Exclusive first look: Ay Caramba! opens in Cherry Creek

Alex Gurevich, who owns Limón, a Latin American lounge in Uptown, as well as My other Bar on Seventh Avenue, wasn't in the market for a third restaurant, but after his ex-wife vacated Bisque last June, the Cherry Creek North space became available. And since Gurevich held the note to that space, he figured, what the hell?

See also: - Ay Caramba! will open in the former Bisque space in Cherry Creek - Campagna closes for remodeling and will reopen as My Other Bar - Here's the scoop: Glacier Ice Cream & Gelato now open in Cherry Hills

"I own the space and was initially planning to sell it," says Gurevich, but the deal fell through, he adds, and rather than deal with another potential buyer, Gurevich made the decision to snatch it up himself. "I spent three months in Florida with my kids, and when I got back to Denver, I felt rejuvenated and invigorated, and since the original deal didn't pan out, I figured I may as well do another restaurant."

Except he didn't have a concept. But his friend and neighbor, Jorge Alonso, who owns Vinue, a swanky, flirtatious wine bar just steps way from the former Bisque, had a few ideas. Alonso, an ex-partner in Grupo Anderson's, the Mexican restaurant conglomerate that owns Señor Frog's, suggested that Gurevich bring tortas to Cherry Creek. "We met, chatted, had the same synergy, and he thought the tortas would be a big draw in this neighborhood," says Gurevich, who then traveled to Mexico City, Chicago, San Diego and Los Angeles for inspiration.

"We knew we wanted to do tortas, but we knew, too, that we wanted them to be authentic and refined," explains Gurevich, who named his restaurant Ay Caramba!, which can translate to a couple of different exclamations in Spanish, usually, "Oh, my God!", or "Holy crap!"

Gurevich opened Ay Caramba! this weekend, pimping a board of fifteen different Mexican street sandwiches. He uses bolillo bread, baked at a local panaderia, and smears the crusty rolls with black refried beans stacked with everything from roasted poblano chiles and Negro Modelo-braised pork to eggs and chorizo. There are no tacos, no burritos, no enchiladas -- just tortas, charro beans, a few side dishes, salads and soups, and guacamole, which can be dressed with queso fresco, rajas, bacon, charred corn or toasted pepitas.

And it's all served in a two-level space that bears little resemblance to Bisque. The bones are still in place, but the downstairs is far less formal, with weathered wooden tables, exposed brick, chocolate brown "cowboy" leather banquettes, a community table, black-and-white prints depicting south-of-the-border street scenes, original Mexican skull art and a kaleidoscopic chalkboard scribbled with tequilas.

The upstairs back bar exposes a glass-tiled dome that loosely mimics a fountain, underneath which are ten tap handles; an additional fifteen beers by the bottle, plus cocktails and two wines are also featured. Gurevich hopes that the bar will become a regular happy hour hangout, and considering he's offering happy hour from 2 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, it's bound to be a popular breeding ground for the margarita and cerveza crowd.

"What I really want is to bring some fun to Cherry Creek," says Gurevich, who will also deliver tortas on a trike to the Cherry Creek neighborhood.

Ay Caramba! is open seven days a week (the kitchen is open until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights), and breakfast tortas are served on the weekend, beginning at 9 a.m.

Flip the page to check out the festive space.

For more information, call 303-284-2052.

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