“It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.” — Abraham Lincoln
THE SOUTH RESTAURANT
3535 South Huron St., Englewood
IT’S NOT THE ONLY PLACE to watch Bronco football games, but it sure has the best Mexican and American food where you can eat AND watch the Broncos. Invariably, when you walk in the front door, the first person you’ll see is the owner and former Bronco guard Jerry Sturm.
While he didn’t end his career with the Broncos, when he did decide to retire in 1972, it was to Denver he returned. And a good thing for us he did.
In 1969 Jerry teamed up with restaurateur George Pappas to open Hondo’s South Restaurant. Jerry’s nickname had been “Hondo.” They built a building and opened the restaurant just south of Hampden Avenue where Cinderella City Shopping Mall had opened a few years before. It was an immediate success, not only with sports fans and ex-team mates but everyone who loved good food. Jerry’s nephew ran the restaurant while Jerry continued his football career.
After leaving the Broncos, Jerry played several years for the New Orleans Saints and then the Houston Oilers and Philadelphia Eagles before packing it in and returning home in 1972. He bought George’s interest in the restaurant, parked his ample body at the table next to the front door, and took over the running of the restaurant. And that’s where you’ll find him most days. Several years back, the name was changed to The South Restaurant.
Earlier this year he and his wife Debbie opened their second Mexican American restaurant, Zi South (2229 Blake St., 303-799-4500; www.zisouth.com). Deb is running the new downtown store. I guess that’s what makes a happy marriage; he here, she there.
Back in Englewood, you’ll find football and food. The hallway from the parking lot into the restaurant is long and narrow, and filled with football pictures and memorabilia. But enuf of that non-food chat, let’s get to the grub.
For over forty years, the South has been serving fine Mexican and American fare. All the sauces are made in house fresh daily. If you want your Mexican food hot, let the server know and they’ll add the heat. Otherwise, the Mexican fare has lotsa flavor but relatively mild in heat.
The menu is elaborate, everything from great steaks to the extremely popular Quesorito, a huge meal in itself. The list of specials includes the Steak and Enchilada or Relleno, a 6 oz. filet mignon prepared American or Mexican style, served with yummy sides. But if you haven’t tried the Rojo Joe, you haven’t had the best. A 6 oz. filet, Spanish rice, black beans, guacamole (some say the guac kicks) and con queso, all rolled together in a flour tortilla and smothered with more yummies.
The Mexican fare includes most popular dishes, everything from huevos rancheros to a variety of burritos, chimichangas and other traditional fare.
The American fare covers everything from fish & chips, to spaghetti & meataballs to the popular shrimp basket, to steaks and chicken and sangies. My personal current non-Mexican fav is the chicken fried steak, a 6 oz. filet dipped in seasoned batter, fried crispy and smothered with brown or white country gravy. On weekends they offer food and drink specials. Check out the menu online.
Jerry was an avid smoker, and many of his diners were also avid smokers. Unfortunately, for those of us who had quit
smoking long ago, the restaurant became a haven for smokers and coffee drinkers who didn’t spend much money, just sat around and puffed and sipped. Many of us who had given up the habit no longer patronized the restaurant cuz of the heavy smoke that lingered. But the place was always packed.
It was July, 2006. Colorado voters banished smoking in restaurants (and other public places). I think for a time Jerry was devastated. But it wasn’t long after the ban had taken effect and the South was cleaned out of smoke odors that I stopped in for lunch. Naturally, Jerry was at his table with friends. I asked the question. “How’s biz?” Business had actually picked up! Yes, the folks who sat and smoked and drank coffee and lingered, left the restaurant early, so now there was more turn over and more paying customers and more meals served during the heavy lunch hour. Jerry was thrilled.
I had lunch at The South last week, the first time since the new menu came out several years ago. The Quesorito was as good as ever. Jerry was sitting at his table. Wife Deb was managing the new store downtown. The bartender was the same lady as had been there years before, and I recognized about half the wait staff.
I had seen the sign out front for the Bronco bus that Jerry has been running for years. I stopped and sed howdy and asked if he would be on the bus. He replied, “No, I’m gonna be right here at my table in front of the TV. Best seat anywhere.”
Jay Fox, like most of us in town, couldn’t resist tying this week’s column to the AFC’s top seeded Denver Broncos. Next week he’s be back on the Capitol beat in order to get ready for the return of the legislature. Meanwhile contact him at Jay Fox email@example.com.