By Jonathan Shikes
By Alex Brown
By Cafe Society
By Samantha Alviani
By Lori Midson
By Mark Antonation
By Loren Lorenzo
By Nate Hemmert
Withered on the vine: Cliff Young has shut down Napa Cafe, at 2033 East Colfax Avenue. This isn't the first Young venture to close abruptly, leaving employees jobless and disgruntled. One such casualty of Napa left a bitter voicemail message wherein he listed all of Young's closed restaurants--several of which had been rife with potential, including Napa, which I loved for its wine list, among other things. In response to my call, Young left a message, too, blaming the failure on the restaurant's Colfax location. I don't know if I buy that. When the food is great (as it had been when Tyler Wiard was on board at Napa, before he got fed up with Young and left to find a more comfortable position with Mel's Bar and Grill, at 235 Fillmore Street), people will deal with just about anything to get to it. Napa's prices were reasonable and its dining room lovely--so I have no idea what really went wrong.
The affable Young is now working for Bobby Rifkin at, of all places, Diamond Cabaret Steakhouse, 1222 Glenarm Place. No word on whether Young is going to try, try again, but as the former employee asked, "Why does this man get so many chances?"
Location, location: Farther down Colfax, Nipa Hut, at 11385 East Colfax Avenue--talk about a bad location--didn't stand a chance, even though it was the first Philippine restaurant in the area. Now there's another one, Lanie's Philippine Kitchenette, also in Aurora, and not only does it have a better spot--at 14583 East Alameda--but it serves better food.
1539 17th St.
Denver, CO 80202
Region: Downtown Denver
While the Canadian-based Bread Garden stores had two great locations, one in Cherry Creek North and the other in Greenwood Village, both closed last month--and yes, the owners are blaming the locations. The Greenwood Village site was behind two trees, they complain, and the other, at 2364 East Third Avenue, was "on the wrong end" of Cherry Creek. (They'd better not tell Alfalfa's that.) I think the bust of the two Bread Gardens had more to do with the fact that people didn't understand the concept--the name made them sound like bakeries, rather than the gourmet takeouts they were. Both stores were vast, with huge selections of prepared foods and dozens of now-laid-off employees.
Restaurant employees in Parker--not to mention residents--have reason to rejoice, however, because Bourbon Street Pizzabar and Grill will open a second store there sometime in the spring. Not only does chain-heavy Parker lack decent pizza, it lacks decent restaurants (there are a total of two right now), so the Bourbon Street owners could be sitting on a gold mine, especially since they offer excellent fare. It was the lousy food and not the location that sunk Rick's Blue Water Grille, at 80 South Madison, which is now Chopper's Sports Grill. Another sports bar, albeit one that will offer steak and seafood, is scheduled to take over the historic building at 1523 Market Street that European Cafe will soon vacate in favor of a new home in Brooks Towers. New owner (and owner of two Subway shops) Guy Falbo will turn the spot into Seasons Market Street Grille. (What is it with all these pretentious "e"s?). Falbo says Seasons will be more like the Denver ChopHouse & Brewery than Jackson's Hole. Yeah, I'm sure he hopes so.
Meanwhile, Jax, which replaced the Terminal Bar, at 1535 17th Street, is looking pretty spiffy, with no signs of the old "Waltzin' Matilda" paintings but lots of exposed brick, funky fish art and groovy furniture. We stopped by for drinks and fell in love with the happy-hour $1.50 oyster shooters. Served in martini glasses, the nicely spicy, peppered-vodka (Jax infuses its own) shooters were more like "sippers," they had so much yummy liquid surrounding the fat bivalves. Not much space in the bar area, though, so if your happy group includes more than two people, you can expect some cozy times.