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Last week, Alex Gurevichcalled to let me know that Limón, his killer Novoandino/Peruvian restaurant at 1618 East 17th Avenue ("Small Miracles," February 8), is turning one on July 12. He and his guys are throwing a party — live music, drink specials all night, complimentary frittatas, that kind of thing — "just to give something back to the people who supported us," he said.
While I had Gurevich on the horn, I asked how things have been going since he recently expanded Limón. "It's been...steady," he said, using the word "steady" the way you tell your buddy that the girl you're fixing him up with has "a nice personality."
"What's the matter?" I asked.
1618 E. 17th Ave.
Denver, CO 80218
Region: Central Denver
"It hasn't been nuts like we expected," he replied. Which wasn't necessarily a bad thing, just different. Over the months, they'd become accustomed to the crush, Gurevich explained, to the buzz of a hot restaurant operating far beyond its tolerances and right on the threshold of collapse. The expansion into the space next door and the addition of a patio more than doubled Limón's seating, and he and his crew had been amped up for a crowd — for the possibility of seating ten tables at a time, having to coordinate fire orders on dozens of tickets coming at once. But the crushing crowds never arrived. Instead, Limón simply grew into its new digs and found its own pace.
"It's weird," Gurevich said. "In the dining room, you walk around and it feels well-paced, casual. There's no long waits — with the patio and the space, we can just get people in and get them seated. It's just not what we expected." The restaurant is still turning tables, still bringing in the numbers, still doing good business; it just doesn't feel like a wall-to-wall slam every night, with Gurevich and his guys dans le merde from open 'til well after close.
It's funny how calm and quiet can feel like desolation when you're not expecting it, when you're anticipating exactly the opposite.
"Getting deep into that third turn..." Gurevich recalled, chuckling at the memory of some nights last summer, when the pressure was on and felt like it would never be off. "Now we're just not getting there."
But they're doing well enough that Gurevich has taken on a new venture: the Arvada Grill, at 5601 Wadsworth Boulevard in Olde Town Arvada, which should open this fall. "It's going to be modern, casual American," he said. "Not like a diner, but definitely not upscale, either."
The menu, which is still in the planning stages, is going to be eclectic, to say the least. Duck burgers, pastas, hand-carved steaks and "some Kobe," Gurevich said. "American Kobe." There will also be buffalo meatloaf, Southern-fried chicken with biscuits and gravy, ahi tuna carpaccio with soy-ginger glaze — you know, all the good, down-home eats like Mama used to make. "I think there's really a demand for independents in the area," he explained, citing the encroachment of all the chain restaurants, the fast-food franchises. "And obviously, I want to be able to do something for families, for kids, so there'll be a kids' menu."
Gurevich still has Cafe Bisque — his original restaurant — out at 226 Union Boulevard in Lakewood, now Limón, and soon the Arvada Grill. Is that enough?
"Well, actually..." he said.
Actually, Gurevich has yet another joint in the works, this one a true departure from anything he's done before. He's planning on putting Naked, a raw-foods restaurant, right in the middle of Cherry Creek North (though he wouldn't give me an address). The deal was another offer he couldn't refuse, from a guy who said he'd sign the checks, collect his percentage and let Gurevich do his own thing. "You kinda get a little exposure, and all of a sudden some people come in and say, 'Hey, man, I wanna do a restaurant,'" he recounted. "They're so much fun to open, new restaurants. Then it's just the problem of trying to find someone to run them."
At least Gurevich won't have the problem of outfitting a complete kitchen for Naked. Since it will be devoted to raw foods — which require nothing more than a dehydrator, maybe some sous-vide equipment and lots of hippies and macrobiotics freaks to run them — he won't need to put in a hood, a ventilation system or a grease trap. That means he should be able to open the place fast and cheap — by November, if everything works out right. Or, you know, he could just start selling whole heads of cabbage and bean sprouts out of the trunk of his car tomorrow — which is about what I think of when anyone starts talking to me about the raw-food movement.
But Gurevich has surprised me before. He's managed to pull off the impossible (or at least the highly improbable) at least twice with the resurrection of Cafe Bisque and the popularizing of a cuisine (Novoandino) that almost no one in Denver had heard of before he started whipping out the cancha chulpe and cold potato cakes at Limón. So maybe he's got a third miracle still in him.