Construction is progressing at Tavern Platt Park, which is now looking at an end-of-summer unveiling as the eighth Tavern in the Tavern Hospitality Group (not including spots at Coors Field and Sports Authority Field). Although it has the Tavern name, the brand-spanking-new restaurant on Old South Pearl will be something of a Tavern 2.0, with a focus on fewer menu items...done better. That’s a lesson the Tavern Hospitality Group learned at Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, the restaurant THG opened in January in Prospect Park, where its small but choice menu quickly attracted big fans.
At the same time it was opening Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, THG took on the job of running Chopper’s Sports Grill at 80 South Madison; last month it bought the property outright, for just over $4 million — but that includes parking, a rarity in Cherry Creek. Over the past few months, THG has been cleaning up the space, keeping the sports-bar feel — and all the televisions — but making some long overdue renovations, including updating the bathrooms. Working on the menu will come next; the food roster also needs an update, with more emphasis on fresh and healthier fare.
But why stop there? Maybe it’s time to give the place a new name, too. Make that an old name: Decades ago, this building held one of Denver’s original fern bars, Rick’s Cafe, where the city’s singles mingled at a bar named after the legendary gathering place in Casablanca. And although Rick’s closed two decades ago and turned into Chopper’s — named after late Nuggets trainer Robert “Chopper” Travaglini — people still remember Rick’s fondly. They remember drinking there. They remember hooking up there. They remember getting engaged there. They remember drinking there again after they got divorced. Rick’s was the stuff of legends: President Jimmy Carter even stopped by to see the solar-operated dishwasher in action.
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And with Choppers Custom Salads getting ready to reopen downtown (its previous owner reportedly had to work out a deal with the previous owner of Chopper’s regarding the name), maybe it’s time for this place to become Rick’s Cafe again. After all, everybody comes to Rick’s. Including President Carter, and here's our May 3, 1978 story on that visit, by managing editor Sandra Widener:
A Peanut Colada, Mr. President?
Do you have a story about Rick's Cafe? Share it in a comment....and watch for more memories of Denver's first fern bars from Lee Goodfriend, co-owner of Racines, here tomorrow.