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One of the best things about a meal at the Table Mountain Inn (see review in this week's issue) is that it's hotel dining that doesn't feel like it's at a hotel; the food doesn't taste like hotel food, either. And that's pretty rare, although metro Denver does offer a few more exceptions: the Palace Arms at the Brown Palace (321 17th Street), an historic hotel that also holds the Ship Tavern (see the Joint); the Tuscany at the Loews-Giorgio (4150 East Mississippi Avenue in Glendale); Q's at the Hotel Boulderado (2115 13th Street in Boulder); Jou Jou and Restaurant Kevin Taylor at the Hotel Teatro (100 14th Street). But since all of those are super-upscale, it's nice to have a more down-to-earth option in nearby Golden.

Q's recently started hosting special dinners on the first Tuesday of every month; at "Black and White" on April 4, chef John Platt and Q's chef de cuisine Eric Roeder will whip up something with that stark color scheme (or lack thereof) in mind. The cost of the Tuesday-night special is $50, and wines for each course will run you another $30. For more information, call 303-442-4880 or visit Q's Web site at

Open-and-shut cases: Seven years ago, restaurateur Billy Lam set this town abuzz with his ambitious, if odd, China Cowboy, which briefly occupied the space at 233 East Colfax Avenue that had been the Quorum and is now Maharaja. The upscale China Cowboy failed to find an audience, however, and Lam's much more modest Chef's Noodle House, which for six years has been serving unbelievably tasty Asian food for cheap at 10400 East Sixth Avenue in Aurora, isn't doing much better. "Everyone keeps telling me that this area is going to start booming because of the development at Lowry," Lam says. "I keep waiting."

While he waits, though, he isn't sitting still. Two weeks ago he opened Yankee Noodle at 77 West Alameda Avenue. "It's the same kind of food, but instead of doing the boiled noodles, I'm doing everything in the wok," he explains. "It's still a fast-food concept, and nothing costs more than $5.95, but I am doing some different sauces from the ones at Chef's Noodle House." If this place is anything like Lam's other spot, Yankee Noodle will prove a great addition to central Denver's low-cost eating options. Lam uses his noodle to turn out food that's all about quality and value.

Of course, quality and value don't guarantee a restaurant will work -- and lack of quality and value don't guarantee that it will disappear, either. Inexplicably, Noodles & Co. has opened its tenth location, this one at 550 Broadway in the Apple Plumbing building that already holds a Chipotle and soon will have a fresh-fish market; four more Noodles are expected by year's end. It makes more sense that Bocaza has opened its sixth site, this one at 1699 South Colorado Boulevard, and that the Marble Slab Creamery, the ice-cream joint that first exhibited its seductive ways at 2940 East Second Avenue in Cherry Creek North, now has a second swoon-worthy spot at the corner of University Boulevard and Highlands Ranch Parkway in the King Soopers Center.

Lorenzo's Kitchen at 7301 Pecos Street is a complete original. This is the first restaurant for Lorenzo Garcia, who's run the Hatch chile stand at 38th Avenue and Brighton Boulevard for years. He and his family raise the chiles on their farm in Hatch -- that's in New Mexico, by the way, and some folks (including me) swear by the chiles from there, especially when they're roasted -- and then haul them to Denver; now Garcia's using them in his own recipes, too. Asked to say something about his food, he replies, "It's great." And there could be something to that -- Garcia founded the popular La Familia restaurants in Albuquerque, but lost all eight of them years ago in a messy, highly publicized divorce. "So I went back to the farms," he says. "And now I'm going to try this restaurant thing again." And I'm going to give Lorenzo's a try as soon as I can; this town has plenty of mediocre Mexican restaurants but very few truly good ones.

Although this town also has plenty of Indian restaurants, we just got one more: India's Rang Mahal at 2890 South Colorado Boulevard, next to Chez Artiste. Now would-be moviegoers will have something to do while they pay someone else to stand in line for them an hour before the show.

Special occasions: Fortunately, quality is sometimes recognized and rewarded. And so it's a very happy 25th birthday to the Mercury Cafe (2199 California Street). As owner Marilyn Megenity herself puts it, "I'm still here and I'm still committed to music, having a good time, and serving good food." You go, girl.

And here's a first: Over six years of writing about restaurants for Westword, I've never had one call to thank me for a less-than-glowing critique, but Mark Gordon did just that after I reviewed his Ambrosia Bistro at 5410 East Colfax Avenue ("The Gods Must Be Crazy," March 16). "I was expecting a hell of a lot worse after we talked," Gordon said. "I think you just told it like it was, and I think people are going to read it and want to try the place. And almost everything we talked about, I changed." You go, Gordon.


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