Cafe Society

Mouthing Off

Mex and match: The most delicious sight of the week was the solo diner at the Mexico City Lounge (2115 Larimer Street) last Thursday tucking into a plate of greasy, cheesy tacos and reading a copy of The Carbohydrate Addict's Diet.

Will the real El Azteca please stand up? Although three restaurants in the area share the name, they don't all share one owner. The oldest El Azteca, at 1065 Federal Boulevard, has been selling Mexican groceries and homemade burritos and tamales for seventeen years. Two years ago, along came another El Azteca (no relation), a tiny eatery that opened in a former gas station at 3960 South Federal Boulevard. This El Azteca serves excellent rotisserie chicken, killer tortas and some of the most authentic Mexican food in town, and the guys who own it have now opened a second eatery, at 1780 South Buckley Road in Aurora. This one is much bigger than the original (but, technically speaking, not the first) El Azteca, with an expanded menu that includes Cuban white rice and black beans as well as a weekly Cuban special. It also has a liquor license. Owner Sergio Hernandez says he and his partners hope to revamp their first location soon, and when they do, they'll apply for a much-needed liquor license there. Tortas require beer.

Worse than the El Azteca confusion, Hernandez says, is the fact that people mix up those restaurants with Z-Teca, which changed its name last year from Zuma because the owners wanted to go national and someone else owned the rights to Zuma. And, of course, Z-Teca has also been confused with Z-Tejas, the chain place that opened at Park Meadows last year. Sheesh.

Also feeling the bite, now that the Crocodile Cafe of California is opening at Park Meadows, is Croc's Cafe, at 1630 Market Street. Croc's, a homegrown venture, was originally named Crocodile Cafe but had to change five years ago because of the Pasadena-based chain. "We registered the Crocodile name with the state," says Croc's owner Chris Myers. "And then we found out that two weeks before we opened, the California guys had registered theirs nationally." To make things less confusing, Myers says Croc's recently revamped its name again--officially, it's now Croc's Mexican Grill. Myers and his gang have another project going as well: They're restoring Mattie Silks' House of Mirrors, an infamous Victorian brothel located next to their LoDo's Bar & Grill, at 1946 Market Street, to its original turn-of-the-century splendor. They've already pulled the stucco off the front to reveal the sandstone beneath, and they're in the process of refurbishing the inside. "We have some pictures of how it looked then," Myers says. "We're trying to get it back to that as closely as we can." No decision's been made on the type of food they'll serve there, though. "We want to make sure that it fits the location and the style," says Myers.

Quick bites: The phone's been disconnected at Scotty's Bistro (315 Detroit Street), whose menu never really fit the Cherry Creek location, and at Sympatico (25918 Genesee Trail in Genesee Park), where I once ate an awful lunch, so that's no surprise, either. You can also say bye-bye to New York, New York (1050 South Wadsworth Boulevard), Pizzeria Uno (7400 East Hampden) and La Bonne Soupe (1512 Larimer in Writer Square), which likely was a casualty of the chain gang. (The going-gangbusters Cheesecake Factory's only a block away.)

Although soup is cold, Japanese fast food is hot. And so Golden Tempura Bowl, which recently moved from 406 East Colfax Avenue to larger quarters at 341 East Colfax, has changed its name to the hipper Taki's Golden Bowl; owner Brian Takimodo has also added a few sushi items to the menu. Taki's new space is what used to be the Greek Metropolis Cafe; the Capitol Grill, a Greek eatery, has taken over Golden Tempura's old home.

Also alive and well is Brasserie Z (815 17th Street), which has hired a new manager, Lolly Block, who hails from The Pike Street Restaurant in Michigan. And just try to follow this: Doug Fleischmann, who was the general manager at Starfish (300 Fillmore Street) until he went to Strings (1700 Humboldt Street), is back with the Master restaurants--he's now GM and part-owner of Mel's Bar and Grill (235 Fillmore). Returning to Strings is its old and well-loved general manager, Bryan Kaump, who left the restaurant in 1996 after keeping the waitstaff in line for six years. And congrats to Mel and Janie Master, who not only got a new partner but also some great coverage in the February Food & Wine, with Janie's goat cheese souffle on the cover and a nice article by Boulder freelance writer Bruce Schoenfeld inside.

Wild thing: Reader Patti Soffer sent an e-mail to report that she'd eaten at Wild Ginger (399 Littleton Boulevard, Littleton) on my recommendation ("Sugar and Spice," January 15) and would never follow my recommendation again. Soffer says she waited an hour and a half for her entree (which I find hard to believe) and that the soft-shell crabs were "only one bite each" (I've never seen a soft-shell crab that small). Her specific complaints aside, Soffer's e-mail indicates she ate at the restaurant two days after my review came out, which is always a risk. I'd like to end every rave with the words "and please don't go there this weekend." A sudden, unexpected wave of customers can swamp smaller establishments, and from what I've heard, Wild Ginger was packed that night.

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Kyle Wagner
Contact: Kyle Wagner

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