The ballpark's in your court: With the opening of Coors Field only nine days away, new restaurants are popping up all over LoDo. Morton's of Chicago completes its move from the Tivoli to 17th Street and Wynkoop this week with a grand opening March 24, the proceeds of which ($100 per person for booze and eats) will go to the Children's Hospital Foundation.

Two blocks farther up Wynkoop, the Denver ChopHouse and Brewery will open by the end of the month in the old Union Pacific headhouse. This ChopHouse, owned by the same company that brought us Rock Bottom Brewery and Old Chicago, is not related to the infamous ChopHouses of Chicago and Detroit (where Jimmy Schmidt once worked). "It is in the spirit of those," says PR person Rebecca Crosby. "We're not a steak house, though, and we're not a sports bar. We're fine dining."

Even stalwarts who opened years ago in anticipation of baseball are updating their image: Breckenridge Brewery, at 2220 Blake Street, has added Ballpark Brown to its lineup of beers, along with what it bills the "freshest BBQ in Colorado."

Breckenridge lies in the heart of NoDo, the "Ballpark Neighborhood" just to the north of LoDo (but in some ways a world away). Ed Maestas, the unofficial "Mayor of Larimer Street and Godfather of the Ballpark Neighborhood," was honored earlier this month at the Downtown Denver Partnership annual awards ceremony. It's about time. Maestas, the owner of Johnnie's Market, at 2030 Larimer, began working in the neighborhood in 1944; his grocery is the oldest in downtown and has a fabulous take-out Mexican deli. Maestas's award, however, stemmed more from his work on the street--where he's watched his neighborhood group grow from seven to fifty members over the last half-dozen years--than inside his store.

Across the street from Johnnie's is Herb's Hideout, the upscale reincarnation of a classic Larimer dive. It's quite a change of pace from owner Larry Wright's old Manhattan Cafe, and he's weathered his share of disappointments in the last year. Recently Herb's has been open only on Friday and Saturday nights, with its back-door "Kit Kat Club" rocking the joint on Thursdays. All that could change, though, with the coming of the Coors crowds.

Already changed--but not all that much--is the Bamboo Hut, the oddly named eatery four blocks farther north on Larimer that serves some of the hottest green chile in town. This modest spot has renovated its bathrooms and gotten rid of the family-style tables, replacing them with four-tops and chairs picked up at an auction. "What's happened to our table?" wondered one regular when she and her family dropped in for some post-Mass huevos. The seating might look different, but the Hut's green is as mean as ever.

Sandwich lovers who miss the recently defunct Goldie's Delicatessen can soon go hoagie-wild again. The deli's parent company, Premier Ventures Inc., which also owns the adjoining Paramount Cafe, has reopened the space as a pool hall, with six pool tables, TV monitors and pinball machines. And yes, this is another makeover that can be attributed to anticipated sports crowds, in this case the hungry hordes of fans moving down the 16th Street Mall from Coors Field. "And some of them might like to have those sandwiches at the Paramount," says a Premier spokeswoman. "So we're looking at adding a few to the menu.

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Kyle Wagner
Contact: Kyle Wagner