Your Pet Vices, But Bigger: Denver's Atomic Cowboy


A neon cowboy on a wall at a bar and restaurant in Denver, Colorado

It was like 2:00 in the afternoon. I didn’t even need coffee. I’d been drinking coffee all morning. I’d barely twitched off the last of that caffeine rush when I walked into the Atomic Cowboy and saw the self-serve all-you-can-drink diesel stand. Suddenly, I’m grabbing the one cup you could hide a pint glass in and pumping the dispenser like Zig Ziggler used to fake-pump his invisible well for that his fake Alabama water.

Perfect. Mixing uppers and downers is pretty stupid but sure, I’ll have a beer too.

My wife and I had about three hours to kill before plodding on through Transportation Security at the Denver International Airport – which, if that’s really where the New World Order is hanging out, the way they designed that place has me pretty convinced their shit isn’t even close to being together. This isn’t about flight travel, however. This is about what it takes to make your flight travel supremely uncomfortable whilst simultaneously rocketing your calorie count and turning your insides into a Mario Kart battle mode map.

It takes four giant coffees,two pints of beer, and something like this.

A woman holds a plate with a biscuit sandwich on it at a bar and restaurant in Denver, Colorado

One slice of pizza could just about cover that sandwich, and don’t worry: I had one of those, too.

The Basics: Three Atomic Cowboy locations are sprinkled across Denver. We visited the Broadway location. The Atomic Cowboy represents the co-habitation of three companies: The Atomic Cowboy, the bar; the Denver Biscuit Company; and Fat Sully’s Pizza. It’s basically a post card stand, but with carbs. You can find them on the website here.

You may recognize Winona Collider as the previous Official Dagger Dolls Liaison to the Minnesota Skinny; but probably, you recognize her from my most popular Instagram picture to date. It remains:

Still the most famous picture of Winona Collider

She moved to Colorado Springs at the end of 2016. She drove all the way out to meet my wife and I for lunch during our vacation out there, and this was her recommendation. Winona, as of press time, spends most of her nights with one dog sleeping between her feet and the head of another dog wedged in an armpit. If she’s particularly unlucky, she may wake up with a cat sprawled across the top of her head.

My wife and I cannot exactly identify, but we land in the same ballpark: our dogtopus routinely lays down between us in Sphinx stance, then rolls onto a side, then thrusts his legs into one of us whilst ramming his back like a Chuck Norris kick into the other. When all is said and done, 60 percent of our bed is taken by a 40-pound dog.

This is the common ground upon which we built the long-distance phase of our friendship. That, and coffee.

Three coffee dispensers sit in a bar and restaurant in Denver, Colorado

We settled in beneath the nose of a missile hanging over the door, to the right of the neon cowboy holding the ray gun. We couldn’t quite see the woman riding the rocket, but we could definitely see the buffalo head. It’s wacky in there, for sure, but it isn’t oppressively so. I got right to the coffee.

Self-serve coffee is the next great restaurant innovation. Look! There’s even decaf. It’s really sweet to see the Atomic Cowboy doesn’t discriminate against serial killers.

We all ordered biscuit sandwiches. America. Winona dialed up the club. My wife ordered the Sherman, and I the Winona. Mine was the smallest of the three, a simple fried chicken/fried egg one-two punch. My wife’s Sherman was the Biscuit Co’s take on a BLT, and Winona’s club was a Fred Astaire dance routine except food. I can tell you this much: the biscuit was perfectly flaky on the outside, but still chewy and gooey to the point you needed another 20 ounces of coffee to wash it down (but really just a sip would’ve worked). Excellent biscuit.

There’s a restaurant called Revival in the Twin Cities that I haven’t yet been, but I keep hearing their fried chicken praised the way one might describe an actual miracle. I’ll do the same if Revival’s fried chicken stands up to Denver Biscuit Co.’s. My sandwich could have been a rough ride of dry bites, yet: none.

A cut in half biscuit sandwich at a bar and restaurant in Denver, Colorado
The Sherman

Our server was prompt and delightful on a day I was spastic and indecisive. When I didn’t know what beer I wanted, then suddenly “Wait, no, yeah, Pivo Pils!” she was on it. (Pivo Pils is just okay, by the way) When I saw a man walk by with an Atomic Cowboy T-shirt and I just had to have it right now, she was calm and collected when I was a blubbering mess. For three sandwiches, two coffee passes, three beers, a tee, tip, and tax, I ran somewhere around $80.

That’s no-brainer pricing, and I haven’t even brought up the pizza yet.

A slice of pizza at a bar and restaurant in Denver, Colorado
“Where’s that ozone hole, I’ve got something!”

That white, circular shadow you see underneath it? That’s the plate. Had we stayed even a day longer, I’d have ordered a whole pie just to behold one. The spinach was among the freshest-looking I’ve seen on pizza; and, for its size, it’s equally impressive that Canadian bacon nearly blankets it entirely. I’d have wanted more sauce, but I say that about everything. Great crust. Half of this was a great end to our meal; the other half was a great mid-flight snack.

That was the embodiment of the Atomic Cowboy experience. It all was. Bigger coffee. Bigger biscuit. Bigger pizza. Bigger waistline that barely allows you to sit properly in a plane seat. Bigger buzz, faster mouth, and you don’t shut up once during a three-hour flight. The stranger sitting next to you probably feels like she’s in a Saw torture trap. Bigger coffee crash while you’re trying to find your luggage after your land. Bigger food coma that really sets in while you’re driving home. You’re no help whatsoever bringing everything back into the house. Atomic Cowboy.

RELATED: The best answer Minnesota has to that biscuit sandwich is the Moroccan Fried Chicken at World Street Kitchen. For those in Denver, get thee to Longmont for Long’s Peak Pub and Taphouse for lunch and a Left Hand Darker Side Flight for dinner.



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