The men ordered mugs of black coffee.
The pair soon left the restaurant but returned, pistols in hand.
Brandishing their weapons the stick-up men relieved owner Anthony Apergis and several customers of their hard-earned cash (some $350) before fleeing.
As luck would have it, a Denver detective was nearby and quickly radioed for backup. The chase was on.The bandits, under heavy pursuit, crashed their getaway car into a parked vehicle and were taken into custody. A trial followed where Morgan was charged with two counts of aggravated robbery and and two counts of conspiracy to commit robbery. He was sentenced to 35 years in the state penitentiary. The annals of history have forgotten his partner in crime.
Most days at the old eatery are nowhere near as exciting.
Anthony Apergis, a Greek immigrant, opened Columbine Steak House in 1961. He didn’t land in American flush with cash, instead he worked his way up through the kitchens of the Brown Derby in Los Angeles, and then The Brown Palace Hotel in Denver.
Working long hours and putting back every penny he could, Apergis eventually saved enough money to get Columbine up and running.56 years later, and 17 years after Mr Anthony passed away, his family still runs the restaurant exactly as the patriarch once did.
Walking into the old steak house on a recent 90+ degree day feels like coming home. I enter through the lounge and am immediately greeted by a comely barmaid “what’ll ya have?”
I glance at the menu for a moment, vector in on a sirloin steak ($13.95) ask after a local beer and sit back to take in the scene. A ‘local’ beer at Columbine means Coors so I settle for an ice tea before making my way into the restaurant side of the establishment to take in the scene.Owner Irene Apergis, Mr Anthony’s daughter notices a stranger shooting photos and kindly introduces herself. We spend 30 minutes walking through the restaurant, talking about the old days of the business, how life on Federal Boulevard has changed over the years, the nature of selling meat for a living, and how difficult running a restaurant is when you’re making everything from scratch.
The butchers arrive bright and early each morning at Columbine and begin sawing their way through hundreds of pounds of fresh beef. The steak house is always busy and committed to only using hand-cut steaks.
The beef for the hamburgers is ground in-house. The french fries are cut by hand. The dressings for the salads are made from scratch. Columbine Steak House is old-school, and still runs just like it did in 1961 when Anthony Apergis was a young 35 year old learning the ropes.Mr Anthony ran his restaurant for 39 years before he passed away on October 8th 2000. Denver lost a legend that day.
I pass the time with Miss Lisa the barmaid while I’m waiting on my sirloin to come off the brazier.
I like it bloody so it doesn’t take long.
A beige Bakelite bowl filled with iceberg lettuce drenched in bleu cheese dressing arrives and is quickly eaten.Soon enough a thick hunk of Colorado beef draped in fresh-cut potatoes and glistening with fat arrives at the bar. A thick band of char-grilled stripes tattoo the steak. It comes a requested medium rare leaning toward rare. It has a good chew to it and a deep flavor of steer.
Denverites love their red meat and Columbine has some of the best in town.
My plate is clean.
Miss Irene comes by to check on me. I justly praise her when she cuts me short “Where are you going for breakfast in the morning?”
I don’t know.
She quickly informs me that her father’s brother has an old-fashioned diner called Breakfast King that she bets I’d love.She begins to write down directions when she pauses and asks if I’d like to tour the meat locker. I agree, and she leads me deep into the restaurant where I gaze upon a few hundred pounds of beef that’s just come off a truck and been trundled into a cooler. It’s beautiful.
The Apergis family has one of the most remarkable backstories of any clan in the Denver restaurant scene. Their steakhouse is a boulevard legend and deeply loved in the community.
I may or may not ever revisit Denver (it was hotter than New Orleans and just as crowded as Austin) but if I do I’ll beat a trail straight to Columbine Steak House for service from the lovely Miss Lisa, and a healthy dose of Western charm from Irene Apergis.Columbine Steak House and Lounge
300 Federal Blvd
Hours of operation
always call ahead