live banjo players and a follow-the-bouncing-ball live sing-along? Or, was that just the player piano? Thanks for refreshing my memory on all these restaurants. Those were the days…. (Believe it or not, I stumbled across this blog while randomly searching for Pat’s Twist-O-Creme today.)

  11. Barb Says:

    Who owned the Crestwood?

  12. Cindy Hansen Says:

    Does anyone remember a restaurant in the 60’s-70’s that served hamburgers and had rag time music playing. I think it was on bellview and Broadway where the black eye is now.

  13. Greg Bowers Says:

    Wow! This brings back a ton of memories. I grew up in Littleton during the 1970’s. I washed dishes at Las Margaritas on County Line Road and I25. Anybody remember The Alpine Village Inn on Colorado Blvd?

  14. Bob O’Connor Says:

    Nice job!
    Also-

    Abe’s Cafe… Main St. & Nevada (?) or maybe a block east of there. They remodeled about 1968 or so and took out a wall.

    Before Jim and Mary opened The Crestwood, it was…. hang on a second, ummm, hold on! I know. I know. Oh, I forgot!

  15. Greg Bowers Says:

    Anybody remember that small fast food restaurant that opened at the end of Arapahoe Rd. and Littleton Blvd. around the mid 1970’s? Was it the Cow Palace? I remember throwing darts at ballons for special super low prices on hot fudge sundaes during their grand opening.

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