By Jamie Swinnerton
By Mark Antonation
By Lori Midson
By Jonathan Shikes
By Amber Taufen
By Cafe Society
By Juliet Wittman
By Jonathan Shikes
Geisha Steakhouse (7950 East Mississippi -- the avenue, not the river) has closed. Going into that space? Old Siam Sushi Bar. Yes, that's just exactly what Denver needs: another strip-mall sushi bar.
Another contestant in the name game, Wedge Pizza Company, is no more. Its old home at 1 Broadway is now filled by Fasano's, and "the concept is health food," according to new owner Ryan Fasano. "But if you don't want health food, you can always still come in for a slice." Yep, that's right: Fasano will continue to serve the pizza (and the calzones and the sandwiches) that made Wedge famous, but he's added a menu full of fresh and steamed veggies, white rice, yams, steak and chicken. "Sandwiches, a slice and a piece of health," Fasano says. "That's like our motto."
Sweet B.O.B.'s BBQ, another occupant of the 1 Broadway complex, has apparently vanished in a puff of smoke. The phones are disconnected, the space is empty, and as I strolled by last Friday, someone was inside with a tape measure checking on the height of the doors and the width of the windows -- as if preparing it for a coffin. No word yet on what's going into this space, but if any future restaurateurs out there want my advice, here it is: Stay away. This must be one of the most cursed locations in all of Denver, with a half-dozen small restaurants coming and then quickly going over the past few years. Even the Best BBQ award I gave Sweet B.O.B.'s this past March wasn't enough to overcome the curse.
770 E. 17th Ave.
Denver, CO 80203
Region: Central Denver
The space at 1512 Lawrence Street, in a corner of Writer Square, was vacant for years after Top Hat hung it up. Earlier this month, though, it reopened as Max Burgerworks. Brought to you by Greg Waldbaum, and Gerard and Jason Rudofsky (the guys behind Zaidy's Deli), Max vows to serve high-quality, custom gourmet burgers (made from salmon, all-natural chicken, Niman Ranch beef and more) and hand-cut fries in a simple-but-sophisticated atmosphere with beers on tap, a wine list and -- best of all -- root-beer floats. I'm a sucker for root-beer floats.
Know what else I'm a sucker for? In-n-Out Burgers. They're one of those great, guilty pleasures that -- as a jet-setting young journalist on the go -- I simply can't get enough of. Why, just yesterday I had my personal concierge gas up the Bite Me HQ Learjet and buzz me out to Barstow for....
Okay, that's a lie. Westword has yet to pony up the green for my jet, but when it does, bi-weekly trips out to Chino, Oceanside and San Bernardino to pick up big, greasy bags of Double-Doubles and chocolate shakes will commence immediately.
In the meantime, though, we have this: Burgers-n-Sports, the brainchild of Goose Gossage, a Colorado native and former big-league pitcher (most recently on the mound for the San Diego Padres and the New York Yankees), which opened this month at 18695 Stage Run Road in Parker. I haven't gotten out there yet, but I've heard from dependable sources that this quick-service burgers-and-shakes joint is the next best thing to the pride of Southern California drive-throughs. It serves big burgers, hand-cut fries, thick shakes and not much else -- but when the urge for exactly that seizes you, a quick run out to Parker beats the hell out of a fourteen-hour high-speed run across the Mojave.
And that's not the only reason to head to Parker. I got a letter the other day from Jack Goldsmith, restaurateur, touting the six-month-old Junz, a Japanese-French fusion joint at 1005 South Dransfedt Road. "I have lived in the Parker area for the past seven years," Goldsmith wrote. "I am blown away having a restaurant of this caliber in my sleepy little country town.... They are worthy of local and regional recognition. I have from day one had excellent food offerings and service. I will put them up against all the Japanese-French restaurants in the region and even the famous master sushi chef Nobu Matsuhisa. We visit this establishment weekly, as do many other local 'foodies' who appreciate the talent. I have been trained as a chef and have close to thirty years' experience in the restaurant industry. I am not much of a letter writer; this is actually the first time I have been compelled to write to a food critic concerning a fellow chef.
"We all know how difficult it is to open and successfully run a profitable restaurant in our current economic times," continued Goldsmith. "It is always nice to see a talented operator go into suburbia and try to persuade Americana to dine at an independent, high-quality operation in lieu of another national chain-fabricated venue."
The chef in question is Jun Makino, a protegé of the late Jean-Louis Palladin. Along with sushi chef Ben Ngyuen, he's bringing a little bit of the sushi-fusion freak show to Parker. Diver scallops and sea snails? Absolutely. Tempura and tonkatsu? Bring it on. Halibut belly? Foie gras in a shallot-thyme marinade? Now you're talking. There are also rumors of toro sashimi on the premises, and a secret stash of fresh wasabe held in secret for the regulars -- but I'll leave that for you to discover.