Cafe Society

Mouthing Off

Cutting the Cheesecake: Dixons Downtown Grill, reviewed above, isn't the only restaurant affected by the new Cheesecake Factory, at 1201 16th Street. Part of a California chain, this big, splashy eatery serves big portions and some splashy food, but the Factory certainly isn't good enough to warrant the multitudes lining up to get in (a colleague reports a recent lunchtime wait of over an hour just to be seated).

I ate at the Factory in L.A. and loved the cheesecake but was indifferent to the rest of the fare, which is offered on a menu large enough to require Cliffs Notes and is heavy on steaks and pasta (ooohhh, we really needed more of that), along with sandwiches and what the restaurant refers to as "Oriental" food. But since there's nothing really novel there (except for their odd notion of Asian cuisine), it must be the portions that are grabbing everyone's attention.

"I thought we were generous," says Dixons part owner Lee Goodfriend, whose restaurants are well-known for the huge plates of food they serve. "But their portions are enormous. I've never seen something like this affect anything so drastically as this place has affected business down here. I hope it calms down soon."

Her sentiments are echoed by other restaurateurs--except that none of them are brave enough to admit publicly that the Factory has cut into their slice of the pie. "I noticed a drop almost immediately after they opened," says one LoDo veteran. "But I'm not going to give them the satisfaction of knowing it."

One place that looks like it can withstand the onslaught of chains is Jax, at 1539 17th Street, which keeps packing them in like sardines at dinner (it's not open for lunch). When I reviewed this wonderful seafood spot recently ("The Gill Next Door," March 27), I made the horrible mistake of giving the wrong name to the restaurant's pastry chef. It's Phyllis Mendelson who creates Jax's killer desserts.

Other LoDo places are not doing as well as Jax, though, and another round of fallout has begun. Gone already is Seasons, at 1523 Market Street, after only a few months in business in the former home of Al Fresco (which moved over to Brooks Towers). Also closing is Flat Pennies, at 1701 Wynkoop, which lasted nearly two years even though the consistency of its sandwiches disappeared long ago. Zenith American Grill, at 1735 Arapahoe Street, is gone, too, but owner Kevin Taylor pledges to open another "luxury restaurant, smaller, sometime in the future."

Despite the rumors, Taylor's new Brasserie Z, at 815 17th Street, is not the next-generation incarnation of Zenith. "I want a fifth star," says Taylor. "I'm going to keep going until I get it. But in the meantime, I'm just concentrating on Brasserie Z. Hey, dining is changing," he adds. "I could have died like the other guys for refusing to change, or I could do what I'm doing."

There's been a death out in the 'burbs, too. Rest in peace, Anastasia Vieux Carre, which unexpectedly closed its doors at 5945 South Holly Street in Greenwood Village last week.


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Kyle Wagner
Contact: Kyle Wagner