Chefs are Denver's rock stars, and lower downtown is one hell of a stage. Last night I was lucky enough to moderate a panel of four LoDo chefs -- Jen Jasinski, Matt Selby, Tom Coohill and Max MacKissock -- who dished out restaurant tidbits (both literal and figurative) before an appreciative crowd of 200-plus lower downtown residents.
Back in 1977, when Westword started out in a ramshackle office at 1439 Market Street, there were only a handful of residents in lower downtown -- an area that had yet to be nicknamed LoDo -- and not many more restaurants. Today, of course, LoDo is one of Denver's hottest restaurant neighborhoods.
In Larimer Square, where Josephina's and the Magic Pan were the culinary high points three decades ago, Jasinski now has three restaurants: Rioja, Euclid Hall and Bistro Vendome. Selby and Vesta Dipping Grill have been going strong for fifteen years in an area that was once a no man's land (unless that man was a bum).
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When Tom Coohill moved here from Atlanta and decided he wanted to have his own place again, LoDo was the logical choice; Coohills opened in November. And when Squeaky Bean left Highland (that other hot restaurant neighborhood), the founders knew that LoDo was the only place to go; the new Squeaky Bean will open in June at the Saddlery Building at 15th and Wynkoop streets, the last of the old warehouses to be renovated and the site of last night's gathering -- where MacKissock will have a real kitchen.