A man hands plates filled with food over to a woman. They are in the kitchen of Steuben's

A Photo Tribute to the Restaurant Service Industry

All photos by Amanda Tipton Photography

Four formerly incarcerated individuals are cooking up the perfect sandwich in Clyde’s, the DCPA Theatre Company’s latest production, written by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage.

Mind you, the characters aren’t looking to be perfect themselves; rather, they lean into the joy, camaraderie, and deliciousness that comes from approaching each sandwich as a chance to build something great together.

It’s exactly what our local restaurant industry does each day. Their kitchens cook up something more than just food. They serve up an experience…a moment to set aside your troubles, relax, dig in and enjoy.

To celebrate this incredible service industry, which has weathered the storms of the pandemic (not to mention the competition right next door), the DCPA asked local photographer Amanda Tipton to celebrate these bastions of small business.

“My first real job — at 15 ½ — was as a hostess at a restaurant called the Palmetto Grill,” said Tipton. “I literally worked there from the day it opened to the day it closed.”

Having seen first-hand the risks and hard work associated with the restaurant industry, Tipton had keen insight into the assignment before her: to capture and highlight the extraordinary workers in the restaurant service industry.

“I would love to put everyone who eats at a restaurant into the kitchen at Sam’s and watch those five guys,” Tipton continued. “Let them see just how much food comes out of that tiny space and how in sync everybody is as they work together. It’s hard, it’s hot, it’s fast-paced. This idea of ‘unskilled labor’ is completely untrue. People should see how skilled these guys are.”

And now they can. The photo display features five notable and long-standing diners in the metro Denver area, the “youngest” of which is 17 years old…ancient according to the statistics. According to The Restaurant Brokers, up to 90% of independent establishments close during the first year and the remaining restaurants have an average lifespan of five years.

These featured establishments are clearly doing something right, which is in no small part to the thousands of individuals who are in service to customers each and every day. Collectively, these restaurants have been around for 283 years:


9682 E. Arapahoe Rd., Greenwood Village

Comfort food at its finest, you’ll find your favorite home-cooked meal at Jabo’s Bar-Be-Q. Dwight and Susan, the husband and wife duo behind the restaurant, use family recipes passed down for generations to dish out delicious barbecue and all the sides. You’re one of the family when you enjoy their tantalizing smoked meats and homemade sauces.


2081 S. University Blvd., Denver

Whether you are a Chicago transplant or a University of Denver student, chances are you’ve experienced Mustard’s Last Stand. Founded in both Denver and Boulder in 1978, this blink-or-you’ll-miss-it establishment serves up authentic Chicago-style hot dogs adorned with yellow mustard, relish, onions, tomato, pickle, sport peppers, celery salt, sauerkraut and served in a poppy seed bun.


2251 S. Parker Rd., Denver

Long considered to be a historical landmark, the 50-year-old Piper Inn was established in Denver when rural farmers still rode to town on horseback. The hitching post was near an old airstrip, after which the diner was named. If you’re looking for the best wings in Denver or one of the best biker bars around, stop in at The Piper Inn.


1500 Curtis St., Denver

Sam’s No. 3 has been a mainstay of the area since 1927 when Sam Armatas opened his first location on Curtis Street. Now this three-generation-owned business has three locations throughout the area (downtown Denver, Aurora and Glendale). If you’re looking for a last-minute seat before the show, grab a stool at the counter and they’ll have you in and out in a jiffy.


523 E. 17th Ave., Denver

If the Great American Melting Pot was located in a diner, it would be Steuben’s. Inspired by his Great Uncles who were restauranteurs in Boston, founder Josh Wolkon opened a diner in 2006 with entrées representing the best that America has to offer — lobster rolls and crab cakes from New England, Green Chili Cheeseburger from Albuquerque, and ribs and fried chicken from the South. Now with two locations: Denver and Arvada.

“The play combined with the photo display allows people not only to see a slice of life of the characters on stage,” Tipton said, “but also pair it with the real lives of these service industry workers. Even if they are just making your hamburger, they have their own lives and hopes and dreams. I hope these photos celebrate these hardworking, talented individuals.”

We invite you to explore Amanda’s photo gallery throughout the upper ring of the Kilstrom Theatre during the run of Clyde’s.

Oct 27 – Nov 26, 2023