Cafe Society

Mouthing Off

I've just returned from a trip to Park Meadows and, funny, I don't feel that it was at all "like a three-hour family vacation," as the radio advertisement I heard on the way there touted a visit to the mall. Oops, I mean "retail resort," the preferred term for this, well, mall that has gotten so much ink from the local press you'd think it was the Second Coming.

Instead of a divine presence, Park Meadows offers little more than the typical chain eateries strung together in its "Dining Hall": McDonald's, Chik-Fil-A, La Salsa, Panda Express, Sbarro. I don't know about you, but when I go on vacation, I want to get away from those places. At least the lineup includes Paul's Place Express, a smaller version of the local chain that has locations in the Cherry Creek Shopping Center and Greenwood Village.

Otherwise, there's only one full-service Colorado restaurant, and it's not even open yet: Bella Ristorante and its bakery-within-a-restaurant, Nonna's, will start serving sometime in November. (The original Bella is still open for business at 1920 Market Street.) Meanwhile, California Cafe (an upscale chain hailing from--guess where?) is doing a booming business, and even that famous upscale department store, Nordstrom, has two eating spots: Nordstrom Cafe and The Pub. At the latter last Thursday, the wait for a table was twenty minutes, but we were told we could sit at the bar instead and order one of the local microbrews the place boasts about in its ads. Turns out The Pub offers three micros from one brewery in town--not that the staffers on duty knew which brewery that was. A waiter told me it was a place downtown called "Pint Street." That didn't ring any bells, so I called The Pub when I got home. This time, the guy who answered the phone said the beer came from "Pine Tree," or "something like that." When I finally got ahold of the manager, he said he wasn't sure, either, but thought it might be the "Lone Tree" and said it was located "behind the Grizzly Rose, somewhere around 52nd." Close. Turns out the brews come from Lonetree Brewing on 55th Avenue. The confusion appears to stem from the fact that Lonetree contract-brews for a company called Pine Street, whose delicious Raspberry Whacker I was drinking. So much for promoting the local breweries.

The Cafe is located on the third floor of the store, and it's clearly the ladies' luncheon spot at Park Meadows. At noon there was a half-hour wait just to have your order taken--you give it at the cash register, get a number and grab a table so a waitress can come by to confirm your order and then take another twenty minutes to bring the food. The wait gave me lots of time to listen to the carefully coiffed woman in an avocado-colored ensemble rave about the Cafe dining room. "It's beautiful, don't you think?" she asked her companion. "The fabric on the seats is so reminiscent of the mountains." The food, however, was no peak experience--and certainly nothing I'd wait 45 minutes for again. While my toddler rejoiced over the fat hot dog that came with chips and a soda ($2.95) and we both enjoyed the sugary blueberry muffin ($1.95), the rest of the fare seemed as though it had been made by someone whose tastebuds were past their prime--the Caesar salad ($5.95) and the French onion soup ($3.95) were so salty, I could eat only half of each. I'm sweet about the Cafe's coffee deal, though: a cup of Starbucks' special blend for 25 cents. And if you don't want to wait in line, you can head right to the coffee bar, throw a quarter into a container, and take your joe to go.

Speaking of salty, Barry Fey called to register his disgust with my portrayal of him in last week's review of Brook's Steak House & Cellar. "I don't think I swore that much," he complained. Well, while not every sentence Fey uttered during our conversation contained the F word, the funny ones did, and those are the sentences I quoted. Fey was right about one thing, though: His favorite steakhouse in the country, New York's Peter Luger's, has locations in Brooklyn and Queens, not Manhattan, as I'd mistakenly written.

Fey wasn't the only one to comment on the Brook's critique. A colleague who was treated--and I use the term loosely--to a meal at Brook's two weeks ago reported that his lobster tail, like mine, was so dry it was like eating "shoe leather." But the food wasn't the reason another reader had a tough time with the piece; this man called to share his "concern and disbelief" about all the "swearing" in the review. "I think it was really inappropriate, and I cannot believe you published that. I mean, my kids read that, and they were blown away by it." The disgruntled T.H.--I'll keep the rest of his name to myself so the government doesn't kidnap his children and put them into some top-secret program for prodigies; besides, I used blanks and the euphemistic "F word" through the entire review, not the word itself--went on to say that the piece was "really rude and uncalled for, and I think you should make a retraction."

No fucking way.

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Kyle Wagner
Contact: Kyle Wagner