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Bite Me

Kinda Blue

It's been a rough year for the food business. The economy's still in the tank, and yet more and more restaurants are opening, creating more and more seats for diners willing to spend less and less. If I were a pessimist, I'd call it an inescapable spiral. But at heart I'm really an optimist, and I still believe there's room for good guys to make good money cooking great food. I think that running a restaurant is tough, but it's doable if you follow this simple rule: Cook it (right) and they will come.

Then I hear news that makes me doubt even my own convictions. News like this: Indigo, one of my favorite restaurants in town, with one of Denver's best kitchens bossed by one of our best chefs, has closed. Yup, that's right. Indigo est mort. Kaput. Fini. Over and out. On Tuesday afternoon, Indigo served its last lunch, and on Tuesday night began serving the new menu for the restaurant that will officially fill the space at 250 Josephine Street on some as-yet-undetermined date. For now, we'll call it the Go Fish Grill, because that's what owner Larry Herz has in mind for a name, even though that's not yet settled. And we'll say that the new place should be firmly in place, so to speak, by sometime after June 1, because that's the date Herz has in mind -- but that's not settled, either.

"I haven't committed to anything yet," Herz says. "I'd like to have some more details or something exciting to tell you, but I don't know."

Except he does. We talk about the menu, which is going to be fish, mostly, and the kinds of things that go with fish: crabcakes, macaroni and cheese, Key lime pie. There'll be some Vesta Dipping Grill-style sauces for every entree, daily menu changes, and a board of fare that sounds like it's arranged more like Tom Colicchio's Craft in New York City than anything we've seen recently here in the sticks. And that makes sense, because Herz has been poring over Colicchio's menus -- along with those from the Empire Diner and his own from Carmine's on Penn -- for weeks in preparation for the shift.

"The most important thing was to be casual and consistent," Herz says. "The key is to make sure nothing gets too fancy." And that's a big departure from the vision that drove Indigo, where the food was a lot more about art and less about craft. "Now it's just about cooking the best of whatever we're cooking, right? It's a cook thing. If you're cooking roasted chicken, you cook the best roasted chicken. If you're cooking fish, you cook the best fish in the city."

Chef Ian Kleinman will still be in the kitchen, along with his old Indigo crew, and Herz assures me that the young cook is totally on board with the new plans. "Ian understands that something has to change," he explains. For months, like just about everyone else in town, Indigo had been suffering from low head counts, good weekends but miserable weeknights, and constant battles over pricing. "It's tough," Herz says. "Everyone who comes in, they tell me, 'Oh, I love this place. It's my favorite restaurant.' I ask them when's the last time they were here, and they say three months ago. Well, it's no wonder I'm closing, then, right?"

Not closing entirely, though, because while Indigo will be gone, Kleinman's kitchen will keep serving until the space goes dark for a few days of remodeling. "We're gonna warm it up a bit," Herz says of Indigo's cool blue interior. "Make it a little fishy."

And there's a still a chance that the restaurant could turn into something completely different than planned, because Herz has been talking with potential investors. "And if one of them comes up with a hundred grand and wants to change the name, change the menu," he says, "well, then they're gonna get to change the name or the menu, I guess."

So only one thing's for sure right now: If you didn't get in for a last meal at Indigo over the past few days, now it's too late.

Ragin' Cajun: I liked the food at Broussard's Creole Cafe (see review) but really disliked the space. According to the owners, the house is working on all those things that got between me and my simple enjoyment of some really good Creole grub. Soon the restaurant will be serving a full menu every night. Soon it will have its front-of-the-house act together so that the food -- not the spotty decor or distracted service or mostly empty dining room -- is what people will remember. I'm just hoping all of this comes together soon enough, because I'd hate to see étouffée and po' boys as good as Broussard's disappear from the scene.

If only the Broussard family, which dreamed of opening a restaurant for years, had found a better spot than 233 East Colfax Avenue, a big ol' dinosaur of a room on a heavily trafficked part of the street with no designated parking and some pretty rough neighbors; a little, humble spot, a place where no one had to be concerned with anything but the food. Because let's face it: Gumbo, po'boys, red beans and rice -- this stuff is street stuff, the Big Easy equivalent of a red hot with 'kraut and mustard. It's street food, peasant fare with an American twist.

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