Colfax Icon Pete’s Satire Lounge turns a casual 55
Updated: Mar 15, 2019
Note: Originally published in the December, 2017 issue of the Life on Capitol Hill.
You don’t make it in the restaurant business by chasing every hot—or haute—trend. You might get in on something new, but, if you’re going to make it, you dig into what you do and live the concept to the end. If you’re lucky (or hardworking, or smart, or all three and more), as has been the case with Pete and Liz Contos of Pete’s restaurants, you don’t have to see the end. You get to keep right on going.
This December marks the 55th anniversary of Pete’s Satire Lounge, a Colfax institution that has most assuredly stood the test of time. The menu’s still just about the same, and the drinks sure haven’t changed. (You’ll still get looked at a little funny if you order a mixer with more than two ingredients.) Nor have the faces of many of the regulars changed; many have been dropping in for 25, 35, even 45 years in some cases. There’s even a 45-year employee: Joey Mestas, hired in 1972, a jack of all trades and indelible fixture with the never-changing slogan: “The plates are hot! Have a nice time!”
There’s a new mural outside Satire Lounge on E. Colfax to mark a new milestone. Pete Contos and family have operated the venture for 55 years now. Photo by Haines Eason.
Now, fixtures and drink preferences aside, there have been some small … adjustments … in the past. Bob Dylan isn’t busking the place anymore, and the restaurant’s walls are a lighter shade than they once were (though some locals, missing the restaurant’s dark, smoky days, did complain about this updo in a certain local weekly).
Recent changes, according to staff, include a karaoke night. If rumors are true, singing and such happens every Tuesday, 8:00p.m. to 11:00 or 12:00p.m., depending. On? How good a time you’re having. Also, there are hopes, too, among bartender staff to get a ladies’ night and other special events up and running.
Inside the Satire, the memories are thick. Photo by Haines Eason.
How do the regulars take all this? By several accounts, in stride. The daytime and early evening Satire is not the sole property of longtime crusty diehards, unlike several other Colfax establishments. If you’re new to town but make the Satire a habit more than a time or three, chances are you’ll find your beer paid for by one of these friendly regulars. It’s true: the West is still the best (read: friendliest), and, in some establishments still, drinking and camaraderie can go hand in hand.
As for memories, Liz Contos in particular has a hard time choosing a favorite as there are so many. One that stood out for this writer: her remembering that when she and Pete bought the place, she wasn’t yet old enough to drink. Attesting to all her and Pete’s years working in and on the restaurant, the walls are tastefully decorated with memorabilia, including a shot of Dylan, the original menu, pics of Pete with local notables and celebs and more. Above the bar rests a mound of obligatory Broncos memorabilia, too.
Why change a good thing? The Satire's outside signage hasn't changed much in decades. Photo by Haines Eason.
To cap off the anniversary, the east-facing mural has been updated to include a mention of the 55-year run. Muralist Patrick Kane McGregor and his son Tristan have been updating the mural every so often in recent years. For Patrick, having the work is nice but the memories of both the Satire and Pete’s Kitchen, immediately east, are strong. He remembers his dad taking him when he was a boy to the Kitchen before fishing trips and other outings and, like Liz Contos, has a host of memories of his own. (Check out the McGregor’s work at patrickkanemcgregor.com, by the way. Very much worth the click.)
As for other updates and changes planned, there are none. New to town (like everyone else)? Drop in for a beer or cocktail, or order yourself the “‘Olé’ Special,” a ground or shredded beef burrito smothered with green chile and cheese (this writer’s favorite). And, as ever, remember: “the plates are HOT!” You’ll have a good time.