Bite Me

You know things are getting ugly when Charo, of all people, is threatening to drag your ass into court. The cuchi-cuchi girl is shaking all kinds of things at Bart DeLorenzo and his Spanish-themed nightclub/steakhouse empire, Sevilla Entertainment, which had booked her show into Sevilla Las Vegas, the second in what DeLorenzo had hoped would become a chain of Sevillas.

But Sevilla Entertainment filed for bankruptcy protection last month in Las Vegas in an attempt to keep the wolves (and Charo) from the door. (The flamboyant entertainer claims she's owed $80,000.) Back home in Denver, the original Sevilla was "doing very well," according to executive director Susan Garcia, until the bankruptcy story hit the local press. "We've been having trouble ever since," she says. "We're struggling because people think we're closed, but we're very much open, very much alive and trying to regain our business. All we want to do is have a good business."

DeLorenzo plans to keep Denver's Sevilla open and earning during the reorganization, and his landlords at the Denver Pavilions would like to see that, too. Pavilions general manager Susan Cantwell says that DeLorenzo and Pavilions reps met in Vegas soon after the filing, and now they're staying in touch to make sure that everything (like rent payments) flows smoothly.

"We know it was a viable operation," Cantwell explains. "And we hope it will continue to be a viable operation in the future."

In other Pavilions news, Jon Field of Intersport Racing, the Field Development Group and owner of the Banana Joe's chain has bailed out on his 35,000 square feet of eater-tainment hell, Margarita Mama's and Banana Joe's Island Party. He'd been locked in disputes with contractors, Pavilions management and -- one would hope -- his conscience since the day the doors opened on his combination Key West-Caribbean theme restaurant/dance club/sports bar/cocktail lounge/carnival midway. Field had stopped paying rent on the space months ago, and the legal bills were mounting when the Field group finally decided it would be better for all concerned if a simple termination of the lease could be negotiated.

And that's the way things went down in late April. No fireworks, no tantrums, and with everything "done in a semi-organized way," according to Cantwell. But God never closes the door of a giant tequila-and-Skee-Ball-themed restaurant without opening a window, right? Enter local club kingpin Curt Sims, who swooped in and made an offer on the second- and third-floor space, which comes complete with dozens of televisions and a nearly new light-and-sound system. Sims hasn't said what he plans to do with it, but three years ago his F-Stop (1819 Wazee Street) and Sevilla, then located in the Icehouse (1801 Wynkoop Street), made LoDo the town's unexpected hip-hop headquarters -- and don't think the neighbors didn't notice or complain. F-Stop closed in November 2000; Sevilla moved to the Pavilions three months later.

Sevilla's had some success booking hip-hop, as well as salsa, into its new home. Maybe the time's right for Sims to revive his F-Stop lineup, too.

Then again, Sims is pretty busy these days, since the massively overdue Cielo (since last August) is finally scheduled to open this month in the former home of the Denver Buffalo Company (1109 Lincoln Street). But Sims has a ringer on his Cielo team: Marco Colantonio, who left the floor of Tamayo for an early piece of Vega (410 East Seventh Avenue). After Colantonio departed from Vega, he signed on with Sims and his wife, Pam Savage, as a consultant to help get Cielo going. But Colantonio was so taken with both the concept (formal but not fussy Mexican) and the food (norteño cuisine with a slightly modern feel) as envisioned by Savage and executed by chef Marcela Guerrero that he came on, he says, as "an operator." That means he's been overseeing construction, assembling a staff, tasting and retasting the menu, and will be working the floor once the doors open on June 24.

And now, with Sims's plate loading up, there's been some discussion about bringing Colantonio more fully into the fold. "Curt's got lots of stuff going on," Colantonio says, laughing at this bit of poetic understatement. "Ideally, Curt would like me to take a partnership interest. It's something we talk about often. But this is three restaurants in less than three years now. And I'm one of those people -- I want to prove to you what I can do first. I love the property. I want to put as much as I can into it. Three months from now? Then maybe we'll talk."

Actually, it's more like four restaurants in three years, because Colantonio is also showing off his stuff at Sims's and Savage's eighteen-month-old Lime (1424 Larimer Street). Savage had come up with the original menus for both Lime and Cielo; Colantonio wants to bring a measure of Cielo's more ambitious cuisine to Lime's more down-home lineup -- and Guerrero's temporarily watching the line at Lime in order to do it. "I want to expand the menu, improve the food," Colantanio says. "I'd just like to see more food there. More of an opportunity to dine."  

