By Kevin Galaba
By Mark Antonation
By Gretchen Kurtz
By Cafe Society
By Mark Antonation
By Mark Antonation
By Jonathan Shikes
By Mark Antonation
Pearl Street Grill (1477 South Pearl Street) has been serving on its backyard patio for weeks -- and when a pair of restaurateurs on a scouting mission dropped by recently to find out what makes that patio so appealing, a trio of bossy, mid-afternoon imbibers spilled all manner of opinions. The intimate surroundings. The mature plantings. The immature customers. The tolerant waiters.
"It's the most perfect patio in Denver," sighs John Hickenlooper, whose interest was purely aesthetic until he wound up buying the South Pearl mainstay last year. And Hickenlooper and his partners are hoping that some of their other eateries can benefit from the Pearl Street Grill's outdoor savvy: They've enlisted Rich Shanks, one of the fellows they bought the restaurant from, to consult on patio projects at the Wynkoop Brewing Co. (1621 18th Street) and the Cherry Cricket (2641 East Second Avenue).
The Wynkoop already has outdoor seating along Wynkoop Street, and it's had a patio before: The dining space overlooking the alley was once a deck (referred to as the "Poop Deck" by denizens of a then-much-dirtier LoDo). While that area was enclosed long ago for year-round eating, the Wynkoop still owns twelve feet of space stretching to the alley -- space that will now become a new deck, with room to seat thirty people.
If the neighbors agree, that is. Hickenlooper has already talked to the people living above the brewpub, and "all the residents think it's great," he says. That's partly because the Wynkoop has promised to keep the alley clean; not offer live music on the deck; and make sure it's cleared by 11 p.m. on weekends. "Assuming the regulatory bodies favor us," he adds, "it should be open by the end of June."
Plans at the Cherry Cricket are moving even faster. The restaurant is converting a parking area behind the always-jammed burger joint into an enclosed patio, with seating for thirty as well as a drink rail where people can wait for tables. "It will also be a cool place for people just coming in to have a beer," Hickenlooper points out, crediting general manager Leslie Felts with recognizing that drinkers deserve a breath of fresh air, too.
High walls will surround the patio, which will also sport a water feature -- "after the drought's gone," Hickenlooper hastens to add. "Do I look like a capitalist?"
He won't after the restaurants install some of the greenery he's purchased for the patios: thirty hops plants.
Although you shouldn't look for a patio at Hickenlooper's Wazee Supper Club (1600 15th Street), Goosetown Tavern (3242 East Colfax Avenue) or Appaloosa Grill (535 16th Street) anytime soon, things are already looking up at his newest venture, the Red Room (320 East Colfax Avenue). Make that way up: Hickenlooper's hoping to put a patio on the roof later this year.
Flour power: For fifteen years, Maria's Bakery (3705 Shoshone Street) has been a garden of earthly -- and earthy -- delights. At the town's most eclectic outdoor cafe, you could sit in the shade of an old Victorian house, enjoying both the exuberant plantings and the hearty fare coming out of the garage, which had been converted into a kitchen/takeout counter.
Over the winter, though, Maria's did a little pruning. And when the place reopened on April 26, gone were the hearty sandwiches, the intimate seating areas. In fact, most of the garden itself was gone.
Now renamed Maria's I Love Highland Bakery and Plants, Maria's is focusing on baked goods and plants to go, from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays through Sundays only. "I wanted to do something different," explains owner Maria Neumann. "I want to be a neighborhood place."
So now neighbors can pop into Maria's greenhouse -- a jungle of lush greenery, colorful paintings and unbelievably good smells -- to pick up a geranium plant (scented or unscented, and in a hand-decorated pot) and some of Neumann's all-natural, just-baked rolls (60 cents each), cookies (80 cents), breads and cakes.
Although she initially thought about offering takeout seafood platters, that proved too complicated. But Neumann has already surrendered to longtime customers' cravings for some of her old specialties: This week, Maria's hot turkey sandwiches and potato soup will rejoin the to-go roster.
The northwest-side story continues at Highland's Garden Cafe (3927 West 32nd Avenue), where Pat Perry's place is almost back in full bloom.
Last October, Perry announced that she was changing the format of her popular seven-year-old eatery, converting the gorgeous rooms in the two connected Victorian homes that make up the restaurant into private dining areas that could be booked for parties; the restaurant would be open to the general public only once a month.
"I think people are really looking to entertain more, but in a smaller context," Perry said at the time. "We just weren't able to accommodate all of the calls we had for small, intimate, private parties, and that got me wondering if there was a market for that."
And there was. "The private dining facility and custom menus -- that part's actually working," says spokesman John Imbergamo. But Perry also found herself missing her regular restaurant clientele -- and they missed her. And so next Sunday -- Mother's Day, conveniently enough -- Highland's Garden Cafe will be open to the public from 5 to 9 p.m. (reservations suggested, 303-458-5920). And two days later, on May 14, the restaurant will again start serving dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays, also from 5 to 9 p.m.