Mouthing Off

Oldies but goodies: The Broker (see review above) isn't Denver's only restaurant in the over-twenty club. Tante Louise (4900 East Colfax) serves incredible French food, and the Normandy French Restaurant (1515 Madison) is pretty good, too. La Cueva (9742 East Colfax Avenue) is one of the best Mexican joints in town, and the chiles rellenos at Tosh's Hacienda (3090 Downing Street) can't be beat. For a casual, fun atmosphere and good, simple fare, try My Brother's Bar (2376 15th Street), the Wazee Supper Club (1600 15th Street) or one of Westword's very first advertisers, Govn'rs Park (672 Logan Street). If you want to feel like you're still in the Seventies, head out--way out--to Emil-Lene's Sirloin House (16000 Smith Road in Aurora); if you want to feel like you're in another century, head to the Palace Arms at the Brown Palace Hotel (321 17th Street). Three Sons (2915 West 44th Avenue) feels like a set for an Italian movie (this is not its original location, however) and does great fried chicken; Fratelli's (1200 East Hampden Avenue, Englewood) still serves some of the best breakfasts going. In an industry where two out of every three ventures fail, these restaurants deserve a hand for staying alive.

Mex and match: Many Denverites first discovered Mexican food--or what used to pass for it in this state, at least--at The Riviera, a converted Quonset hut at 4301 East Kentucky that for decades served up fabulous margaritas and great, heavy, cheesy Tex-Mex fare. As Glendale grew, so did the Riv, but the original dining room retained its classic roadhouse feel.

Last fall the restaurant was bought by the Torres family, which owns Las Delicias, another homegrown success story that dates back to 1976. With that acquisition, the chain now extends to five locations--but the Riv is certainly the weakest link. The lights and music have been turned up, giving the old roadhouse more of a highway-truckstop-at-2-a.m. look; and while the menu has been switched over to the standard Las Delicias offerings, the dishes aren't executed nearly as well here as they are at the other locations. The tacos al carbon came with dull guac rather than avocado slices; even the special salsa--a Las Delicias favorite long before anyone this side of the border had heard of pico de gallo--lacked oomph. And although the Riv's classic crab enchiladas were still offered as a special, they'd have to go a long way to make up for the lackluster bean burrito, hardly a trade up from the Riv's version. We even miss the metal plates, which gave that molten cheese a great sizzle.

Standardization may--or may not--help things. According to Roberto Torres, Las Delicias II, at 50 Del Norte, is expanding into the parking lot, building a new dining room as well as a kitchen that will produce food for all of the restaurants. And there could soon be one fewer: Las Delicias III, at 1530 Blake, may be closing because the rent on the LoDo storefront is too costly, says Torres. (But then again, maybe they'll just cough up $2 million and buy the parking lot next door.) It's business--big business--as usual, though, at the original Las Delicias, 439 E. 19th Avenue, and #4, at 19553 East Mainstreet in Parker, is gaining suburban fans.

Meanwhile, back at the Riv, Torres says that this site, too, may be expanded; although the empty fields that once surrounded the joint are largely occupied, there's still room to grow. And when it does, the original building might be torn down. Torres promises that the old interior will be re-created in any new structure, but that's scant consolation. After all, right now the old interior doesn't feel the same in its original home.

What's cooking: What's Fresh and Wild, a specialty-foods and catering business at 290 South Downing Street, periodically hosts cooking classes. For the whole roster, call 722-6137; highlights include "The Italian Kitchen" on February 2 and "Easy Cooking for Bachelors" on March 16. After class you can grab one of What's Fresh's pre-cooked dinners to take home (call the day before to order); the offerings include such things as roast chicken breasts with mashed potatoes for four, which costs $14.95.

Final eggs-it: The What's Fresh and Wild folks could teach you how to make your own hollandaise for eggs Benedict, but for those who don't have the time, McCormick's Fish House & Bar (1659 Wazee Street) has been one of the few places in town still whipping it up raw-egg fresh. But that's all over now. When this link from a Seattle chain recently renegotiated its contract with its host building, the Oxford Hotel, McCormick's weekday breakfast was axed; the hotel's hired a caterer to take over room service and special events, and to provide breakfasts for visitors as well. While this is bad news for fans of McCormick's excellent morning fare--especially those who love real hollandaise--no one's complaining at the nearby Dixons Downtown Grill (1610 16th Street), which also does excellent breakfasts and should benefit from the Oxford's move. There's still time, though: McCormick's last breakfast is January 30. (And after that, of course, McCormick's will continue serving lunch and dinner, including those great happy-hour specials.)

Brew deal: On January 31 the Wynkoop Brewing Co. (1634 18th Street) hosts its "Beerdrinker of the Year" finals. Denver's original brewpub is flying three national contestants to Denver to vie for the honor, which nets the lucky beerhound his or her weight in Railyard Ale. The fun starts at 2 p.m., with the winner to be announced at 4 p.m. Everyone's invited to cheer on his favorite--and drink beer, of course.



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