What's Good for the Goose

While restaurants across the metro area were swamped by Denver Restaurant Week, I was wrapping up my Denver Restaurant Year, debating a few final picks for the very best eating in this town -- everything from hot dogs and cheeseburgers to cassoulet and loup de mer -- at restaurants big and small. The complete list will be revealed in the upcoming Best of Denver 2007, and it's a good list, with a lot of first-timers and cool discoveries. For example, who would have thought that some of the best sandwiches in the city (and, arguably, the world) are made in a gas station? To find out the identity of that spot and all the other winners, grab a copy on March 29.

Taking a break from all that heavy Best Of lifting, I stopped by Solera (5410 East Colfax Avenue) on the first warm day since the snowstorms. Drinking wine on the patio was a kick -- seeing all the people out on the street, the customers and friends passing through -- but while I was sitting there, it occurred to me that I hadn't heard much from chef/owner Goose Sorensen lately. And this made me nervous, because if there's one thing that's been constant at Solera over the past three or four years, it's change -- not always for the better, not always for the worse. So I waited until Denver Restaurant Week was over (Solera had extended its deal through the first weekend of March), then gave Goose a call to ask what was up.

The answer? Everything. Apparently getting crushed six nights running during DRW hadn't fucked with the kitchen crew's heads enough, so on the first day back to normal business, Goose decided to spring a surprise new menu on everyone -- a spring menu he'd written in just one day. "I'm just so fucking sick of winter, dude," he told me. "But, yeah, now it's spring, so we rolled out this new menu and just rocked it out."

Spanish influences are big on Goose's new board. He's got some lomo (cured Spanish pork loin) sliced up for a salad with Manchego and membrillo (quince), braised pork shoulder, stuffed piquillo peppers. Solera will also launch a Sunday brunch starting April 1. "Not a pancakey brunch," Goose explained, but more European: cured meats, some mussels, trout and eggs, pastry. "And it'll be cool, because I'll be able to come in on Sunday for brunch, bail out around two and then go fishing for the rest of the day."

With the new brunch schedule, Goose also thought it would be cool to redo his patio -- pulling out the garden that's been there several seasons and replacing it with a fireplace, a little stage for some live music and a dozen more covers. "I love having the garden there, you know," he said. "But honestly, the garden wasn't making me any money."

Leftovers: As I reported last week in my blog, From the Gut, on March 3 Greg Goldfogel closed down Ristorante Amore several months early. He made the decision overnight, because the restaurant had been underperforming badly since the announcement that its Cherry Creek building had been bought and the new owners would boot Goldfogel after his lease was up in favor of putting in an outlet of the Houston's chain. Sad as I was to see Amore go, Goldfogel's new restaurant, Alto, at 1320 15th Street (the former home of Sambuca), has been doing killer numbers since it opened in February -- and roughly six times what Amore was doing before it closed.

In Aurora, the Palm Tree Grill (12203 East Iliff Avenue) has gone dark. Although all equipment and furniture still seems to be in place, last week the door was locked, and the phone is disconnected. I may have to find a new place to get my musubi fix. I'd love the burgers at Caro's Corner, but it's gone dark, too, and the building at 1705 East 35th Avenue is up for sale. On the other side of town, Angie's Place is back -- but it's now at 5224 West 25th Avenue in Edgewater rather than on Colfax in Lakewood. With its new home come new hours: Angie's will be open 24 hours, serving pizza, sandwiches, breakfast grub and -- most important come 3 a.m. or so -- LavAzza coffee. Like the D Note in Arvada ("Brokedown Palace," March 8), Angie's will also feature open-mike nights and music on the weekends for those who like six-strings and caterwauling with their latte. For the rest of us, it's enough to know there's a place where we can get a ham sandwich and a cuppa joe after last call.

Over at 2915 West 44th Avenue, 3 Sons owners Susan and Michael Scarafiotti, who bought the venerable Italian joint a couple of years ago, have brought on Eric Jones, a new chef who's taken a crack at rewriting the classic red-sauce menu. There are also menu changes on tap at Mizuna (225 East Seventh Avenue), where a new crew is going wild with seafood, kicking out the last of the winter flavors with salsify, glazed late-season apples and warm bread puddings, and doing a torchon of foie gras with ginger-pear chutney.

While Solera is adding brunch, LoDo's Jax has dropped its Sunday brunch -- but the place is so busy, the staff has to rest sometime. Early-riser coffee shop and breakfast bar Java Moon (1116 Broadway) is making changes, too, including adding a full-service brunch from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Otherwise, the joint will be open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday -- once it reopens after some renovations, that is. And just down the street at Sixth and Broadway, Denver will get its first outpost of Daphne's Greek Cafe, a California-based fast-casual chain, on March 19. Since most Greek restaurants are pretty quick and casual, how will Daphne's be different? Wait and see.

Finally, Denver Restaurant Week was so successful that numerous spots -- Strings and Aix among them -- have extended their deals. Call for details.