Things are stirring at the moribund Dick's Hickory Dock (26220 Highway 74, Kittredge), which was sold a few years ago by its original owners (who'd opened the barbecue joint in the 1970s) and recently sold again after the next owners couldn't open because of unspecified financial troubles. After being closed for two years, Dick's has a "90 percent certain" opening date of Thursday, August 29, according to Tom Lutes, who now owns the place with several partners.
The new owners have nearly completed a large and pricey renovation that includes a complete remodel of the kitchens (and the purchase of a huge mobile smoker capable of smoking 400 pounds of meat), an expansion of the bar, and the addition of an enclosed patio for barbecue junkies willing to make the trek for a winter fix. The menu will stay the same -- exactly the same, considering that a peek at the original barbecue-sauce recipe that made Dick's famous in the first place was part of the deal -- as will the name.
Later this month, Lutes plans to open Dick's Pizza Dock in a little log cabin that was once used for storage and office space; it will now be connected to Dick's Hickory Dock by an open patio. Pizzas will be stone-cooked, and delivery to a wide area is in the works.
Young blood: First Jeff Saudo, the then-27-year-old sous chef at Mizuna (225 East Seventh Avenue) was appointed executive chef at Mel's Restaurant and Bar (235 Fillmore Street), where he works in a kitchen with Matt Sissman, Al Sosa Mendoza and Chris Coberly, all close to under thirty. Then, when David Query decided to expand his empire with Lola (which opens this week at 1469 South Pearl Street, in the former home of Micole), he moved Jamey Fader from his post as head chef at the LoDo Jax Fish House (1539 17th Street) to open the new kitchen as chef and part owner, and filled Fader's spot with 28-year-old Sheila Lucero, who's been with Jax since 1997 and was formerly Fader's sous chef.
Now Triana (1039 Pearl Street, Boulder) has a new kid behind the burners, too. At the beginning of July, Hosea Rosenberg, also 28, took over the executive chef slot from Corey Smith, who'd stepped in after the departure of Triana founder James Mazzio a few months ago. Rosenberg has built an impressive rep over just a few years, starting his culinary career in the kitchens of Wolfgang Puck, then moving on to work as sous chef to Kevin Taylor where needed in Denver before being tapped for the executive position at Taylor's Dandelion (1011 Walnut Street, Boulder). Rosenberg tells me that he'll be revamping parts of Triana's menu in the coming weeks -- "tweaking" was actually the word he used -- so be on the lookout for some additions, subtractions and new touches to an already impressive selection of tapas and entradas.
Old blood: Two weeks ago, I wrote that Basil Ristorante (846 Broadway) was shutting its doors, and promised an update as soon as details were available. Well, here they are: As of August 15, Basil was no more; on September 3, the Parlour Bar and Grill will open in its place. A place, by the way, that was once...the Parlour, before Peter Wolfgang Schlicht turned it into Basil. Schlicht is still the owner, but he'll be bringing in an entirely new staff (including executive chef Paul Stickler, who's worked the pans at European Cafe, Aubergine and Strings, to name just a few), a new menu, new hours (the Parlour will be open until 2 a.m., which will make it something of a rarity among restaurants in this town), and a new image that Schlicht says will seem "more like a bar than fine dining."
According to Schlicht, the post-9/11 restaurant recession hit Basil hard, and since it appeared that people were no longer willing to spend $30 a plate, he and Stickler have come up with a menu that tops out around $15 and where most items live comfortably in the $5-to-$10 range -- including a big burger, a specialty of the original Parlour.
The thing is, I'm looking at an early version of that menu right now, and except for the burger, I'm not exactly seeing "bar food." Colorado trout pâté, fresh Prince Edward Island mussels in a garlic shellfish broth, three-cheese tortellini with chicken and arugula pesto... When's the last time you saw something like that on the menu at Hooters? I didn't get a totally accurate read on what Schlicht intends to do with the interior, but my guess (and this is only a guess) is that what we'll see in Basil's place is one of those nice, neighborhood bars that are upscaled more by the food than a swanky address or monogrammed silver.
Free ink: Five Colorado restaurants have been crowned in laurels with their inclusion in Bon Appétit's September Neighborhood Restaurants issue. The Painted Bench (400 East 20th Avenue) got the nod for executive chef Stephen Rohs's French-influenced Mediterranean menu, including his wild-mushroom-and-Gruyère gratin; the apple crumb pie at the Gateway Cafe in Lyons earned that eatery a mention; The Fort in Morrison moved outside of the regional listings and into the magazine's "Starters" section as the place where Julia Child asked for seconds on her order of roasted bison marrow bones; Proto's Pizzeria Napoletana in Lafayette earned a page (and pictures) for its mozzarella and prosciutto pizza with balsamic onions recipe, and Lounge (1509 Marion Street) was worthy of note in "10 favorite places for dessert."
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Although most people have good things to say about Mara Leone's blueberry bread pudding with caramel sauce, Lounge's inclusion was curious. For starters, it didn't open until June, when Mara took over the space where her mother, Jan Leone, had run janleone for half a dozen years. And the magazine claimed that Lounge is "located in a restored 18th century mansion," which is a trick, considering that in the eighteenth century, there were no buildings in what would become Denver beyond tepees erected at the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River. Lounge's home actually dates back to 1889, three years before the Brown Palace was built.
Leftovers: La Taza Cafe and Market is now open -- early -- at 1550 Platte Street, serving up Allegro handcrafted coffees, chipotle chicken salad, Milagro burritos, grilled sandwiches and more. Another early riser in a rising neighborhood is the four-month-old Smitty's, open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 3163 Larimer Street. Gone for good, though, is Fratelli's Restaurant (1200 East Hampden Avenue), an old-time Italian restaurant that had been an Englewood institution.
The Tagawa Garden Center (7711 South Parker Road, Aurora) hosts a chile-pepper festival from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, August 31. There'll be tastings, cooking demos, lessons on making salsa and green-chile stew, classes on how to grow chile peppers in Colorado, singing, dancing, accordions and mariachi music -- basically, more fun than you can shake a ristra at. For details, call 303-690-4722.