In the cyclical, cutthroat restaurant world, eateries both stellar and subpar come and go for reasons that seem almost entirely unrelated to the food served. The timeworn phrase "location, location, location" seems to hold at least a grain of truth as critical favorites shut their doors while less deserving establishments keep dining rooms packed. Sometimes success is a matter of a combination of location and concept; if an idea is new or challenging, a trendy neighborhood may be the best bet, while well-tested concepts may find more success in traditionally tough spots. Whatever the case, there are plenty of vacancies around town for restaurateurs to find their niche. Here are eleven of the top addresses that went dark last year but could soon be catering to new crowds.
1. 2229 Blake Street
Former tenant: Zi South
Zi South was opened four years ago by the same family that operates the South Restaurant in Englewood. It closed last fall, leaving a prime location across the street from Coors Field. The restaurant has space for 200 guests (including patio seating) and should be the perfect spot for anyone looking to cater to ballpark crowds and tourists while weathering the ups and downs of seasonal business.
2. 1745 Wazee Street
Former tenant: Sullivan's Steakhouse
Eight months have passed since Sullivan's Steakhouse, operated by the Del Frisco's group, served its last steak — and the for-lease sign is still up. While the corner space is just off the most heavily trafficked stretches of LoDo, the new Dairy Block development (originally dubbed Z Block) across the street, which will feature a new hotel and plenty of commercial space, should give added cachet to the block and make this address more attractive to restaurateurs looking to the future.
3. 1527 Wazee Street
Previous tenant: Gatsby's
The last two bars to occupy this space, Gatsby's and the Wine Loft before it, didn't last long, but this side of LoDo is crawling with nightlife on the weekends, so the right concept has a built-in clientele — if the idea is sound. The interior lacks an oven hood and grease trap, so food service would have to be creative, but similar models like Bar Fausto, which dishes up phenomenal Italian finger food with minimal equipment, are doing well in other neighborhoods. Maybe all that's needed is someone looking beyond the latest trend to bring something classic and timeless to this stretch of Wazee.
4. 609 Grant Street
Previous tenant: Moontower Tacos
Fans of the overstuffed Texas tacos served by Moontower were shocked when the fast-casual eatery closed without notice in September. The shopping center's prime location on Sixth Avenue near Speer Boulevard — and within walking distance of densely populated residential neighborhoods — should make this a desirable space for other Denver concepts looking to expand. And that's what Sanborn and Company, the group handling the lease, expects to happen. Although a specific name hasn't been given, the property is currently under contract with the owner of two other Denver eateries.
5. 1350 Grant Street
Previous tenant: Panera Bread
Capitol Hill denizens aren't exactly known for their loyalty to corporate concepts, so it wasn't surprising to see Panera vacate the neighborhood. There's already a Tokyo Joe's in the ground-floor retail space of the Residences at Capitol Heights, so another national chain probably isn't wanted. In keeping with the neighborhood vibe, what's needed is something with independent, artistic spirit and a sense of originality. Just down the street, that model has shown success: It's where the Sub-Culture sandwich shop moved in to fill the void left by an underperforming Chipotle.
6. 3457 South Broadway
Previous tenant: El Tepehuan
This is the only available space on our list that's outside Denver city limits. El Tepehuan closed in November with plans to reopen this spring just down the block (at 3495 South Broadway), leaving a vacancy that will likely need a little elbow grease to bring it up to modern standards (the Mexican restaurant had been in the same spot since 1978). Swanson Properties Limited says that a lease has yet to be signed. While Old Town Englewood isn't on every hipster's list of prime dining destinations, the area is ripe for a renaissance, with a handful of other longtime businesses recently vacating, leaving several lease-able options on the block.
7. 3472 West 32nd Avenue
Previous tenant: Bang
We still miss the meatloaf, herbed fries and homey desserts that made Bang! such a sweet neighborhood spot for nearly twenty years in West Highland. While filling such iconic shoes will be difficult, the address itself couldn't be better for the right buyer, who would need to consider the odd configuration of the restaurant, with the kitchen in the front and the dining room entrance around back. But that was one of the things that made Bang! so fun to visit and made it such a well-known "secret."
8. 1336 17th Avenue
Previous tenant: The BSide
The row of conjoined cottages that were once home to an outpost of Pasquini's Pizzeria and then a second Serioz Pizzeria (the first still slings pie in Lowry) became the BSide for just over a year before closing last August. The space is a little awkward in its layout, but the Uptown location on 17th Avenue has proven to be a stable breeding ground for well-respected restaurants. A new coat of paint to cover the current suburban beige — along with the right restaurant concept, of course — could do wonders.
9. 742 South Broadway
Previous tenant: Griff's Hamburgers
Nostalgia being what it is, we miss Griff's now more than we ever craved it when it was open. Still, there's something alluring about an old-school burger joint with a tin roof and fiberglass seating. In a more just world, a restaurateur with deep pockets would swoop in and restore this former burger haven to its retro glory, but we know that's a fantasy we'll have to live without. The more likely outcome will be the wrecking ball — and a new block of Denver fugly apartments capitalizing on the proximity to the Broadway light-rail station.
10. 2005 West 33rd Avenue
Previous tenant: Rosa Linda's Mexican Cafe
The Aguirre family operated Rosa Linda's Mexican Cafe for more than thirty years before retiring and closing up shop last fall. But a restaurant space this big and in such a trendy neighborhood can't sit vacant for long. The Aguirres own the building, so a new tenant would have them as landlords — as is the case with Jezebel's Southern Bistro & Bar, which occupies the corner square footage in the same building. We're hoping that whoever moves in will keep the potted cacti in the front window — and the dedication to the neighborhood that made Rosa Linda's a beloved destination for so long.
11. 1890 Wynkoop Street
It's not hard to believe that Canadian steak chain The Keg managed to make it for more than a dozen years at the corner of 19th and Wynkoop streets; the tourist and baseball crowds have buoyed many a mediocre eatery to middling success in the area over the years. What's hard to believe is that the restaurant hasn't been snatched up by another national chain yet, which is what we're betting will eventually move in. And even if we're wrong, no doubt whoever moves in will spill plenty of beer, quenching the thirst of downtown's summer throngs.
And in case you're wondering, there are a few other prime spots that have already been claimed, even if the names of the new establishments have yet to be revealed. The former homes of Tom's Home Cookin' (800 East 26th Avenue), Tennyson Street Barbecue (3961 Tennyson Street in Berkeley), Lower48 Kitchen (2020 Lawrence Street) and Glaze (1160 Madison Street in Congress park) are all showing signs of activity.