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Icky Mickey

My McDonald's lunch was fast, but a flop.

That's probably not a system McDonald's corporate will adopt any time soon.

Not everything at Joe's goes as smoothly. Although an argument could be made that the entire fast-casual movement was based on the sushi-bar model -- you step up, tell a cook what you want, watch him make it for you, take it from his hands as soon as it is finished, then eat -- Joe's doesn't yet have the sushi thing down.

One of the drawbacks to Roman training is that every time a new skill is demanded, it must be disseminated across the ranks. And this can take time -- especially when dealing with something like rolling sushi, which, in the best cases, takes years to learn how to do properly. "It really depends where you go," Leith tells me. "I've got a handful of people who, I think, could stand up against the best sushi rollers in town. But think about it: Think about how long it would take to get an entire workforce trained to do that. A year from now, we're going to be much better."

A year from now, Leith also plans to have grown the Joe's chain from fifteen locations to 23, adding eight more Front Range stores in the next twelve months. He's looking at expanding out of state, too, though he hasn't yet decided where. "We're putting one foot in front of the other," he says. "Everything is going as planned."

Leftovers:After eight years, brothers Stephenand Bill Rohsand Tom Carley, owners of the Painted Bench, have sold the place at 400 East 20th Avenue to Leigh Jones (formerly Leigh Thompson, of Brasserie Rouge/B-52 Billiards/Atomic Cowboyfame). But the doors weren't locked long enough for anyone to notice: They closed on October 29 and reopened November 1.

I got Jones on the phone on November 2, catching her between calls as she tried to resolve some payroll problems, and the first words out of her mouth -- after "hello" -- were "I so want to kill myself right now. You have no fucking idea." The crew had been up until 3 a.m. on opening day trying to get everything done, and she was still a bit frazzled. The restaurant has been renamed The Dish, although the kitchen is still staffed by holdovers from Steve Rohs's old crew and is running on the old Bench menu. After January 1, Jones hopes to turn things in the direction of comfort food with a global influence. "This neighborhood really just needs a second kitchen," she told me. "I know what I want to do."

Jones had been working at the Bench -- behind the bar at the Bench, actually -- since last December, ending up there after spending time traveling and "making certain that I wanted to get back into this madness," she explained. After the closing of Brasserie Rouge, a rather public divorce from ex-husband Robert Thompson, the purchase of the B-52 building by the crew behind MTV's Real World ("I was probably somewhere in Southeast Asia when that happened, avoiding the 'real world' as much as possible, if you know what I mean"), and the slow release of her diverse business interests, she was looking to find herself. What she found was that she really couldn't leave Denver.

"After everything happened with the Brasserie and the Cowboy and all that, I actually packed up all my things and drove all the way across the country to D.C.," Jones recounted. "But when I got there, I said, 'What the hell am I doing?' and then turned right around and came back."

Jones also picked up the storefront next door at 414 East 20th, which had housed the Perk & Pub (and Sweet Rockin' Coffeebefore that). This space will become the Horseshoe Lounge -- with any luck, by Thanksgiving week.

"I don't want to be rich and famous anymore," Jones concluded. "I just want to be here, in the business that I love."

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