Judging Denver’s diners by drinking all their milkshakes and eating all their fries

A pizza place is only as good as its plain slice and a diner is only as good as its fries and shake.

A chocolate milkshake served at Pete's Kitchen's counter. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)denver; colorado; denverite; food; milkshake; colfax; pete's kitchen' diner; kevinjbeaty;

French fries and a milkshake. The combination is a diner staple — the simple yet satisfying go-tos of hungry kids and intoxicated adults alike.

As such, they make good comparison points when you’re trying to choose a favorite diner. A pizza place is only as good as its plain slice and a diner is only as good as its fries and shake. You could make an argument for a couple different sandwiches when it comes to comparing diners, but sandwich preferences are pretty personal. Fries and shakes are pretty universal. (Plus, just about everything comes with fries.)

So I took it upon myself to try the french fries and milkshake at Denver’s diners. Only two people said the words “I drink your milkshake” along the way.

Here is my totally objective and highly scientific assessment.

[Note: This is totally subjective and highly unscientific.]


Breakfast King

1100 S. Santa Fe Drive, Ruby Hill

A chocolate milkshake at the bar inside Breakfast King in the Overland neighborhood. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) food; milkshake; diner; dessert; kevinjbeaty; denverite; breakfast king; overland;
A chocolate milkshake at the bar inside Breakfast King in the Overland neighborhood. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Breakfast King’s milkshake had the strongest chocolate flavor of all the shakes I tried, but it was also the least thick.  On the bright side, thickness is highly variable depending on who made the shake and how careful they were, and it’s easily improved.

The french fries were fat and fluffy, which is fine. (I prefer some crisp to mine.)

Denver Diner

740 W. Colfax Ave., Golden Triangle

A chocolate milkshake and french fries at Denver Diner. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)
A chocolate milkshake and french fries at Denver Diner. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)

Denver Diner’s shake wasn’t very well blended — you know, when there are big gobs of ice cream floating around the soupy stuff — but the flavor was good and I appreciate the chocolate syrup drizzled in.

The french fries were great — thin without being tough.


Pete’s Kitchen

1962 E. Colfax Ave., Cheesman Park

A chocolate milkshake served at Pete's Kitchen's counter. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; food; milkshake; colfax; pete's kitchen' diner; kevinjbeaty;
A chocolate milkshake served at Pete’s Kitchen. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

You know that thing when french fries manage to be a little fat and fluffy but also so crispy on the outside that they’re flaky? That’s Pete’s fries, and my favorite kind of fries.

The milkshake was very chocolatey and creamy, and just thick enough to make you have to work for it a little. Bonus points for chocolate sauce on the whipped cream.

Pete’s take the win for the strongest milkshake and french fries combo.

Side note: For what it’s worth, those chicken fingers had a good breading-to-meat ratio.


Sam’s No. 3

1500 Curtis St., Central Business District

A chocolate milkshake at Sam's No. 3 on Curtis St. downtown. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) food; milkshake; dessert; diner; sam's no. 3; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite;
A milkshake at Sam’s No. 3. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

It’s purely aesthetic, but I love that Sam’s serves its milkshakes in the metal cup. It’s a classic touch. Theirs was also well-blended — creamy but not too thick — and there was a lot of whipped cream. They also have a wide variety of flavors, including boozy options. I got my favorite thing on this planet: a coffee milkshake.

The fries were more tough exterior than soft interior, which… eh.

Tom’s Diner

601 E. Colfax Ave., Uptown

A chocolate milkshake at Tom's Diner on E. Colfax Ave. (Ashley Dean/Denverite) food; milkshake; dessert; diner; colfax; capitol hill; denverite; denver; colorado; ashley dean;
A  milkshake at Tom’s Diner. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)

Tom’s has a pretty good variety of milkshake options, too. (Here I went with mocha with iced coffee swirled in.) It was thick and the flavor was good, but it had icy chunks in it. This was the only place I got a cherry on my shake. I hate cherries, but I know that’s a plus for most people.

The french fries were good enough — soft and just barely crisped.


Did I miss a diner? A true diner? (I’m not talking about Denny’s or Steuben’s here.) Let me know at adean@denverite.com.

Ashley Dean

Author: Ashley Dean

Ashley Dean covers dining and nightlife, and other odds and ends. She previously covered music and did some copy editing for the Denver Post, the Colorado Daily and the Daily Camera. She's from New York, likes her bourbon straight and has strong opinions about Kanye West. She can be reached at adean@denverite.com, 303-502-2804 or @AshleyDean.