We've had plenty of exciting new openings in the Denver restaurant scene so far this year, but the fierce competition has led to the demise of old favorites and big names, too. The industry is shifting because of skyrocketing food and real estate costs as well as a labor shortage, and restaurateurs need to adapt or go under. Here are twelve of the restaurants to close in the first six months of 2017, in alphabetical order and all reflecting changes in Denver's dining business.
2449 Larimer Street
Chef Iain Chisholm took the DIY credo and turned it into a convivial Italian eatery that put good, inexpensive food ahead of the fluff and fuss of high-end dining. Chisholm and his crew also did something simple but surprisingly hard to nail: They made everything themselves, whether the potato chips next to a lunchtime sandwich, the sausage in a pasta sauce, or the silky ribbons of pasta themselves. Five years isn't a long time, but it's a grind for a restaurant team. So earlier this month Chisholm turned out the lights at Americatus in order to embark on a new kind of grind — a wholesale sausage and artisan foods company that will carry on his restaurant's name and attention to hand-crafted quality.
Baur's Restaurant & Listening Lounge
1512 Curtis Street
Pick a difficult location known for its restaurant turnover (Victory, La Grand Bistro, Baur's Ristorante) and pack in a difficult concept (live jazz and something called "Cordillera cuisine"); there's not much room for error in the narrow space between success and failure in the restaurant world. The food at Baur's was certainly good, if confusing — a little housemade charcuterie here, a board of Monterey Bay-sourced seafood there — and it's impressive that Baur's lasted as long as it did, what with a fickle tourist and business-traveler crowd as its main customer base and growing competition in trendy neighborhoods away from the tired 16th Street Mall. Dazzle Jazz is now making a go of it in the space; perhaps a name and concept familiar to downtown denizens will fare better.
The Blue Parrot
640 Main Street, Louisville
The oldest restaurant in the metro area closed in January after the Colacci family decided to call it quits. The Louisville eatery was only two years shy of its 100th birthday, a remarkable achievement in the Rocky Mountain West. But Italian cuisine means something different than spaghetti, meatballs and red sauce to a new generation looking for housemade buratta, salumi and hard-to-find regional Italian dishes. With the loss of the Blue Parrot and other venerable classics, old-school Italian-American cooking is becoming an endangered species along the Front Range.
2958 Downing Street
If Americatus could be called DIY, the Handy Diner was all but anarchist in its approach to running a restaurant. Denver's counterculture embraced the bare-bones vegan diner that served up cheap, filling, cruelty-free comfort food — at least until city inspectors realized that they had an underground eatery operating in their jurisdiction. We admire Handy Diner's attitude of "never give a bureaucrat a chance to say no," but those bureaucrats were not so impressed and shut the place down in March.
Lou's Food Bar
1851 West 38th Avenue
Frank Bonanno operates both high-end and casual eateries around town, from the polished Mizuna to the sticky-fingers Russell's Smokehouse, but Lou's in Sunnyside fell somewhere in between. Toward the end it morphed into primarily a chicken joint, and then Bonanno got an offer from a buyer so he sold the whole place. Fans of that chicken need not be despondent, though, since the chef/restaurateur plans to resurrect the bird in the new Dairy Block development downtown as Lou's Hot & Naked later this year.
1967 South Broadway
The Overland was our favorite new hangout on South Broadway, but only made it a year in a neighborhood that seemed more interested in family-friendly new eateries than a dark watering hole perfect for rounds of drinks late into the night. The closing was as low-key as the bar itself; there was not even a sign on the locked door to let drinkers know to move along after the place shut down earlier this month.
Keep reading for the rest of the list...
McCormick's Fish House
1659 Wazee Street
The things we miss about McCormick's disappeared years ago: the dirt-cheap happy hour burgers, the antique bar where you'd surely run into someone you knew, and well-prepared if not exactly cutting-edge cuisine. But in its final few years, the downtown fish house at the foot of the Oxford Hotel was on life support, losing its heart and soul under corporate ownership. Sure, the original McCormick's, before it was purchased by Landry's Inc., was part of a small national chain, but it always had the feel of a local joint.
The Squeaky Bean
1500 Wynkoop Street
The Bean was irreverent while remaining respectful of ingredients, upscale while maintaining a sense of humor. Perhaps the intentional contradictions and dual nature eventually proved too confusing for a new wave of diners, but we'll miss the shrine and memorial cocktail to departed celebrities, the bawdy Bingo brunch and the farm-fresh food.
686 South Colorado Boulevard
7600 Grandview Avenue, Arvada
The change from Udi's to Silvi's in 2014 didn't do much to bring in new customers for the local restaurant group, and competition from a growing variety of fast-casual concepts meant more and more options for Denverites looking for great food on the go. The two remaining Silvi's closed in late spring so that the Bar-on family could focus on its Izzio Artisan Bakery (which is helping make the Denver Central Market in RiNo a top-tier food destination) and Etai's eateries.
Southern Hospitality, Downtown and Lonetree
Carve Barbecue, 1000 South Colorado Boulevard
Barbecue fans are finicky; the aroma of wood smoke and pork fat can easily be tainted by even a whiff of corporate slickness. A Southern concept born in New York City with celebrity ties to the music industry (Justin Timberlake was an original investor) was perhaps a little much for folks just looking for good ribs and pulled pork.
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2805 Pearl Street, Boulder
Even community favorites grow old; Turley's served Boulder for forty years, helping shape the town's reputation for all-natural eating and making the word "granola" about far more than just a crunchy breakfast snack. For decades Turley's embodied the Boulder lifestyle, but it closed in May after being unable to find a buyer willing to fly the tie-dyed flag under new ownership.
1610 Little Raven Street
In the early 2000s, Zengo was a smack to the face of Denver's traditional restaurant circuit. Diners flocked to the hip, loungy room in a new neighborhood for a cutting-edge experience that blended Mexican and Asian influences into something bold and racy. But more than a dozen years later, the city's dining scene caught up with Zengo, making it just another option in a sea of newer, hipper and more relevant choices.