Cafe Society

Mouthing Off

What native cuisine has been as bastardized in this country as Chinese food? Mexican, of course.

One Coloradan remembers having her first through tenth margaritas--yes, in the same night--at the Riviera, an outpost at 4301 East Kentucky Avenue that's served up some of southeast Denver's best Mexican food for decades. But the Riv, its crab enchiladas and that wonderful sign out front are no more; after three decades, the place has been acquired by the folks who own Las Delicias.

Las Delicias is a homegrown success story. From a modest, one-room storefront, it's become a chain of five outlets (all serving that same great, gravy-like green chile): the original at 439 East 19th Avenue, which today spills through half a block of rooms; a spot in LoDo; one in north Denver; one in Parker; and now the renamed Riv. The building Las Delicias is taking over has an interesting history. It was an army bunker for Lowry before it was converted to a restaurant; bar manager Mike Cole says he's hoping to jimmy the catch door beneath the bar to find out what's down in the basement.

He won't find the carcass of Adolf Scarf, the infamous piranha who lived in a tank on the Riv's bar until his untimely death five years ago. Since then, the fish has been on ice in the restaurant's walk-in; Cole's trying to find a taxidermist to do right by Adolf so he can be hung on the wall. A second Adolf Scarf now resides in the tank, along with two friends Cole just added. One is named Pancho Villa, and although the other has yet to be christened, Cole thinks they might call him "Fatty."

Cole's hoping to have Adolf Scarf Sr. ready for the official grand opening of the new Las Delicias this month. In the meantime, the restaurant's still in transition, with a chef from another location training the Riv's kitchen on how to cook the Las Delicias menu. "We're not all the way up to speed yet," says Cole, who moved here from San Antonio. "I'd say another week or two and we'll be there."

Meanwhile, Wahoo's Fish Taco, which serves healthy versions of the Baja specialty, has added a second location, at 9617 East County Line Road in Englewood, in the Centennial Pro-menade center at Park Meadows. I recently stopped by the original, at 1521 Blake Street, and was delighted with my order of two well-grilled mahi-mahi tacos ($4.65)--enough food to split for a light lunch, since the tacos came with rice and black beans. Wahoo's also made a great margarita ($3.75) with apple juice. Pretty cool.

Not so cool is the fact that Aubergine Cafe recently got stiffed by Bon Appetit. Owner Sean Kelly had received word that he would be featured in the magazine's November "Western Insider" section--included only in those copies distributed in the West--and Bon Appetit even sent him the writeup. But when Kelly picked up a Thanksgiving issue at his local supermarket, it didn't include the "Western Insider" section. Neither did my subscription copy. The supplement's writer, Siobhan Burns, says that a bunch of the magazines distributed in the region were missing the section.

Denver denied, once again.