Landmark Denver restaurants partner up to help each other evolve efficiently

Landmark Denver restaurants partner up to help each other evolve efficiently

Every once in a while, my husband and I will look at each other and admit we’re a couple of dopes. Like the time we bought that waterless cookware—on credit! What were we thinking?

We had one such moment recently during lunch at Goodfriends restaurant in Denver. Goodfriends, a landmark on Colfax Avenue for almost 30 years, was closing. I wanted to write about it, but it had been awhile since I had eaten there, and I wanted to refresh my memory.

Goodfriends was one of Denver’s original fern bars. Its owners, Lee Goodfriend and David Racine, have had three restaurants in town. They opened Goodfriends in the 1970s, Racine’s in the 1980s and then Dixon’s in the 1990s. Their third partner, Dixon Staples, died in 2004.

Sitting in the airy, fern-filled dining room, we puzzled over why we haven’t eaten at Goodfriends more often in recent years. It’s only 10 minutes from our house. The atmosphere is friendly, the service fine, the food delicious and the price reasonable. We’d rediscovered this gem, and now it was too late to enjoy it. We could only shake our heads and again confess that we are idiots. But it looks like we’ll get a chance to wise up.

Another Denver landmark, Annie’s Café—again, friendly atmosphere, good service, good food made from scratch at reasonable prices—is moving into the Goodfriends’ space this month.

Annie’s Café, the kitschy restaurant at Eighth Avenue and Colorado Boulevard [3], has been open so long, customers who ate there as children now come in with their own kids. A developer bought Annie’s building and plans to tear it down to make way for a hotel.

Determined to save their business, Annie’s Café owners Dianne Williams and Peggy Anderson sought advice from Goodfriend and Racine. Racine’s had gone through a similar situation in the 1990s when its building was being torn down. Racine and his partners built a new restaurant a few blocks away.

When Goodfriend heard their predicament, she said she blurted out a solution: “You ought to just buy Goodfriends.”

The lease at Goodfriends was coming up for renewal, and she and Racine seriously had been debating closing the restaurant.

“With the economy the way it is and the wage increase for tipped employees, we felt like it was time to let it go,” Goodfriend said. “With the loss of Dixon, it’s just easier to run two restaurants instead of three.”

The four restaurateurs closed on the deal quickly. Some Good-friends employees will work at Racine’s or Dixon’s. Some will stay and work for Annie’s Café, which is increasing its size in the new location.

“It’s the best for everybody,” Williams said. “I think it’s amazing: two 30-year-old restaurants helping each other out.”

It also sounds pretty smart to me. My husband and I have promised to frequent Annie’s Café. Now if we could find someone to buy a set of waterless cookware.