When they reign, it pours: Even before the calls started flooding in from readers regarding this year's Best of Denver issue, there'd been some fallout in the city's shaky restaurant scene. Checking on picks just days before publication, we learned that the House of Bunbuster, in line for a "Best Surprise Ribbing," had recently closed--information helpfully imparted by a telephone operator who happened to live just a block from its shuttered East Colfax location. And Mead St. Station, tapped for "Best Blueberry Pie," was recently sold--a development that has left the neighborhood gathering spot largely unchanged except that the pastry chef has departed.
As to the awards that made it into print, the most hotly contested selection--so far--isn't one of the usual categories like hamburger, steak and Italian restaurant, but the seemingly innocuous "Best Cheap Grand Latte" (Starbucks, on the second floor of the Westin Hotel Tabor Center). Wake up and smell the coffee, people: This place won an award for its price--a good 50 cents lower than at other Starbucks outlets. (Please note: It was not named "Best Latte.") If you don't like Starbucks, don't go there. If you like Starbucks and want to save some cash, feel free.
The second most hotly disputed item was "Best Bagel," for which the Oscar went to Moe's Broadway Bagels. Six different bagel shops were named by callers as being better than Moe's, which I think suggests we have too many bagelries in these parts.
Some readers thought sheer numbers should determine winners. "Why didn't you give 'Best Wine Selection' to Flagstaff House or Tante Louise?" one guy asked. "They have the biggest cellars, you know." Well, it's true that both have more than 600 bottles in their collections, several hundred more than winner Today's Gourmet/Highlands Garden Cafe; however, they're also "special occasion" restaurants. Wine drinkers are growing in ranks, and we think they're looking for good choices at restaurants where they can eat more frequently. And with its reasonable prices and daily-changing menu of fabulous food, Today's Gourmet certainly qualifies. (On the flip side, I was surprised to find Enoteca Lodo as the readers' choice winner in the "Best Wine List--Price" category. The wine bar's selection is fine, but the prices are way up there.)
Other callers had bones to pick with specific recipes--for example, one suggested I have my tastebuds re-examined for the award to Bella Ristorante for "Best Caesar Salad," which he labeled as "Kraft mayonnaise."
"Too much catsup" was the criticism of "Best Barbecued Ribs" at Sam Taylor's Bar-B-Q at the Links, made by Barry Fey in his annual post-Best of Denver call. Otherwise, though, the concert promoter said he couldn't even lodge his standard complaints, because our choices were too obscure. "I don't know what these restaurants are," he protested. "It's like I'm reading the Best of Duluth."
And, finally, a woman called to leave this charming message: "You're really f---ing sick, you know. In your Best Of thing, you talk about finding a rich old man at Mel's Bar and Grill, and you mention Yul Brynner. He's dead, you know, you sicko." Hey, stop by Mel's bar around last call some night, and you might find yourself checking a few pulses.
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