Chew on this: The Colorado Restaurant Association predicts that $4.2 billion will be spent at Colorado restaurants in 1995. If the number of establishments that have recently opened is any indication, half of that money will flood Cherry Creek.

Ready for the dollars to start rolling in is Tazu, at 300 Fillmore Street, a Japanese joint specializing in sushi. Diners may have given Tazu a raw deal over the last month because it had no liquor license, but as of this week that should no longer be a problem. Liquor came quicker at Cafe Iguana next door, the latest venture by Zenith's Kevin Taylor, which specializes in cuisine from the Yucatan and Oaxacan regions of Mexico. And within two weeks, the Chinook Tavern, a casual-style eatery, will open in the old home of the far-from-casual Cache Cache, at 265 Detroit.

Russian cuisine gets another outpost at Cafe Mishka, at 3035 South Parker Road in Aurora; part-owner Michael Jordan calls his restaurant "less expensive and less fancy than St. Petersburg." It's also more eclectic: The menu offers a mishmash of American-diner items, including chicken parmesan and stuffed pork chops. La Casbah, a festive Moroccan place that made great hummus but lasted only a year, has folded its tent; 9955 East Hampden is now Narayan's Nepal Restaurant, brought to you by the people who own the Boulder version.

There's plenty of action up on 17th Avenue, too. Last fall Las Margaritas took over the space previously occupied by Josephina's. The Grand, a piano bar at 538 East 17th Avenue, is now tickling the ivories in the former digs of the Black Timber Tavern; in the kitchen is Mark Anderson, who used to perform cooking magic at City Spirit Cafe. And open where Ruby's closed (next to its parent, Cliff Young's, at 708 East 17th) is Vino Vino, an upscale Italian joint with those hip, Tuscan-style walls and small televisions suspended from the dining-room ceiling that show Fellini movies through dinner. Across the street, Cafe Potpourri has given up the ghost; 777 East 17th--an address that has gobbled up at least a half-dozen restaurants--now houses Old Shanghai.

The Revolving Door Award, however, goes to the building at 2637 West 26th that now houses one of the original Chubbys. Two weeks ago it was B.J. Dunwoody's, and a few months before that, The International. It's also been La Loma, as well as at least two other Mexican restaurants and a Chinese incarnation or two. The Missing in Action Award goes to Goldie's Delicatessen: The popular 16th Street Mall spot has been the subject of much speculation since it shut its doors, but owner John Gardner insists that Goldie's is simply "remodeling" and will reopen in a few weeks.

If not, something's bound to take its place: Recent estimates have as many as 75 restaurants opening in Denver over the next several months.

Which is why we should raise a glass to an institution that's weathered all of Denver's stormy financial times: My Brother's Bar, at 15th and Platte, which has been grilling great burgers for 25 years (and still doesn't have a sign). To celebrate, food, beer and tap wine have been 50 percent off on Mondays this month; January 30 is your last chance to belly up to the bar for cheap eats.

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Kyle Wagner
Contact: Kyle Wagner