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Johnny McGuire's Deli

Brandon Wenerd's picture

It won’t take you long before your plane touches down at Pitkin County Airport to realize Aspen is an image-conscious town. In fact, while you’re standing at the gate in the Denver Airport waiting to board the plane, take note of the other passengers: there is a pretty good chance it is a pearl necklace, fur, Rolex, and 200-dollar custom-made cowboy hat crowd heading to the Colorado Western Slope for a mountain vacation. These passengers are just the bottom tier of Aspen society. Everyone in Aspen knows the top tier, ultra-luxe seeking Aspenite flies into the Roaring Fork Valley via private Gulfstream jet.
Johnny McGuire's DeliJohnny McGuire's Deli
Aspen’s frivolous, see-and-be-seen nature trickles down to the local restaurant scene, making cheap, greasy spoons few and far between. There are a handful of exceptions, most of which are usually packed with tourists seeking a faux ski bum experience before heading back to posh 600 dollar-a-night condos or hotel rooms. This is not the case with Johnny McGuire’s, a rough and tumble, brazenly anti-Aspen deli on the far eastern fringe of the downtown area.

Johnny McGuire’s is the type of deep-fried-sandwich-and-pickle-jar hang out you’d expect to find in any generic college town, open until 5 AM to serve huge, alcohol-absorbing sandwiches packed with calories to a hungry, last-call bar crowd.

All things considered, the food at Johnny McGuire’s is pretty unbelievable, particularly for the price. A painted board behind the cash register lists the deli’s 27 specialty sandwich marvels. The cold and hot subs are artistic masterpieces of sandwich creation, including a cold turkey sub loaded with cranberry sauce, horseradish, sunflower seeds, and sprouts or a grilled hot pastrami and Swiss topped with veggies and spicy mustard. Breakfast burritos, eggs, hash browns, and coffee are served from 8 to 11. Even though there isn’t much space to spread out, patrons can perch on the bar stools above the grease-crackling flattop to enjoy their meals. Don’t expect fancy table settings or service. The heaping sandwiches are served in plastic baskets. As for the wait staff…that’s the guy manning the grill with tattoos, gruff voice, an ambivalent “Here you go, dude,” and all.

Johnny McGuire's core customer contingency is a rowdy and foul-mouthed fraternity of longhaired ski bums chasing the endless winter or broke college students in town for a weekend of snow revelry. These are the magicians behind the curtain that make your ski vacation possible by running the lifts or manning the ticket booth. That said, this is still an anti-establishment crowd that lives to ski and party.

It is not difficult to find Johnny McGuire's. Keeping true to its bohemian roots, look for the red Volkswagen Beatle circa 1960 with a giant pickle reading “We Dill iver.” Hell would have to freeze over twice in a Rocky Mountain blizzard for a sandwich joint like Johnny McGuire’s to take your American Express Platinum or even your bank-issued Visa debit card. Bring cash or run the risk of ridicule.

Johnny McGuire's Deli
730 E. Cooper
Aspen CO 81611