Cafe Society

Mouthing Off

Bone of contention: Sam Taylor, former proprietor of Sam Taylor's Bar-B-Q at City Park and maker of the best ribs in Denver, came under fire this past year for alleged non-payment of commissions to the city through the restaurant--an amount Denver auditor Don Mares tallies at $50,000. Taylor claims it was "all political," but he wound up negotiating the sum down to $38,536 and paid it off this past June, according to Romaine Pacheco, director of public relations for the auditor's office.

"There was a lot of shuffling going on," says Pacheco. "There was a series of alleged break-ins at the restaurant after we started noticing discrepancies. But the bottom line is that he was not maintaining accurate records, and he was in violation of his contract." Pacheco adds that Mares recommended Taylor be fired; instead, Taylor declined to bid again after his ten-year City Park concessionaire contract expired in December. Soon after, he and his wife, Jennifer, opened a new restaurant under the same name at 435 South Cherry Street.

The ribs were really smoking at Caldonia's Roadside Barbecue and Hiway Tavern, 2252 South Parker Road in Aurora, when a fire broke out two weeks ago. The flames were contained to the back of the restaurant, and no one was hurt except the insurance company; damages are estimated to be close to $100,000. Caldonia's hopes to reopen in mid-February.

You could sense smoke coming out of the ears of Mark G. Berzins, "managing member" for the Firehouse Bar and Grill, 1525 Blake Street, and the new Spot Bar and Grill, 98 South Pennsylvania Avenue, simply by reading his letter to the editor in last week's Rocky Mountain News. The hot-under-the-collar Berzins was irked that the News had tagged his new venture as a "tavern" in a headline. Although the Spot had received some complaints over its liquor license because it sits close to a school, for the most part the neighborhood was okay with the eatery. In his letter, though, Berzins wanted to make it clear that "Spot is a restaurant, not a bar, and certainly not a tavern...Spot is essentially a neighborhood grill. It is not, nor will it ever be, a 'tavern.'"

Well, according to Webster's New World Dictionary, a "tavern" is a "place where liquors, beer, etc. are sold to be drunk on the premises; saloon; bar." Just because your place serves food doesn't mean people aren't going to come in and sit at the bar and drink--that's what you ask for when you put "bar" in your name.

The Bent Noodle, 3055 South Parker Road in Aurora, has a smokin' deal through the end of January: two "dine for $9.99," with the package including salad, bread and any two entrees. Chez Michelle, the restaurant-within-a-restaurant at the Normandy, 1515 Madison, now offers lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; the $7.75 prix fixe buys you soup or salad, a choice of three entrees and coffee or tea--and they guarantee to get diners in a hurry fed and out the door in 45 minutes. Still hot: City Spirit Cafe, at 1434 Blake Street, which now boasts a new menu--still packed with healthy items--with most full meals coming in at under $7.