Instead of bringing more chain steakhouses to Denver, why don't we concentrate on wooing a few more original chefs to help put us on the culinary map? Once again, we've been snubbed by a food magazine--this time the October Gourmet, which completely deleted Denver from competition in its second annual Restaurant Issue, for which readers vote on "America's Top Tables."
Last year we were included, and as a result, Mel's Bar & Grill, Papillon, Barolo Grill, Aubergine Cafe, Sushi Den, Highland's Garden Cafe, 240 Union and Mediterranean Health Cafe got national exposure.
But this year, according to Gourmet assistant managing editor Hobby McKenney, the magazine "tried to pick places to poll where we had a good concentration of readers." She points out that "the ski area restaurants are featured in a separate, full travel feature" in the same issue, but I say: Who cares? "Well, people from the rest of the country who travel there," McKenney responds, adding, "Some travelers may pass through Denver, but they don't necessarily eat there. It's nothing against Denver, but we thought more of our subscribers would want to know about places to eat in Aspen, Telluride, Vail and Steamboat Springs."
And Denver's just not one of Gourmet's "big subscriber bases."
But there's still a lot cooking on the local restaurant scene. One of the better places to open in the last year, Pinots, at 410 East Seventh Avenue, fooled us for a while, but now we know for sure they're not going to reopen. Instead the space has been sold to Jason and Vanessa Helfrich--he's a former manager for Old Chicago, she managed Washington Park Grill--who've renamed it JV's The Cork. Jason says the concept is "casual American bistro, with a hundred kinds of wine, an upscale deli during the day, and a grill at night." He adds that they're in the process of revamping the space to "make it look like a bar--similar in style, but not food, to Wash Park Grill." The couple hopes to open their place the first week of November.
Meanwhile, Papa's Pizza, at 540 East Alameda Avenue, is back to its old self, tossing some of the best 'za in town (the pies had gone downhill for a while there); the owners also have opened another restaurant, 32nd Ave. Grill, at 2257 West 32nd Avenue in what was El Chalan. In keeping with the neighborhood's needs, the Grill offers not Papa's pizzas but Peruvian and Mexican foods, just as its predecessor did. Unfortunately, Papa's ads are a little misleading, since they read, "Check out our 2nd location," which sounds like it's a second Papa's. But pizzas are offered only occasionally at the 32nd Avenue outpost, and then only as specials.
The nearby Sabor Latino, at 3464 West 32nd Avenue, has long been known for its South American fare. Now folks in the DU area can savor those great Colombian tamales at Sabor Latino Express, 2337 East Evans Avenue. And "elegant Mexican dining" is being promised by Minillas Restaurante, which just opened at 7000 West 38th Avenue. I'll settle for "authentic Mexican dining."
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There's no denying the genuinely great coffee at St. Mark's Coffeehouse, at 1416 Market Street; the owners are now pouring it on at a second St. Mark's, at 2019 East 17th Avenue. For something stronger, head over to Enoteca Lodo, 1730 Wynkoop, which is now under new ownership: the same people who have Trios in Boulder. They're in the process of enlarging the kitchen, changing the front entrance and moving the space where bands play (live jazz and blues, free Tuesday through Saturday); when the physical changes are close to completion they'll expand the menu, adding more hors d'oeuvre and items that can be paired with wines and port. Good news: They've already changed the wine list a bit and lowered a few prices, and general manager Kurt Blackwell says he's hoping to start a Monday night wine tasting sometime soon.
The rumor that Cavaleri's, whose former spot at 1150 South Galena has become a sports bar called Back Street Tavern, is moving in next to Vesta Dipping Grill, at 1822 Blake Street, turns out to be false, thank heavens. "They were going to, but they changed their minds," says an employee. Just what LoDo needed: more Italian food.
And, finally, one rumor that won't die is that Chives American Bistro, at 1120 East Sixth Avenue--now run by the same people who own The Moondance, at 1626 Market Street--is on its last legs. "The IRS has been at the door," one employee says. "I don't think it'll be long." I heard that two months ago, too, and part-owner Mark Chaffee said then that it was a lie. We'll see.