The great outdoors: Here it is, barely June, and while half the country is still getting drowned by those nasty spring showers and suffering through the occasional tornado, we're already out there dining al fresco on the patios and decks that restaurants carve out of every available inch of yard and sidewalk.

All those great neighborhood joints along 17th Avenue have their tables out. Cafe Berlin (see review, page 69) has a few seats under the sun, as does Dario's (2011 East 17th). And what's the perfect cap to a nice scampi provençal or plate of caponata? Coffee, iced or otherwise, which you can find a few steps away, at St. Mark's Coffeehouse (2019 East 17th). In fact, St. Mark's is like one big patio, because the entire front wall is open to all them purty-smellin' summer breezes.

Newcomers Vega, Intrigue (275 South Logan Street), Adega (1700 Wynkoop Street) and Solera (5410 East Colfax Avenue) all have patios open -- and Solera's comes complete with an herb garden, which could soon be supplying the kitchen. Still, the town's top kitchen gardens remain those at Potager (1109 Ogden Street) and Highland's Garden Cafe (3927 West 32nd Avenue), which uses some of the edible flowers growing in the stunning gardens surrounding the patio to augment a menu that includes ramps, morels, porcini mushrooms and dandelion greens.

Owners David Minty and Rich Salturelli just celebrated their five-year anniversary at City Grille (321 East Colfax) with bargain burgers, cheap beers and an addition: yes, another patio right on Colfax. This Capitol Hill hot spot remains the best place in town to rub up against a lobbyist -- if that's your thing -- and you can only imagine what's going to happen when all of the dedicated public servants who frequent City Grille get a taste for sitting out in the sun on a Tuesday afternoon. I predict a move to three-hour lunches and sunscreen expense-account writeoffs for all.

Speaking of Salturelli, his Blake Street Tavern, which opened in March at 2401 Blake Street, has stepped up to bring another of those all-important elements to the mix that will someday turn Denver into the great food town it's destined to be: service-industry nights with cheap drinks for all of the hardworking hotel and restaurant guys. Yeah, it's all well and good to have great chefs and good houses. And it's an added bonus that Colorado has so many fine local producers and a customer base that's really starting to yearn for foie gras and heirloom tomatoes. But how long did we think we could go without having a place for the troops to unwind?

Seven nights a week, Blake Street will be running specials - two-for-one on your first drink, 20 percent off, happy-hour pricing, depending on the night and how business has been going that week -- courtesy of Salturelli and partner Chris Fuselier, and all you have to do to qualify for this beneficence is be thirsty and in the business. After a long night under the gun, there's no better scene to walk in on than a bar packed with friends and fellow travelers -- a whole ugly mess of prep cooks and sauciers, busboys and service captains, sommeliers and chefs and dishwashers from a dozen different houses all drinking together, elbow to elbow, late on a Saturday night. Bring in a pay stub or your name tag, or just belly up to the bar in your best whites and checks, and you're one of the gang. Cheers, folks. It's about time.

Leftovers: First, the bad news. Texas Land & Cattle Steak House (10025 Park Meadows Drive, Lone Tree) has shut its doors, leaving us with only 317 other steakhouses to choose from in this city. And the Josh & John's at 1404 Larimer, an ice cream shop with a fanatical following, has dished out its last Jack Daniel's ripple and oatmeal-cookie cream. I advise the grieving multitudes to visit the shop's Aurora outlet, at 12101 East Iliff Avenue.

Now the good news: After almost three decades, the much-loved Little Shanghai (456 South Broadway) has gotten around to opening a second location, near Park Meadows, at 9615-D East County Line Road. And if you're in the mood for a little Colombian cuisine but don't have time for that trip to América del sur, the just-opened El Trapiche (15355 East Colfax Avenue) has what you're looking for -- and all you have to do is drive to Aurora.  

Finally, after months of false starts and full stops, the Denver Press Club (1330 Glenarm Place) has a warm body on the line. Daniel Young -- who recently found himself in the market for a new kitchen after the March blizzard put Fat Daddy (12 East 11th Avenue) out of commission and was previously at the now-defunct Diced Onions -- is on board, putting together menus and getting ready for the dining room's grand reopening. According to trustworthy sources at the Press Club, it'll be about a month before things really get swinging, but once they do, the doors will be open Monday through Friday for lunch and Wednesday through Friday for dinner.

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