Fast on the heels of a name change at what had been Mel's Bar and Grill -- the restaurant at 235 Fillmore Street is now Mel's Restaurant and Bar -- came the announcement that executive chef Goose Sorensen is moving on.
Former sous chef Ben Davison, who'd moved to Mel's after a stint at Michael's of Cherry Creek (that space at 2710 East Third Avenue is now Déjà-Vu), is in charge of the kitchen. And that means a new menu, although Mel's focus continues to be New American takes on Mediterranean fare, with a few Asian items thrown in for fusion fun.
Meanwhile, Sorensen, who had been the chef at the now-defunct Starfish, another Mel and Janie Master production (its space at 300 Fillmore Street is now home to Campo di Fiori), had been planning to move to New York until the terrorist attack. He now thinks San Francisco will be his next stop.
Tyler Wiard, another Mel's veteran, just landed in Morro Bay, California (that's on the central coast, twelve miles west of San Luis Obispo), as chef/partner at a restaurant called Windows on the Water, a name he hopes to change. (And better sooner than later, considering the fate of Windows on the World, which had topped the World Trade Center.) Although Wiard says he would never have picked this location for his next project -- it was one of those friend-of-a-friend connections -- the restaurant presented an opportunity to expand on his eclectic modern-American style. "You would not believe the farmers' market here, which is a mile long -- and the wine industry is so incredible," he says. "It's like a chef's dream."
Although Wiard says he'd like to return to Denver, two things might prevent him from doing so: the economy, which he thinks is no longer conducive to opening a high-end eatery, and the possibility that Denver may one day be a terrorist target. "I don't want to sound paranoid or anything, but right now I'd rather live somewhere more obscure, you know?" he says.
Out of Habit: In my review this week, I raved about the lunch buffet at Namasté. But all-you-can-eat deals may be falling out of favor, if the recent closing of the remaining Healthy Habits locations is any indication. The small chain had shut down its Boulder site (4760 Baseline Road) last year, and now the eateries at 875 South Colorado Boulevard, 7418 South University Boulevard in Littleton and 14195 West Colfax Avenue in Golden are gone, too.
Finding any spread worthy of the Best Salad Bar award in our annual Best of Denver issue has become increasingly tough over the last few years. Even Wendy's, arguably the chain that put salad bars on the map, dropped them a few years ago because, as owner Dave Thomas announced at the time, "Offering fresh food on an all-you-can-eat basis has become too labor-intensive and cost-ineffective." I'd submit that we've also begun to move away from craving excessive amounts of low-grade food for cheap and toward smaller amounts of quality food for which we're willing to pay a fair price.
Now, if we could just start working on the ludicrous reality of paying $12.95 for a plate of mediocre food big enough to feed three people -- not that any of the three want to eat it...
Right on 'cue: The calls and e-mails about my September 13 Bite item regarding Brothers BBQ have been pouring in faster than a runny Kansas City-style sauce. It seems that more than a few folks had noticed the high grime factor at the newer spot (568 Washington Street), and several people mentioned that the original location at 6499 Leetsdale Drive wasn't exactly clean, either. "I can't figure out how Brothers passes city inspections," wrote Rich Clarkson, a note that prompted me to check on the eateries' health-department ratings. Although there's no inspection listed for the Washington Street location, the May 28, 2001, inspection of the Leetsdale site found only two violations out of a possible 34: personnel in need of training on food safety and food not stored below 41 degrees. (Check out the report -- or any others on Denver restaurants -- by logging on to denvergov.org.) And cleanliness wasn't my correspondents' only concern. "The Washington Street location has gotten so slow that I only go there if I can call ahead, and even then, the food is rarely ready," wrote Carl Goodwin.
Early this month, owners Chris and Nick O'Sullivan had pledged to clean up their act. So after getting off a ten-day river trip, one of my first stops was at the Washington Street Brothers. Things were looking pretty tidy there, and one of the kitchen employees was even out wiping down the tables. The service was definitely speedier, too. I had a few issues with my to-go order: I'd asked for a quart of Brothers' tangy sauce (which goes so well with the pulled pork) but accidentally got the sweeter version, and I didn't get any of the little sampler cups of sauce that normally come with the $16.95 dinner deal that includes a half-pound of meat, two sides and four buns. But I'd been so 'cue-deprived that I didn't care.
Normally a big fan of Brothers, I'll keep my stomach on it.
My review of T-Wa Oriental Cuisine, "Disoriented," in that same September 13 issue prompted fans of the old T-Wa Inn to weigh in with their opinions on the new ownership and menu of the restaurant at 555 South Federal Boulevard. "I had been going to T-Wa for sixteen years," wrote Brandy Stewart. "We went for my traditional birthday dinner this year, and I will never go back again." Other readers wrote to corroborate the harried service and lackluster meals I'd experienced, and several even asked when former owner Tom Lam, who was supposed to be heading for his native Vietnam to clear his head, would be returning.
I don't know, but I'll be waiting for it, too.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Denver dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.