Mouthing Off

Out with the old, in with the new: Is the restaurant scene hopping, or what? In just one week in December, six new restaurants opened. (A seventh, Del Frisco, a southeast Denver steak place, postponed its debut scheduled for that same week until January.) The newcomers: Cucina Cucina, Bella Ristorante (an offshoot of the LoDo spot) and P.F. Chang (a link in an upscale, California-based Chinese chain)--all three in the Park Meadows area; and Maverick's Mesquite Grill & Sports Bar, Pinots and Cafe Communique.

The last features a concept that's been brewing for some time. We've had the coffeehouses that display art, serve sandwiches and provide Internet access; restaurants that show movies; and coffeehouses and restaurants that feature live music. Now comes Cafe Communique, in a big, airy space at 99 West Ninth Avenue in the Golden Triangle, which bills itself as a "restaurant/cultural center." In addition to offering a full-service kitchen, the cybercafe serves up espresso drinks, shows art and independent short films, and books live music. Hey, if the food's any good and they throw in a blanket, I'll never go home.

Several blocks away, Pinots has taken over the home of TransAlpin, at 410 East Seventh Avenue (for a very brief time last year, the space was inexplicably transformed into Fins). Owned by J Skinner (the original manager of Barolo Grill) and his wife, Michele (former Rattlesnake Grille manager), Pinots features chef Theodore Roe (formerly of Napa Valley's Mustards) and a menu filled with some appealing-sounding dishes (the grilled Colorado rabbit with red-pepper orzo and saffron-fennel stew caught my eye, especially since I have a problem with rabbits in my garden). Actually, the entire Pinots menu is eclectic and filled with interesting ingredients, a philosophy that's always been followed at Greens, 1469 South Pearl Street. Now Greens is called Hugh's New American Grill, after owner Hugh O'Neill. O'Neill had been the chef for Greens--and a partner with co-owners Claire and Michael Nolting--until he bought the place past year. The menu still changes constantly and still involves innovative dishes, though.

Changing the way you shop for food is Wild Oats, which hopes to make hopping on the Internet as commonplace as picking up a loaf of whole-grain bread. It's opened its first Cyber Cafe at the 2584 Baseline Road location in Boulder, with more planned. The computers are set up next to the beverage counter, and access is free with a cup of joe.

Another kind of cup is now available at Rock Bottom Brewery, which just celebrated its fifth anniversary. Customers can "rent" a personalized beer stein and join the Mug Club, which entitles the bearer to 22 ounces of beer at 16-ounce prices. The cost is $30 for a "premiere" membership, which involves club parties and discounts, but $15 will net just the mug and the 22-ounce deal. And happy first anniversary to Cosmo's Dog Biscuit Bakery, at 1224 East Sixth Avenue. In addition to the handmade, preservative-free, horse-parts-free dog biscuits Cosmo's has been making for a year, it now features Mutt Cakes for dogs celebrating birthdays and promotions.



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