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Taco the Town

"Vince is great," Jourde says. "I couldn't do this without him." Jourde staffed his kitchen with the same sort of guys: journeyman cooks from places like Chili's, Il Fornaio, Brook's Steakhouse and other high-volume outlets.

Most important, Jourde turned the only restaurant experience he had -- the experience of being a diner, especially at the first Tin Star -- into an advantage by always remembering what it's like to be a customer on the floor. "I wanted this place to have the same kind of mom-and-pop charm as Rich's," he says, with the same quality of food, the same kind of service, the same everything. "The guest is the boss. That's what I tell everyone. We're building this place one taco at a time."

As for where he chose to build the place, in an awful spot in an invisible strip mall in the middle of the Denver Tech Center, even Jourde thought that was a mistake when his real estate agent first mentioned it. "He said it was an A+ location," Jourde says, laughing, "and I thought he was crazy." But there was already a Jason's Deli there, as well as a few other cash-and-carry joints, and it was in the DTC (even if no one in the DTC could see it), which has always been desperately short on restaurants.

Jourde signed the lease with some trepidation, trusting in his agent's reputation and the smarts of guys who've been in the business longer than he has, hoping they'd chosen this particular spot for reasons that weren't readily obvious. And it looks like other smart restaurant folks have hit on those same reasons, because Fox Restaurant Concepts -- the Arizona-based company behind the Bloom, Wildflowerand Bistro Zin chains, as well as North, which opened an insanely popular outpost in Cherry Creek earlier this year -- are looking at coming in with Sauce, a casual pizza-and-wine-bar concept.

If that happens, Jourde is going to look like a genius for getting in early, and Tin Star will have a solid foothold in Colorado, bringing it one step closer to total taco world domination.

Medium and message: If you thought the closing of Adega would shut Denver out of the culinary spotlight, think again. In its "Weekend Living" section, the September issue of Cooking Light features Vesta Dipping Grill and Rioja, as well as Adega, which was still open when the magazine went to press.

That same issue of Cooking Light gives a bump to Mise en Place, the "recreational cooking school" (read: not for pros) in LoDo. But I'm willing to bet that the new Food Network show Sugar Rush, which is currently scheduling time at Mise en Place, will bring that spot a lot more attention. And the CNN shooters have already come and gone from Mizuna, where they were working on a piece about Zagat's top-rated restaurants that will put chef/owner Frank Bonanno's smiling mug before millions of hungry newshounds.

And finally, next week yours truly will join the likes of Academy Award-winning documentarian Errol Morris, Colin Powell, Gloria Steinem and Newt Gingrich, all of whom have contributed to National Public Radio's "This I Believe" series. The program, started by Edward R. Murrow back in the 1950s, asks everyone from big shots like Albert Einstein and William F. Buckley to regular joes like me to write a short essay about the core beliefs that guide and influence their lives. Steinem talked about balance, feminism and nature-versus-nurture; Morris spoke about truth; Gingrich elaborated on the collapse of modern civilization (as if he ever talks about anything else) -- all very good and important topics. Me? I did my five minutes on barbecue. (In fact, NPR found me because of "Believe It," my review of Big Papa's BBQ, in the May 12 issue.)

My five minutes of fame are slated for September 5, during Morning Editionand All Things Considered. Or you can listen to the whole bunch of us holding forth at www.npr.org.

Leftovers: It's suddenly freakin' wine-bar madness around here. Last week, Sean Yontz and Jesse Morreale announced that they were partnering on Sketch, which will debut late this year in the former Le Delice space, at 250 Steele. (A Mexican restaurant has opened in the subterranean spot that once held Bistro Adde Brewster, which shares the same address.) Vines Wine Bar is already pouring on the corner of Mainstreet and Victorian Drive in Parker, and now the Cork House (not to be confused with the Village Cork, at 1300 South Pearl Street, or the Boulder Cork, which has held down its space at 3295 30th Street in Boulder since 1969) occupies the ancestral home of Tante Louise, at 4900 East Colfax Avenue.

But something's funny. The Cork House -- which is doing small-plate American cuisine with a Mediterranean twist, pretty much the exact opposite of Tante Louise's occasionally fusiony French fare -- just opened to the public on August 17, right? It's got new owners (Ed Novak from the Broker and pal Jerry Fritzler), a new staff, a new menu and -- other than the name, which partly honors former Tante owner Corky Douglass and partly is just a good name for a wine bar -- is totally unrelated to the Tante Louise.

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