Now imagine this madhouse with cell phones.
No, wait -- Bjorklund took care of that, too. He walked around the dining room like a man on a mission, handing out photocopies of an Ed Stein cartoon that shows some idiot standing in the middle of a dining room with a cell phone to his ear, imploring the folks around him, "Would you mind keeping it down? I'm on the phone!"
If diners still don't get the message, Bjorklund has been seen -- in fact, I've seen him -- gently removing the cell phone from the offender's hands and sticking it in his own pocket. If the customer is good, he gets the phone back at the end of the meal. I don't know what happens if the customer is bad, but from the look on Bjorklund's face every time a cell phone starts ringing, it involves some sort of Swedish torture, like you're found floating down Cherry Creek strapped to a Volvo.
(For the record, although Bjorklund hates cell phones in his restaurant, he did not hate it when Westword once voted Adde Brewster's burger the best in Denver -- he swears that the person upset by the award was his former partner, Brewster Hanson, now part owner of the Hornet. And it was Hanson, not Bjorklund, who had a heart attack -- but he's doing quite well, thank you.)
The only thing louder than the cell phones that day was the buzz about Radex (116 East Ninth Avenue) and the controversy surrounding the eatery's non-participation in the Project Angel Heart fundraiser. If an official poll of the room's sentiments on the subject had been taken, the results would have been decidedly against Radex part-owner Radek Cerny. But no one had to poll Ruth Nelson to find out what she thought: "What difference does it make what the reason is?" she asked. "They didn't participate, and there's just no excuse for that."
Project Angel Heart is a nonprofit that prepares and delivers meals to folks diagnosed with AIDS and HIV; this year, 125 restaurants donated 25 percent of their non-liquor proceeds from sales made March 9 to the organization. Those 125 are out of about 500 approached each year by Angel Heart, so there are many places that don't get into the charitable act.
And that rankles Marc Roth, a local designer who's created quite a few restaurant interiors around town, including that of the Diamond Cabaret. But Roth targeted Cerny in letters faxed to Westword and Out Front last week, deriding the restaurateur for his insensitivity and making it clear that Radex and Papillon, Cerny's other restaurant, which didn't participate, either, would be off his list of potential places to dine -- for life. "About 75 percent of Radex diners are gay, and so are a large number of the waitstaff," Roth wrote. "Radex should show a little humanity and compassion...Restaurants that cater to gay people and take gay people's money should give back to the community."
Responds Cerny: "Does the guy have to ruin me over this?"
While I'd take issue with that 75 percent gay-clientele figure Roth was throwing around, I was surprised to learn that Cerny's places, among the most popular and profitable in town, weren't participating in the fundraiser. But boycotting them seems to be going a bit far. First, you'd have to boycott all of the eateries in town that didn't participate -- about 3,500 in the Denver metro area -- because they certainly have gay clients, too. And second, where does a restaurateur draw the line? Half of Radex's employees are women; does this mean that Cerny must donate to breast-cancer causes? Half of his clients have children; does that mean he must donate to Children's Hospital? Restaurants are hit up on a regular basis for gift certificates and outright donations; it should be up to the eatery to pick and choose its causes. Otherwise, it smacks of the days when United Way had a stranglehold on the charity business and employees were chastised for not having their checks garnished -- even if they disagreed with where the money was going.
After hemming and hawing and working very hard at damage control -- which he could have avoided if he'd simply fessed up sooner -- Cerny has agreed to take part next year; in the meantime, he's sending a portion of March 9's proceeds to Project Angel Heart. Case closed.
Open and shut cases: Seems they ran out of ideas for saving the Diamond Grill (845 Colorado Boulevard). I rather liked the place in my recent review ("A Proper Setting," January 6), but the owners (Dave and Ann Diamond) and their manager were in the process of trying several fixes that would keep both the food and the amount of customers consistent. Finally, last month, they gave up altogether.
Just down the road, Phoenicia Grill (727 Colorado Boulevard) is back in business with a new owner, Jim Kher, but the same chef, same menu and same addictive hummus. The official grand reopening is March 22, but Kher wanted to be back in business before that just to let people know the eatery hadn't disappeared altogether. "The former owners closed it for about a month and a half, and everyone assumed it was going to be gone for good," Kher says. "It was such a strong part of the neighborhood, the first day we had it open again, it was a full house."