Until Piscos arrived on the scene, Cafe Brazil, at 3611 Navajo Street, was about the only South American game in town -- and it doesn't have nearly as choice a location or as snazzy an interior. But it certainly has excellent food, and that's enough to ensure that this storefront restaurant, owned by Tony and Marla Zarlenga, will continue to stick around for a long, long time. Cafe Brazil's dishes manage to be simple and sophisticated at the same time, and very vibrantly flavored -- we're talking chile-scorched, coconut-sweetened, cinnamon-laced, guava-thickened. On weekends, the place is packed; follow my hairdresser's advice and make reservations well in advance (she'd been trying to get in for a month).
An odder south-of-the-border option is Los Cabos II, at 1512 Curtis Street. This cavernous spot not only offers hot salsa dancing, but both Mexican and Peruvian cuisine, sometimes in the same dish (you have to try the fried rice to believe it).
Grin and beer it: As our little cowtown gets more wine-savvy by the minute, the brewpub business is beginning to go flat. Among the first to go altogether: Heavenly Daze Brewery, just off I-25 at Alameda Avenue. The second location for a concept that originated in Steamboat Springs eight years ago (and has been doing very well there ever since), Denver's Daze somehow lasted a year and a half before it closed last month for good...and how. The food could be downright awful ("Paradise Lost," October 29, 1998), and while the beers were on par with many of the town's microbrews, they weren't worth exiting the highway for.
With that convenient location, though, the newly empty Daze facility would seem ideal for another brewing operation in search of a new home. Say, Broadway Brewing, which soon must move out of 2441 Broadway, the circa 1911 Silver State Laundry Building in the hot Ballpark Neighborhood just north of LoDo. Initially a joint venture between Wynkoop Brewing Company and Aspen's Flying Dog Brewery -- Flying Dog bought Wynkoop's share a year ago, but Broadway still brews the ever-popular Railyard Ale for the 'Koop -- Broadway had become the pub of choice for locals looking for good beer, decent food and none of LoDo's crowds.
But the building housing the Broadway was also exactly what developers were looking for, and it was purchased late last year by the Buchanan Yonushewski Group. This company of architects and contractors takes on one or two loft jobs a year; Silver State is its designated project for 2000. While many developers had their eye on the building, Buchanan was one of the very few that Broadway was willing to consider, says Eric Warner, vice president of operations and brewer extraordinaire. "I know everybody says this, but they do really nice work," he says. "They're not going to come in and put in crappy floors or cheap hardware. We all feel really good about this. And, frankly, we have outgrown this space."
Which is good news, because Broadway is planning to expand its brewery operations. In order to do so, it will need something in the 25,000- to 30,000-square-foot range, and very high ceilings -- to hold the tanks -- are a must. But since most buildings that fit that description don't have nice little restaurant setups (Broadway is looking most heavily at the I-70 corridor near I-25 and Stapleton), the bad news is that there's a chance Broadway won't have a pub to go along with its brews. "We'd certainly like to keep it going," says Warner. "We'd had such good response, and a lot of that was because we were doing the non-pretentious thing. But the brewery is still our number-one deal, and so we have to take care of that first."
Warner hopes they'll settle on a new spot soon. "I'm thinking we'll have a new place by the first of March," he says, "but we won't pull out of LoDo until at least July, and maybe not until the fall." In the meantime, keep checking beneath the bottle caps of Flying Dog brews, because some lucky winner is going to get a free heli-skiing trip to Canada.
Over at the Wynkoop, a New Jersey man gave the working class a victory when he won last month's 2000 Beerdrinker of the Year competition. As a former Pennsylvania gal who used to spend her summers "downashore," as they say, I'm not at all surprised that winner Stephen Pawlowski, a 51-year-old mail carrier who claims to have tasted 7,153 brews from 45 states and 77 countries, beat out a political candidate/attorney and an information-processing consultant to get free beer for life at the Wynkoop, which hosted the finals (and sponsored the entire event). Of the four people who have now won the contest since it started in 1997, half have been from New Jersey. Add to that another unbeatable Pawlowski credential: He looks suspiciously like famous beer-swilling mailman Cliff Clavin from Cheers.
Pizza the action: The battle between the HandleBar & Grill (305 South Downing) and its next-door pizza-parlor neighbor, Abo's, which I described most recently in the January 27 Mouthing Off, continues -- and now I'm being used as ammo. The fight started when HandleBar owner Mike Miller used a sign in the restaurants' shared parking lot to hype another place he bought a few blocks away: Basil Doc's (2107 East Virginia Avenue). Since Basil Doc's happens to be a pizza place, too, that didn't sit well with Abo's owner Peter DeRobertis. His lawyer read over the lease, which specified that the HandleBar could not advertise any other businesses on the sign, even if Miller owned them. So instead, Miller put this on the board: "Kyle, you be the judge. Pizzas only at Basil Doc's versus Abo's?"
Before I could answer, DeRobertis again called his lawyer, and the attorney demanded that Miller remove the words, which Miller did.
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So here's my judgment call: Comparing these two pizza joints is like comparing apples and oranges. Basil Doc's does a more gourmet-type pie, and Abo's is drippy New York all the way. I like 'em both.
A tip of the baseball cap: Putting such childish battles into perspective is the recent loss of Elizabeth "Eli" McGuire, who succumbed to cancer last week at age 42. The feisty owner of the Cherry Cricket, at 2641 East Second Avenue, McGuire was a take-no-crap woman who insisted on using good ingredients and giving folks a fair deal, and she made the Cherry Cricket the wonderful, diverse-clientele hangout it is today. During an interview about the Cricket's top-notch burgers, McGuire once told me: "Listen, if you put shit between two pieces of bread, people may not always notice, but they won't want to order it again."
We noticed everything McGuire did to make the Cricket great. She'll be missed.