By Jonathan Shikes
By Alex Brown
By Cafe Society
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We encountered ceramic plates at Pour La France!, which a waitress elsewhere called the "closest thing there is to a real restaurant at DIA." The menu at this Pour La France! is downsized from the ones in Aspen, Denver and Boulder, and we found that the taste of the Brie and tomato pie ($6.95) had been similarly diminished. What had brought tears to my eyes at Bonnie Brae here left me cold--the crust was soggy, the tomatoes not soggy enough and the Brie unmelted. Still, it was better than the cheesesteak sandwich ($3.55) at the Steak Escape. The sign claims that this Columbus, Ohio, chain serves "America's favorite cheesesteak." Yeah, and DIA didn't cost the public a dime. This purported cheese-steak (which measured in at one inch more than the promised seven inches) contained tasteless beef, warm mayonnaise, a few pathetic onions and about a tablespoon of provolone cheese. Oh, and one mild pepper in the middle. A similar-sized Italian meatball hero ($4.75) at the Colorado Sports Bar--the blandest, most boring sports bar I've ever seen--at least offered some flavor courtesy of the three fat meatballs stuffed with onions and slicked down with a mellow red sauce. We might have enjoyed the cup of cold pasta in vinegar more had we not spotted the display case next to the cash register, where dead carnations garnished Saran-Wrapped bowls of limp-looking side salads.
After that, Concourse B dissolved into more Quarter Pounders and yogurt, with two notable exceptions. One was Auntie Anne's Soft Pretzels, where, as one flight attendant confessed, most flight attendants eat because the pretzels ($1.55) are "filling, cheap and low-fat." They're also hand-rolled in plain sight and come to you warm from the oven. The other noteworthy spot was the Aviator's Club, a comfy bar that, along with its sibling in the terminal building, is the only place at DIA to welcome smokers. The catch, though, is that there's a one-drink minimum just to sit in the place. (You can order a soda, but they don't like people to know that.) "Market research found that people who smoke also like to enjoy some kind of alcoholic beverage," Gingras says. "Believe me, we wouldn't have done it that way if the research hadn't pointed to it."
Too bad research couldn't predict the futures of eateries unlucky enough to wind up in Concourse A. Although Gingras says negotiations continue for the gates left vacant by Continental, that doesn't help Brother's Gourmet Coffee Bar, a beautiful place where you'll encounter no wait for the espresso and pizza, or Lefty's Colorado Trails Bar and Grill, which we found as empty as a Colorado trail in 10-degree weather.
The terminal, on the other hand, was spilling over with people crammed onto the balcony patios, where an express version of Pour La France! jostles for elbow room with the likes of Burger King and Domino's Pizza (which serves a morning doughnut and cup of coffee for 99 cents). The Creative Croissant is the place to go for breakfast, though--we tried the brownie masquerading as a chocolate muffin ($1.85) and one of the fruit-filled croissants ($2.32) and pretended we were flying to France. And we soon wished we were anywhere but sitting at CA-1's Red Rocks Bar when our combination platter ($7.95) arrived. The beans and coleslaw were mediocre, but the tough ribs and ketchup-slathered meat were no better than airplane food. Fortunately, we were able to wash everything down with tall glasses of Boulder's Amber, a Colorado microbrew.
Recent figures show that concession sales at DIA are unexpectedly high--more than double the sales at Stapleton--and may offset diminished revenues from airline leases. But for the taste-conscious traveler, DIA could be going nowhere fast.