Tyler Wiard, executive chef at Mel's, learned of the fire at the salon next door when one of the line cooks called on the morning of December 20 and said, "Uh, I don't think we're working today." When Wiard was finally able to get into the restaurant days later, it smelled like a large pool of Laphroaig Scotch: The rich, pungent, earthy odor of smoke was overwhelming. In honor of Mel's remarkable restoration and reopening (complete with new menu) on January 3, I ordered a glass of Laphroaig ($8) neat. The drink brought back not just Mel's recent troubles, but thoughts of all the other drinks I've enjoyed at this Cherry Creek mainstay. One hilarious night eight or nine years ago, a friend and I were having cocktails when a divorced man old enough to be my father walked over to our table and asked, "Would you mind holding the keys to my Porsche for a minute?" I had to bite the inside of my cheek and avoid my friend's eyes; after he threw down his key and walked out the front door, we exploded with laughter at this ridiculous come-on. While the smoke and water damage killed Mel's Christmas and New Year's Eve business, the place is coming back with new life like a forest after a fire. I look forward to many more laughs at Mel's and making many more memories here. Even the piano survived the fire -- much to the chagrin of a few cranky colleagues -- and song requests are happily accepted. Except for "Smoke on the Waiter."