Magazine / People

Alum-owned Blue Bonnet is a Mexican-food institution in Denver

Owned by alumnus Gary Mobell, the Blue Bonnet is a Denver dining institution. Photo courtesy of Gary Mobell

In the 45 years that Gary Mobell’s family has owned the Blue Bonnet Café, he’s seen a lot of restaurants come and go. And he knows that as great as it is to have a hot dining scene in Denver, it also means increased competition in a tough economy.

“We enjoy a great reputation and longevity here, but we’re also dealing with a more sophisticated consumer because of the different types of restaurants and the creativity of the different chefs in our area,” says Mobell (BA ’77, MT ’85). “In Denver right now we’re seeing a wonderful evolution, and because of that our consumer is more sophisticated, more educated in terms of tastes, and so we are trying new things. We have our old staples that this restaurant was built on, but we also keep introducing new items as well.”

Those new items include gazpacho and ceviche for the summer, as well as a chipotle pork taco with a raspberry habanero jelly. Those join a board of Tex-Mex standards like burritos, enchiladas and chili rellenos that have kept regular customers coming back for decades. When the Blue Bonnet first opened in the 1930s, it was an American café named for the state flower of the original Texan owners. It changed hands a few times before Mobell’s parents bought it in the late 1960s and slowly began to introduce Mexican items to the menu. Mobell currently co-owns the restaurant with his sister, Marci Rosenberg.

“Very soon after they introduced Mexican food we started to see the evolution and the transition that the Blue Bonnet made from where it was to where it is now,” says Mobell, who grew up working various positions in the restaurant, including dishwasher, busser and host. He received his master’s of taxation from DU in 1985 and worked in accounting for five years before returning to the family business and eventually taking it over when his parents retired.

Not only has the Blue Bonnet changed over the years, but the area of South Broadway on which it’s located has undergone a transition as well.

“It’s gone from something that needed some urgent help and was a very challenged area to something now where parts of Broadway are very hip and you have a quite a diversity of businesses up and down Broadway,” Mobell says. “It just makes it a great street. It’s very creative and very fun.”

A Denver institution that draws local and national celebrities and has become a tradition for hundreds of Denver families, the Blue Bonnet is enough to keep Mobell busy, although he occasionally toys with the idea of adding another eatery to the roster.

“Every morning I wake up and I’d like a dozen more restaurants,” he says, “and then by about 1:30 I know why I only have one.”



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *