Recently, a pair of Los Angeles Times reporters released a 3,000-word story about the growing disconnect between the country's all-volunteer military and the other 99.5 percent of the population. "The U.S. military today is gradually becoming a separate warrior class," the Times wrote, "... that is becoming increasingly distinct from the public it is charged with protecting." Examples ranged from soldiers resenting the phrase "Thank you for your service" as hollow, to military families enjoying consistent pay raises and "free" health care when many are not.
So, it's interesting to consider a place like Sarges' Grill, a restaurant run by both retired and active-duty Army sergeants so committed to service that they've set a table to always sit empty in memory of prisoners of war and those killed in action. This goes with countless related items on the walls, and offerings like draft beer from veteran-owned Red Leg Brewing Co. All told, with its relaxing, modern interior, it's a bit like Back East Bar & Grill meets Full Metal Jacket, and Apocalypse Now, and Black Hawk Down, and ...
"Being surrounded by stuff you're familiar with is sort of comforting," says co-owner David Parker. "I mean, a lot of the soldiers come in and their patches are on the wall and their branch symbols are on the wall, and their flags are hanging, and they're like, 'All right, this is my place.'"
Otherwise, Parker, with his wife Deb and co-owners George and Monica Walker, emphasizes that the restaurant honors all in uniform across professions, and obviously welcomes the general public to dine. Those diners have often responded online by ripping the service and food. Sarges' has acted admirably, however, broadcasting on its menu and website that it's closing during the early breakfast hours for staff training.
For our part, service was generally fine, though we were delivered a dirty carafe of Serranos' coffee. (The restaurant also serves a full lineup of coffee drinks; pretzels and brats from Wimberger's Old World Bakery; and baked goods from the Colorado Bread Company.) We even overheard the process in action, when one employee told several chatting servers, "Guys, pay attention — you guys have hot food" waiting to be delivered.
But our food never really got going. Actually, the Into the Blue Burger was just outright terrible, with an overpowering sour cream/cream cheese/blue cheese/garlic spread inducing an immediate gag reflex. The "house marinated pork tips" in the otherwise refreshing On the Beat Street Tacos were pale, dry and bland squares, as opposed to the grilled chicken squares in a fine salad that were just pale and bland.
On the other hand, a personal 10-inch pizza featuring house sauce, pre-made dough tweaked in-house, thick strips of jalapeño bacon, pepperoni and red onions tasted fantastic, with its beautifully scorched meat and medium-thick crust. And you can't really go wrong with juicy steak quesadillas, simple and chewy, with sour cream and pico de gallo.
A pulpy 8-ounce sirloin, part of a surf-and-turf entrée, did a lot less on its own, however. Our server even asked me to cut into it to make sure it was medium rare, leaving me in the fun position of either sending it back or saying the brown center was fine. Regardless, the dense and soggy cod tasted like Captain D's sock.
That said, food is still the best way to bring people together, and Sarges' is at the crossroads of an important conversation.