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Democratic National Convention? Okay, that's big news. But believe it or not, there's stuff happening around town that has nothing at all to do with who will become the next president of the United States — stuff of vital interest to those who will still be here in town after all the dust settles and all the prostitutes go home.
3901 Tennyson St.
Denver, CO 80212
Region: Northwest Denver
For starters, there's yet more news from the Master family. Last week, I got a note from Mel Master letting me know that chef Chad Clevenger has finally, truly and legally purchased Mel's of Greenwood Village (5970 South Holly Street), which reopened August 26 as...Mel's of Greenwood Village. Clevenger — wisely choosing not to confuse the customer base even further by turning the place into a sushi bar or an RV dealership — is doing a mixed board of classic, continental Mel's grub along with his own New American dishes (which are really more Santa Fe nouvelle Latino than anything, well showcased when he worked next door, at Mel's Southwestern-styled Agave Grill) and will have the place more or less to himself. This is Clevenger's first ownership position, so I'm curious to see what he does with it.
In the meantime, Charlie Master had already turned Mel's Bistro at 1120 East Sixth Avenue into Mel's Anti-Bistro, which he was modeling after the early days of his own Brix, which recently closed in Cherry Creek. He'd gotten the patio open and was feeding thirty-something wine brats and neighborhood foodistas when all of a sudden the restaurant was officially put up for sale by Sanborn and Company, which also handled the sales of Agave and Mel's GV.
"The scoop is, we're looking," said Mel, who'll be relocating to Massachusetts with his wife, Janie, in a couple of weeks. And why? Because they had a small issue with the management. "Charlie has decided he wants to become an organic farmer," Mel told me, explaining that, after many years in the family business, his boy was starting to burn out on the restaurant lifestyle. "And far be it from me to stop him from doing what his passion is all about."
Still, without a family member at Mel's Anti-Bistro, Mel was legitimately worried about what might become of the place. "If Charlie's not there, a lot of questions come up," he said. "Do I want to get a call in Massachusetts in the middle of the night saying, 'What the fuck do I do, the drain is blocked'?"
So they're testing the market, looking to see if anyone is badly in need of a turn-key space in a hot neighborhood — and willing to pay for it. "I wanted to see what was out there," Mel explained. "Like they say, everything's for sale for a price."
Frogger: My meals at Z Cuisine À Côté (reviewed August 21) left me hungry for more French food. So last weekend, I made a run by the new Brasserie Felix (3901 Tennyson Street) and saw the joint doing a rocking brunch. When I'd first looked at the menu, I hadn't been thrilled. But after seeing the place in action, I'm now of the opinion that the menu is exactly right: nothing complicated, nothing overtly intimidating, just good, simple brasserie fare.
Meanwhile, Rachel Woolcott has decided to switch things up at her restaurant, Aix, at 719 East 17th Avenue. While other places seem to be going in a more haute French direction, she's actually dialed it back, taking her once very French, dinner-only operation and turning it into a lunch/brunch/dinner neighborhood joint. "In the eight years that I've been here, this neighborhood has changed a lot," she said when I got her on the phone last Thursday — the second day of her new schedule and menu.
The new Aix is "more approachable, more affordable," she explained, and more in the bistro style — with small plates and large ones, charcuterie plates and duck confit pot pies sharing space alongside flatbread with bacon mascarpone and tiramisu on the dessert board. "As much as we, as chefs, like to do what we like to do, we also have to do what the people want, right?" she asked. "It's a different menu, but we're still doing the same thing, supporting the local growers and producers. A different menu, but the same spirit."
Leftovers: Want to confuse the staff at the new Five Guys Burgers and Fries at 2300 South Parker Road in Aurora? Order a cheeseburger and then don't take them up on their offer of any toppings. I dropped in last week to check out the joint, a link in a burger chain that made a name for itself by offering about fifteen toppings (everything from ketchup and mustard to jalapeños and sautéed mushrooms) free of charge, then had to go and mess everything up by asking for a plain bacon double cheeseburger with nothing else.
"Really?" asked the teenager behind the counter. "You know it's all free, right?"
As with my barbecue and my bitches, I prefer my burgers naked (save for the cheese and pork products, of course). And while Five Guys did put together an admirable double (hung about halfway between the fat, bar-burger style and the squashed-flat version typified by joints like Grandpa's Burger Haven), I wasn't that crazy about the fries. And really, when you're hanging your rep on just two things — in this case, burgers (albeit burgers with lots of free toppings) and fries — you need to make sure that both things are done very well.
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