Film and TV

Law and Order Me a Burger

Among minor works of late-twentieth-century art, something called the CityGrilleburger occupies a special place in our heart--and not just because of its fat count. A luscious beef patty of heroic proportion, it arrives cloaked in melted Swiss cheese, crisp bacon and--the coup de grace--a dollop of garlicky Caesar dressing. It's parenthesized by one of the finest rolls in burgerdom, straight from the oven of a French bakery and lightly toasted. Don't forget a spoonful of sweet pickle relish. And as long as you're challenging the actuarial tables, wave off the "mixed greens" in favor of a mountain of thin, crispy French fries.

You can always cut through the bad cholesterol with a glass or two of Cabernet and go home happy.

The co-authors of this $6.25 masterpiece are CityGrille owner Rich Salturelli, who in another life dispensed jazz and cocktails at the late, lamented Bay Wolf in Cherry Creek, and David Minty, formerly executive chef at both the Beacon Grill and Gourmet Alternative Catering. That they've both come to ground on Capitol Hill is good news for old friends--and for every inhabitant of that big, gold-domed building two blocks to the west.

Since last November, CityGrille has occupied the space formerly known as J. Beatty's, and it draws much the same crowd. Along with your chicken-fried-steak po' boy (enthusiastically recommended) or your $6.50 plate of liver and onions (watch out: 1958 will be back before you know it), you also get a heaping portion of Capitol business. And free parking in the lot out back after 3 p.m.

Among the lunchtime regulars are chatty lobbyists with cell phones growing out of their heads, Colorado lawmakers from near and far (the ones from far wear string ties and rodeo buckles), a sprinkle of newspaper folk with soup stains on their lapels, and the usual assortment of state-raised bureaucrats, secretaries and aides. Without the exertions of CityGrille's patrons, Colorado government might grind happily to a halt, but that's another story. The talk in here--and there's lots of it--ranges from burning public-policy issues to the Rockies' latest on-field gaffes to the price of computers in Hong Kong. If the walls had ears (and who's to say they don't?), they would likely be privy to a major political transaction every five minutes or so.

The three-martini lunch may be a thing of the past, but we've witnessed some two-point-fives in the dimly lit, Naugahyde-padded recesses of the place.

Despite the superfluous final vowel in its fashionably run-on name, its $5 Irish draft beers and its power-mongering clientele, the CityGrille is a joint at heart. It's a high-end joint, to be sure. But the easy talk at the teeming round bar, the crisply efficient service, the back-slapping camaraderie in the cozy dining room--even the nudie shots in the men's room--keep the place firmly in our purview. So does the solid saloon fare: While the hamburger rules supreme, we also advise tucking into the $7.95 steak burrito or the piled-high Reuben sandwich. Not so the weary, boil-toughened version of "fisherman's seafood stew," however. Indulge that urge the next time you're in San Francisco.

Salturelli is talking about installing a baby grand in a corner of the bar, maybe even decorating it with a songbird. That's fine, but for now, this is strictly a busy lunch-and-cocktail-hour spot that closes early and locks the doors altogether (except for private parties) on weekends. Business is likely to drop off when the legislature concludes its labors this week. Fine: That will mean less bar-room filibuster and more CityGrilleburgers for the rest of us.

CityGrille, 321 East Colfax Avenue, 303-861-0726. Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Denver is full great joints--neighborhood spots that will never rate a Zagat mention but always add flavor to a city. We'll be serving up looks at some of the town's true joints on a semi-regular basis; if you have suggestions for places we should visit, e-mail us at [email protected].