Along a brightly-painted alleyway not far from Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom, a window recently emerged that serves some serious sandwich. Duke’s Good Sandwiches and the adjoining Scratch Bakery and Market both opened on June 18, each acting as a creative outlet for husband and wife owners Dan Duke Sawyer and Michelle Sawyer. The storefront is stocked fresh daily with Michelle’s baked goods, with Duke’s presenting a small menu of hoagies centered around the Denver Chopped Cheese.
Dan was born in Denver. Michelle moved here from the East Coast to work at Children’s Hospital in 1988, a career she only just recently left in 2020. They live a few blocks away and consider Duke’s to be their contribution to a neighborhood they know and love. Both can often be found on-site, cheerily greeting customers. “I love that we come out here and talk with everyone,” said Dan. “We’re not just here to sell you a sandwich. We want to be a part of the community.”
Even so, the sandwiches they sell are alone worth the trip. Dan — who travels upwards of 40 weeks a year on behalf of his career in digital printing equipment — got the idea for the shop while on the road. He makes a point of visiting mom-and-pop places nationwide, the kind of unostentatious locales that usually specialize in and excel at a single item. Philly has its cheesesteaks, Chicago its hot beef sandwich and New York its chopped cheese.
“He comes home with crazy ideas all the time that I shut down,” grinned Michelle, recounting Dan’s pitch. “This one actually sounded like a good idea,” she laughed. “The neighborhood was in need of a good sandwich shop,” added Dan.
The menu offers four sandwiches — a sausage, a sliced meatball and a caprese are all available — though it’s the chopped cheese that’s going to put Duke’s on the map. The Denver Chopped Cheese ($13) is a hoagie from City Bakery piled high with ground beef and white cheddar cheese minced together on the flat top. “It’s kind of like a deconstructed hamburger on a big hoagie,” said Michelle. It’s then loaded with fresh diced onion, pepperoncini and mayo and is best enjoyed with a bit of additional giardiniera. It differs a little from the one made at Hajji’s — the purported inventor of the Big Apple sensation — with no ketchup, mustard, lettuce or tomato in sight. It has bodega roots but feels distinctly Five Points.
Duke’s and Scratch both already feel like a vital part of the area’s growing bustle. Scratch stocks only local products — Denver Chip Company, MOR Kombucha and Teakoe aplenty — alongside shirts, hats and sweatshirts emblazoned with Dan’s own designs. Great sandwiches are revelatory, Duke’s has managed to find the sublime.
Duke’s Good Sandwiches is located at 2748 Welton St., Denver. It is open Wednesday – Saturday from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Scratch Bakery and Market is located at the same spot. It is open Wednesday – Sunday from 7:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
All photography by Adrienne Thomas.