The lunch bunch: Kate's at 35th Avenue (see review above) offers a nice, cozy lunchtime repast -- but sometimes nothing will do but a fat pastrami sandwich on rye, served in a noisy, crowded deli evocative of New York City. In which case, run, don't walk, to Deli Tech (8101 East Belleview Avenue), which opened in January in the Denver Tech Center's Marina Landing shopping center.
The owners are former New Yorkers Fred Anzman and his wife, Barbara Simon-Anzman, and they know from corned beef -- which, like most of their meats and breads, is flown in directly from NYC's legendary Carnegie Deli. But the best thing at Deli Tech is the pastrami; it comes four inches thick on a sandwich, warm, with its juicy fat soaking into the thinly sliced rye bread. (Make sure you ask for it New York style, so you don't wind up with the lean, which really isn't pastrami, now, is it?) The deli's employees are Yankees fans, and the atmosphere is very New York art deco, all black and clear shapes; the place looks like one of those acrylic pins of the skyline. It's also very clean, completely unlike the dingy Carnegie, which features walls full of cracking black-and-white celeb photos and banged-up wooden tables.
For the past eighteen years, Anzman has owned the Breakfast Inn, Dinner Too (6135 East Evans Avenue) -- a longtime favorite of mine for its piled-high peach pancakes and all-around good eats -- and opening this deli has been a dream of his for nearly as long. In addition to putting together the most authentic New York deli sandwich around, Deli Tech also offers amazing latkes, crispy on the outside and steaming on the inside, served with homemade applesauce and sour cream, and braised, meat-falling-off-the-bones short ribs that would make your bubbe weep. Other Old World deli favorites are here, too: stuffed cabbage, whitefish, egg creams, New York cheesecake, black-and-white cookies (soooo soft and cakelike), chicken soup with matzoh balls, and chopped liver.
You want a precious little mixed-greens salad with that? Fuhgedaboudit!
Open-and-shut cases: Big Bowl opened February 25 at the Tabor Center (1147 16th Street), which was cutting-edge when it opened two decades ago but is now undergoing a major renovation. I ate at the Big Bowl on Rush Street in Chicago (the eatery is another concept from the Lettuce Entertain You company, which is headquartered there) and must confess that I liked the place, chain effort or not. But then again, I've rarely met a bowl of noodles I didn't like. And the much-loved breakfast place Sunrise Sunset (1424 South Wadsworth Boulevard, Lakewood) recently opened a second location in the space that used to be another well-liked breakfast place, The Lariat (7400 West 38th Avenue, Wheat Ridge). So we lost one popular joint but gained another outlet for Sunrise Sunset's gooey, pecan-studded cinnamon rolls.
Although the public opening of the Samba Room (1460 Larimer) has been postponed, the Cuban eatery will still open this spring in the Larimer Square space previously occupied by Williams-Sonoma. So you have to wonder where Ted Turner hopes to find a Square location for his Montana Grill, one of five buffalo-oriented eateries he reportedly has planned for the Denver area. (No one at Turner's PR company is talking.) One possibility is the spot that was the Champion Brewing Co., at 1442 Larimer Street. Rumor has it that the Capital Grille, another chain steakhouse, has been looking at that address, but at the moment there's nothing else available along Larimer Square.
Changes are in the works for the last surviving Harvest Restaurant and Bakery (430 South Colorado Boulevard). Owner Vasil "Bill" Allabashi, who also owns Vasil's Euro Grille (7340 South Clinton, Englewood), has been talking with the management of the nearby Staybridge Suites (4220 East Virginia Avenue) about moving the Harvest across the street and next to the hotel, which both businesses would like to do this spring in order for the eatery to be open by fall. The Harvest's lease is up soon, but Allabashi has to come up with a way to avoid a sticky parking problem and present his plans to the City of Glendale before he can even think of applying for a building permit. The move would give the Harvest more space, in which Allabashi could offer more of a Vasil's-type operation, and tie it to a thriving hotel -- not a bad idea. In the meantime, the Harvest keeps serving up healthy fare in the same Colorado Boulevard location.
Wondering what a restaurant costs these days? The 7,000-square-foot Margarita Bay Club (1301 South Pearl Street), which was once the wonderful, divey Oak Alley, has closed and is listed on the market for $169,000, with a $6,000-a-month lease. That's a lot of pastrami for that T-Rexed neighborhood, considering that the LoDo-located Giggling Grizzly (1320 20th Street), which sold last September to Steve Johnson and Joel Luther, had been listed for about $10,000 more up front and another $1,000 or so a month. It was money well spent, though. Johnson and Luther, who work for EquityVest, a parent company that owns several bars across the country, have cleaned the place up a lot -- no more dirt lurking beneath the booths -- and they are about to release a new menu of fun bar food.
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Just in time for baseball season. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack.
The winner and still the chomp: The first Steel Chef challenge -- a variation on the Food Channel's Iron Chef -- brought together four of Denver's top toques Saturday night for some heated competition at the Temple Events Center, site of the sixth annual Westword Artopia event. In very close first rounds, during which the chefs had thirty minutes to concoct dishes using a stash of foodstuffs and a surprise protein (lobster!), Sean Yontz of Tamayo (1400 Larimer Street) beat Goose Sorensen of Solera (5410 East Colfax Avenue), while Frank Bonnano of Mizuna (225 East Seventh Avenue) edged out Matt Selby of Vesta Dipping Grill (1822 Blake Street). In the finals -- for which venison was the surprise meat item -- Yontz came out the winner, with an unbelievable pairing of venison and fois gras. Thanks to all (including the good folks of Johnson & Wales University and emcee Bill St. John, who will leave Denver and his slot as Denver Post restaurant critic for Chicago late this spring) -- and let the good tines roll.
Eat your heart out: My favorite day for eating out is the annual Dining Out for Life, when some foodie friends and I try to see how many restaurants we can get to in twelve hours. This year's date is Thursday, March 14; about 200 restaurants will contribute 25 percent of their food sales that day to Project Angel Heart, the nonprofit that delivers meals to people with HIV/ AIDS. For the list of participating restaurants, go to projectangelheart.org.