The Rialto Cafe is one of those rare exceptions to the rule (see page 53) that hotel restaurants are good for nothing but drinking, smoking and screwing. Sure, you can drink here, and smoke (if it's to your taste), and even take a room next door at the Marriott Courtyard if the urge strikes. But first you should grab a quick snack in the comfortable, elegant, dark-wood bar area. If you have more time, the dining room is an ideal place to burn up a two-hour lunch while thinning all the body's vital fluids with gin. The space inspires a certain lazy tranquility -- something about the generous gaps between tables, maybe, or the sweeping stairs at the back that lead up to balcony seating as decadent as anything at Rick's Cafe Americain. In fact, the whole restaurant has an Old-Denver-by-way-of-Old-Hollywood flair: It's named (and to some extent, styled) after the long-gone Rialto Theatre -- "the brightest spot in the world," according to advertisements at the time -- that once operated in the space next to the Rialto Cafe. (It's now occupied by a parking garage.) While chef Phil Reeser is working off a menu that's a little dated -- a toothless, American comfort-food spread with hints of Asian/Southwestern/ European influences -- it's also broad, offering something for everyone. Dishes such as Waldorf salad and beef Oscar (with asparagus, crab and béarnaise) are classically prepared and presented with all their history intact, while smaller plates like baked artichoke dip, peppered ahi and tenderloin carpaccio make for a nice bite between martinis. And don't miss out on the Yukon Gold mashed potatoes drenched in butter and cream. I'm not saying they're better than sex (or drinking and smoking, for that matter), just that this butter/starch/ cream cholesterol triple threat deserves its own place of honor in my usual schedule of debauchery.
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