Mouthing Off

To the Manor born: Sure, Uncle Sam's (reviewed above) specializes in American food--but is there anything more red-white-and-blue than a really bad-for-you burger? A recent 1 a.m. run to My Brother's Bar (2376 15th Street) to quell a post-booze craving for a cheeseburger--which Brother's satisfied by once again handing me one of the best-tasting and juiciest versions around (and none of that buffalo stuff)--left me with a burger itch. So for a late lunch a few days later, I sped over to Micky Manor (2544 Federal Boulevard) to take on a few Rockybilts. Jerri Sanchez and her husband, Richard, bought the place a year and a half ago from Ronny Bay, who'd owned it since 1985. Bay was the third owner and the one credited with bringing the circa 1930 Manor back to its original glory. (He did so by closing up early to discourage the wrong element, and also by fining customers for swearing, which cleaned things up in a hurry.)

The Sanchezes have kept things pretty much Bay status quo, with several notable exceptions. For one, they've expanded the kitchen hours to offer food until 8 p.m. instead of 7 (they're still closed on Mondays, though). They've added steak tacos ($5.85 for three) to the menu, too, and while they're no threat to the stellar, grease-dripping version served on Wednesdays at the Mexico City Lounge (2115 Larimer Street), they weren't bad, either: soft tortillas spread with chopped steak, fresh lettuce and tomatoes and too little cheese. We could have done without the obligatory side of salsa; although the waitress insisted it was fresh, it had the bland flavor of canned. We decided to see if a small bowl of the Manor's green chile would liven up the tacos, and it certainly did. In fact, the mean green was so good on its own that we drained the dish. The chile is another thing the Sanchezes changed: Richard created the fiery concoction, which sported a clean base, large chunks of tender pork and pieces of fresh jalapeno--the real flavor punch.

The Rockybilts ($1.50 each; $1.75 with cheese), however, remain much the same as when Bay first coaxed the recipe out of the original hamburger stand. I thought the special sauce was more mustardy and less oniony than it had been on my last visit, but then, that visit was two years ago. The little buggers still slid down easily, with a slight slick of beef grease and that great Wonder-bready bun. And another Manor tradition remains: Micky's offers free menudo on Sundays to cure what ails ya.

Another longtime Denver bar, the Skylark Lounge, at 58 Broadway, has a new owner and a new look. Dennis Vandyke bought the 1940s-era building a month ago, and you wouldn't recognize the place. Gone is the skanky flooring, the peeling paint and the weird smell, and in its place is the sort of hangout that would make Tony Bennett beam: black and gold vinyl on the floor, stainless-steel fixtures, red vinyl-covered bar stools, rounded booths and a lot of charm. The jukebox is set up for jazz and big band, and there's Guinness and Harp's on tap. The focus, though, is on martinis, both classic and those newfangled flavored types, and Vandyke says the old clientele (read: scary) has gotten the idea. (And if they haven't, why not fine them for swearing?)

"We want to be more like The Hornet up the street," says Vandyke, who's lived around the corner for the past seventeen years. "I'm a flight attendant, and I'm going to keep doing that, so I'm not doing this for the money. I really wanted to do something to help clean up my neighborhood. I'm hoping the neighbors will start coming in and that someday I'll be able to do some live jazz on the weekends, have a real class joint, you know?"

But in the meantime, moviegoers at the Mayan, which sits a block away, get a little something extra with their ticket purchase: a two-for-one coupon for drinks at the Skylark. The place is open as of this week, but the grand-opening party is scheduled for March 14. Cheers.

The chow must go on: Last week's Mouthing Off listed the 67 metro restaurants that have signed on to participate in next week's Project Angel Heart benefit. But the cause is so good that the message is worth repeating: Eat at any one of those eateries on March 12, and 25 percent of your food bill will go directly to Project Angel Heart, which provides meals for people living with HIV/AIDS. For information, call 576-4952.

For more good food benefiting good works, check out the Rialto Cafe--another concept from Concept Restaurants, the local company headed by Frank Day. The upscale bistro is slated to open in Denver's Tritch Building, at Curtis Street and the 16th Street Mall, on March 17--but first the restaurant will host a few fundraisers. On March 12, a $20-a-head luncheon there will benefit Denver CASA, a nonprofit advocate for the interests of abused and neglected children at Denver Juvenile Court; call 541-2464 to make a reservation. On March 13, the Rialto will host another luncheon--this one $15 a head--with the proceeds going to the Women's Bean Project; call 541-2466 to make a reservation for that benefit.



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