Cafe Society

Mouthing Off

What's on tapas? So far, the summer's big food trend is the return of tapas--essentially dim sum for the bar crowd. The town's last two places to really push tapas are now pushing up daisies: Majorca looked great but business wasn't; its old space at 777 East 17th Avenue is now home to Taj Mahal (with a few sad occupants doing time there in between), which just opened its revamped downstairs bar. And Transalpin, at 410 East Seventh Avenue, has transmogrified into Pinots, which focuses more on full meals than little dishes (although it also serves the best crabcakes in Denver).

But now tapas are back, in a big way. Tapas--serving "the food of Spain and the Mediterranean," including, of course, those little dishes known as "tapas"--is set to take over the space at 1523 Market Street, the original location of Al Fresco (and, for about a second, Seasons), within the next few weeks. Beating Tapas to the refinish line is 9th Avenue West, which opened Friday at 99 West Ninth Avenue, the space briefly filled by Cafe Communique. 9th Avenue, which bills itself as Denver's first "swing" club, promises to serve tapas until 1 a.m. daily. We'll drink to that.

A good place to do so is at the bar at Brasserie Z, which has added a bar menu to its already impressive roster at 815 17th Street. The menu, available from 4 to 6 p.m., offers smaller servings (at lower prices) of some of the Z's dishes that already rate as classics (after just four months). The calamari ($3) was tender, drizzled with two tasty sauces, and enough to fry you to the moon; the artichoke ($2.50), although light and amazingly ungreasy considering its fried preparation, had a few too many tree-like pieces the evening we tried it. But a few cocktails later, we agreed to forgive and forget.

LoDo lowdown: Lodo's Bar & Grill, at 1946 Market Street, celebrated its third anniversary last week; Bella Ristorante is marking the second anniversary of the original restaurant at 1920 Market through July 27 (the Park Meadows location is partying, too).

And they said LoDo couldn't last...

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