Mouthing Off

Steaking a claim: This year concert promoter Barry Fey did us a favor and called the Westword office before the annual Best of Denver issue--scheduled to hit the streets June 27--so that when we pick the wrong places for awards, we'll at least do so with full warning.

A few years back, our choice of The Fort for Best Steakhouse had Fey in conniptions. No way, he informed us, could it beat out Morton's. Next year, of course, will be a whole different deal, given the plethora of steak joints that will soon raise cholesterol levels across the city, including Ruth's Chris, Brooks (which opened last week in the Tech Center), Del Frisco's Double Eagle (coming this summer) and the much-anticipated The Palm. But the real winner, Fey says, has yet to come to Denver. It's New York's Peter Luger. "That's the Beatles," he says. "Compared to that, everything else is a pretender."

Other Fey picks: Crown Burger for Best Breakfast (our choice last year, after following up on a Fey tip), and Big Eddy's for the town's Best Barbecue, since Fey's real favorite, Big Chef, shut down years ago. And then there's "Best Shrimp," Fey says. "I make it."

Talk to you next week, Barry.
The winner for best promotion of the week is Le Central, at 112 East Eighth Avenue, which has added a "frequent eaters" program that ties into frequent-flier deals. The airlines' rules vary, but participants get one to five miles for every dollar spent at the "affordable French restaurant," which diners can cashin on as soon as they hit 500 miles. Several major airlines are involved, but not, alas, AirFrance.

El uh-oh: The calls are still coming in from people eager to share their awful experiences at El Rancho, the Western-style steakhouse at exit 252 off I-70. Most unhappy diners told of service problems; several said they wouldn't have been so angry if someone from the restaurant had just apologized for all the difficulties. One guy reported that after he complained, he got a coupon good for a free meal--but when he returned to El Rancho, his dining experience was even worse.

Open-and-shut cases: For every restaurant I hear of opening, I hear of two that close. The original Narayan's Nepal Restaurant in Boulder is back, but in a new location, at 948 Pearl Street; the owners had closed both the original original and a second Narayan's--in a tough spot at 9955 East Hampden--at the end of last year. And in another revolving-door space, the not-even-a-year-old Rocky Mountain Chicken, at 1842 South Parker Road, is gone; in its place (which was once occupied by Siberia) is the Thai Spice Cafe. A greater loss, however, is Olive's Gourmet Pizza, at 8547 East Arapahoe Road in Englewood, where the phone has been disconnected. The roasted-garlic pie at this pizzeria was out of this world.

What's going on: Grgich Hills, one of my all-time favorite domestic wineries--and a must-stop for anyone visiting the Napa Valley--is the featured guest for dinner at the Fourth Story, 2955 East First Avenue at the top of the Tattered Cover, on June 26. The vino produced at Grgich is the result of some very purist winemaking philosophies, and it rules...Right on the heels of the Aspen Food & Wine Classic, fusion chef Don Yamauchi from Chicago, a past Food & Wine "Top Ten Young Chefs in the USA" winner, will work up a five-course dinner at Mel's Bar & Grill, 235 Fillmore Street, on June 25.

--Kyle Wagner


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