I've always wanted to sit myself down in the restaurant that won Best New Restaurant the night the Best of Denver issue came out, but there's always been some complication -- some crisis (generally alcohol-related) that required my immediate attention. My usual post-Best of routine is to drink until I can't remember any of the winners, any of the losers, even my own name.
I have often threatened to run off to Mexico and not come home until all the hubbub has died down -- to spend a week, maybe two, knocking back cheap beers and buying pinatas in Ciudad Juarez, laying out in the sun in Ensenada and letting the sun bake a year's worth of miseries away.
I've never managed to pull off the Mexican thing, either, but this year, I finally did sit down inside the winner's circle. I was at Bones last night, the day word came down that it's the Best New Restaurant in the city.
I'm not sure if the crew knew they'd won; owner Frank Bonanno was in Arizona, hanging out with his kids for spring break, and hadn't yet found anyone who'd read him the award(s) he'd just won. But at Bones, everyone was behaving like it was business as usual: seating tables, serving noodles and being (occasionally) just plain bitchy.
True, the place was doing a killer business. By 5:30 p.m., the floor and bar were completely full. An hour later, folks were being turned away at the door or told to wait. And by 7 p.m., runners were being dispatched to Mizuna and Luca to pick up additional supplies -- namely travelers of lobster meat for the lobster ramen, my favorite dish at Bones.
I was there with a four-top and, between us, we demolished about half the menu -- knocking back noodles, noodles and more noodles, pork belly buns and suckling pig buns and bottles of Kirin and Samurai. There were a few customers in the joint toting Best of Denver issues still warm from the presses but for the most part, it seemed like just another night. And before long, that was just what it was.
I was eating with a long-lost friend (my freshman roommate from college, actually, who I hadn't spoken to or seen in more years than I want to admit to) and his wife, so we had plenty of catching up to do. Lots of stories to tell, lots of questions from my darling wife Laura on how he'd been able to put up with me for a whole year (no easy task, that, as Laura--who's been living with me for something like ten years--well knows). And granted, we may have camped out there a tad too long (call it three hours) on a night when the staff was turning the dining room fairly frantically, but I still found it a bit off-putting that our server--who'd been nothing but sweetness and light for the first couple of hours--started getting cranky.
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When asked for the fourth or fifth time whether we needed anything else, Laura told him that no, we were just fine and would be moving along soon. And under his breath, he responded, "Oh, it's already way too late for that."
But you know what? I can forgive that. It was a big night for the house. A busy night. And we were costing the guy money. Besides, I was feeling good -- stuffed full of good food, good company and more noodles than any one man should reasonably eat in a sitting -- so I was content to let it go. This time.
I just called Bones, hoping to talk to a manager to see exactly what kind of numbers the floor did last night and what the reservation book was looking like for tonight. But all I got was a recorded message that the restaurant would be closed because of the snow. The night after winning the award for Best New Restaurant.
Which just made me all the happier that I was able to have dinner there last night.