Although Big Eddie's Bar-B-Q has closed its doors at 2260 South Quebec, the local barbecue scene is still looking good. Longtime favorites such as M&D's Bar-B-Que and Fish Palace (2004 East 28th Avenue) and Sam Taylor's Bar-B-Que (435 South Cherry Street in Glendale) are going strong, and newer kids, including Brothers BBQ (6499 Leetsdale Drive) and Brett's Bar-B-Que (3575 South Huron Street in Englewood), have found enough fans to keep business hopping. I also recommend We're Smokin' Barbecue (2680 South Havana in Aurora), which recently added Kansas City-style "burnt ends" -- they're the crispy, caramelly riblet tidbits -- and Philly cheese steaks to its menu; We're Smokin' plans to make the rounds of the Denver Tech Center and either Cherry Creek or downtown Denver this summer with a pair of mobile carts. And if you're in the neighborhood (is anyone ever?), it's worth checking out Smokey's Bar-B-Que, at 1961 West 64th Avenue. Smokey's, which is tucked into a residential area, could be the city's most unlikely spot for great 'cue and beef jerky, but there's no denying its killer taste.
I've also been hearing good things about the Buffalo Corral (836 Lookout Mountain Road), which is located in a hundred-year-old building next to the Cody Inn on Lookout Mountain. Georgia Harral, who runs the place with her husband, third-generation rancher George Harral, says the structure was the area's first Indian trading post and museum; it's been a barbecue joint for just three years. "We moved to Gunnison from Texas years ago, and we ran the Lost Canyon Resort in Gunnison," says Georgia. "We sold that, though, because we really loved it here. We just felt like we really belonged in this area, and the Lookout Mountain part, especially."
Up on Lookout Mountain, the Harrals are smoking the usual suspects -- pork ribs, chicken and brisket -- as well as salmon. "We smoke buffalo ribs, too, but mostly in the summer, when there's more call for them," Georgia explains. And they don't do baby backs at all: "That's a Texas thing, 'cause we don't do 'em there. They aren't mature enough, and they just don't have that full-bodied taste." Otherwise, though, the Harrals will smoke just about anything else that people request. "We get a lot of odd suggestions, like weird kinds of fish and such," Georgia says. "But, hey, if it'll smoke, we'll smoke it."
Hey, doll: Like good barbecue joints, this city can never have enough good diners. The scene at The Doll House (5637 West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood) during a recent Sunday morning repast made for ideal people-watching -- from the strapping Irishman cheerfully jotting down notes on sheet music, to the polished red fingernails and well-coiffed hair of a chain-smoking sixty-something woman, to the Hunter S. Thompson type, complete with baseball cap and shades, regaling a tousle-maned babe with his Saturday-night exploits, to the veteran Doll House waitress who says "Bye, honey, have a nice day" to everyone, even the guys who look like rejects from Metallica.
Not only is the atmosphere diner-evocative (the smoking section is twice as big as the non-), but the non-smoking side provides added entertainment via the windows that overlook the Doll House-owned motel next door, where some very interesting Colfax Avenue denizens were going about their business. (What was up with the group carrying in a toaster, a coffeemaker and enough power tools to refurbish the Taj Mahal?) Between these two spots, there's enough happening to keep Jerry Springer revved up into his octogenarian years. (Was that the guy's girlfriend or his mom having omelettes with him and Dad?)
The food is also worthy of your attention. Breakfast is served 24-7. Fastest Egg in the West, the menu proudly proclaims, driving the point home with cute little illustrations of Egg Man in his various guises, including Cowboy Egg Man, Ski Bum Egg Man, Superhero Egg Man and Sheriff Egg Man. Although all egg dishes come with a side of spuds, the potatoes don't rate an illustration.
But they deserved a hearty appetite. Regular hash browns, well-hashed, well-browned, came with the two eggs over easy ($4.45), as well as four slices of bacon (when you tell 'em crisp, the Doll House makes 'em crisp) and toast (the rye is a light one). The tubers with the country skillet ($4.75), on the other hand, were sliced and fried, tossed in the oven with two eggs and sausage and then smothered with the most rib-stickin' pepper-speckled white gravy possible.
The Doll House even serves good coffee. And while the diner has taken the inexcusable step of putting in an espresso bar, for heaven's sake, it fortunately has not attracted the wrong kind of clientele. Yet.
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Star quality: What does Restaurant Kevin Taylor at the Hotel Teatro (1106 14th Street) have that the Doll House never will? A four-diamond rating from AAA, which did a little sidebar on Taylor in the March issue of The Motorist. As Taylor followers may recall, a primary reason he went for this super-upscale space after closing Zenith was to up his star (as in diamonds) potential; at the very least, this designation from AAA will get the restaurant some extra business from traveling sheep who hate to take a chance on anything not deemed worthy by the club's "evaluators."
And the four diamonds are a big deal: Out of all the eateries and hotels in Colorado, only sixteen hotels and eighteen restaurants received four, and no solo restaurants in the state rated five diamonds. Three "properties" garnered those: The Little Nell in Aspen, The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, and C Lazy U Ranch in Granby. The four four-diamond restaurants in Denver are Kevin Taylor; Tante Louise (4900 East Colfax Avenue), the only non-hotel eatery on this elite list; the Tuscany at the Loews-Giorgio (4150 East Mississippi Avenue); and the Palace Arms at the Brown Palace Hotel (321 17th Street).
To get five stars, Taylor has to make his namesake world-renowned. But considering how he works overtime to stay in the national spotlight, that could be only a matter of time. -- Wagner