By Jonathan Shikes
By Alex Brown
By Cafe Society
By Samantha Alviani
By Lori Midson
By Mark Antonation
By Loren Lorenzo
By Nate Hemmert
Impressive as its thirty-year run may be, the Bull & Bush(see story above) isn't Glendale's oldest saloon. That honor would have to go to the Four Mile House Bar (4590 Leetsdale Drive), which started life as a barn back in the days when what's now Glendale was filled with dairy farms dedicated to quenching Denver's thirst for more wholesome beverages. But by the time Jack Casey bought the Four Mile House in the '60s, it was already a venerable tavern.
The Riviera (4301 East Kentucky Avenue) had an equally long and noble history, but Glendale's original roadhouse lost any historic value (and, for that matter, any entertainment value for dedicated drinkers) after the Torres family that owns the homegrown Las Delicias chain bought the place a few years ago, scraped off the Quonset hut that held the bar, and replaced it with a bright, dull building that looks like a slightly upscale Taco Bell. Only the Riviera's classic neon-martini sign remains.
And there's no sign of life at the Harvest Restaurant and Bakery, a 22-year-old landmark that lost its lease and last month disappeared from its longtime post in the Target parking lot on South Colorado Boulevard. Back in March, owner Vasil "Bill" Allabashi, who also owns Vasil's Euro Grille (7340 South Clinton Street, Englewood), had hopes of moving the Harvest across the street, next to the Staybridge Suites (4220 East Virginia Avenue) -- but those plans would require approval by the City of Glendale (The Bite, March 7). And as our interview with just-deposed city manager Veggo Larsen (see Lunch Meet, page 75) shows, nothing is easy in Glendale these days.
4700 Cherry Creek Drive S.
Denver, CO 80246
Category: Bars and Clubs
Region: Southeast Denver
French twist:"Ooh la la," proclaimed a headline on the cover of the April 22 Nation's Restaurant News, "French eateries put the savoir back in fare." Exhibit A in this national-trend story was Denver's own Nicois (815 17th Street) -- or "Nicoise," according to the story. And originally, that was how multi-restaurateur Kevin Taylor spelled the name of the latest incarnation to occupy his difficult 17th Street space. But when people started calling the eatery "nee-swahz," rather than the preferred "nee-swah," Taylor decided to ditch the "e" -- printed sign, menu and French language rules be damned. Apparently Restaurant News didn't get the message, either. Ooh la la.
The publication certainly didn't call for a current Nicois staff list before it ran its front-page picture: Out of the five people shown, only Taylor and managing partner Denise Mease are still there. Chris Reap, formerly with the ritzy Aspen Mountain Club, has replaced Michael Woodas executive chef; Tom Voskuil, who'd been a partner in Boulder's late, lamented 15 Degrees, is the general manager. Nicois has changed more than personnel, too. The addition of six booths in the center of the elegant, cavernous dining room (it was once a bank lobby) "makes it feel like a smaller, more intimate dining room," Voskuil says. The hated red tablecloths are long gone, as are the fake-grape arrangements that stood on top of those tablecloths; now the tables are wood, and they're topped with mesh-fish votive candles that are more in keeping with Nicois's coastal Mediterranean cuisine.
Yep, in describing Nicois as a French eatery, the article also missed two of the other countries that influence its fare -- with Spain the most important, since tapas are the top items at the restaurant.
And the tapas roster, too, has been updated, with daily specials eliminated, along with some dishes that weren't selling. The fois gras terrine is gone, for example, but the seared fois gras remains. "Where else can you get fois gras for $3.50?" asks Voskuil. Of the fifteen tapas on the permanent list, five -- rice balls with mozzarella and prosciutto, fried eggplant with roasted-tomato vinaigrette, roast-shrimp-stuffed squid with sherry vinegar, pork meatballs with aioli (albondigas) and crispy fried salt cod fritters -- are included in a new happy-hour deal. From 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, any one of those tapas is just a buck. Drinks are a bargain at that time, too, with specialty cocktails for $3.50, and drafts, selected wines and wells $2.
Now that Nicois has tuned up its tapas, only one problem remains: The blackboard in the bar, that describes all the offerings, is sadly out of date. "We're still looking for the artist," says Voskuil. And the cash to pay him once they do: Although the artist's medium is chalk, he still charged a hefty $400 to create his original artwork last summer.
While Nation's Restaurant News also cites Aix (719 East 17th Avenue), the excellent Provençal restaurant, and Sean Kelly's brand-new Clair De Lune(1313 East Sixth Avenue) as examples of the booming French trade, the trend wasn't enough to save Micole (1469 South Pearl Street). After putting up a good fight, that prix fixe spot will be closing for good after May 18. (David Query of Jax may be interested in the space, whose previous occupants include Hugh's and Greens.) Au revoir,Micole.
Life of the pâté: When John Kessler, former Westword restaurant critic, visited Denver back in March, he hit a few of the town's new culinary hot spots, including Nicois. "The foie gras was fine, but I didn't need that," Kessler says in retrospect. "I needed El Taco de Mexico and a chile-relleno burrito. Oh, my God, that place is so good, although I almost didn't forgive them for remodeling. And I totally miss New Saigon; Vietnamese restaurants here suck."