Cherry Creek North was a top destination neighborhood in the 1980s and '90s; longtime Denverites still fondly recall meals at the Fourth Story, Mel's Bar and Grill, the Bay Wolf, Bistro Adde Brewster, Papillon and many others. But as hipper neighborhoods with cheaper rents became more popular with restaurateurs and diners alike, turnover took its toll in the neighborhood and certain spots became known as restaurant black holes -- eating multiple concepts in just a few short years. The current Creek scene is showing signs of life, though, with Harman's Eat & Drink morphing from owner Mark Fischer's original Thai-inspired eatery to chef John Little's soulfully curated menu; fun subterranean taco and tequila joint Machete; deep-dish pros Patxi's Pizza; and Hasu Asian Bistro, bringing a deep-diving traditional Chinese menu from South Broadway, all setting up shop there.
And the recent news that Jeff Osaka would be opening Osaka Ramen in the split-level space evacuated by Ay Caramba certainly caused the Denver fooderati to prick up their ears. But that was only the beginning: One longtime Denver restaurant has just moved to the neighborhood, another has nearly doubled in size, and several other ventures are slated for unveiling later this year. Here's a look at some of the action:
Kobe An 231 Milwaukee Street 303-989-5907 The venerable Kobe An closed in Lakewood in October with a promise to reopen in Cherry Creek North. That promise came true just last week, as the sushi bar and traditional Japanese kitchen opened in the downstairs space that has served as home to many bars and restaurants over the years, including Vartan Jazz, the Bay Wolf, the Manhattan Grill, Bar Luxe, and most recently, Cherry nightclub. The new Kobe An features elegant, screened tatami rooms with sunken seating and a broad menu of teriyaki, tempura, yakisoba, udon and ramen.
Cucina Colore 3041 East Third Avenue 303-393-6917 Cucina Colore is hardly new to Cherry Creek North, but the Italian eatery, which first opened twenty years ago, just expanded into the space next door, swinging the doors open on its remodeled dining room and new wine bar at the end of January.
Departure 245 Columbine Street Departure, scheduled for fall 2015, is the latest Denver eatery from the Sage Restaurant Group, which also runs the Corner Office, Kachina Southwestern Grill and Second Home. What else do these places have in common? They're all hotel restaurants. BMC Investments is building a 155-room boutique hotel at the address and Sage is adding Departure, the second location of the pan-Asian kitchen that got its start in Portland, Oregon.
Blue Island Oyster Bar 2625 East Second Avenue Concept Restaurants, owners of Stout Street Social, Humboldt and Ignite Burgers & Lounge (among others), is adding a new seafood restaurant to the in-progress 250 Columbine development. It's what director of operations Sean Huggard is billing as "dock to dish" dining, with fresh fish flown in from both coasts and a rotating list of seven to ten oyster choices, both farmed and wild. Completion of the mixed-use development is scheduled for this summer.
Sol Cocina 250 Columbine Street Chef and cookbook author Deborah Schneider is bringing her coastal Mexican cuisine from Newport Beach to Denver this summer, featuring the food and atmosphere of Baja California. Along with Blue Island, Sol Cocina will anchor the culinary offerings in the 250 Columbine development, which will also include a Starbucks and several retail spaces.
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Del Frisco's Grille 2930 E. 2nd Avenue This is the more casual sibling of Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse, a corporate-run restaurant from the group that also operates Sullivan's Steakhouse. The more modestly priced and appointed Grille, with more than fifteen other locations around the country, is slated for a fall 2015 opening in a new office building currently under construction at the corner of First Avenue and St. Paul Street.