Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Oooh la la! Cliff Young is back, and opening a steakhouse at the Diamond Cabaret

When Cliff Young's opened back in 1984, it was the hottest restaurant in town -- a beautiful space on East 17th Avenue that was full of beautiful people eating beautiful food. After that run ended in '93, Young wound up moving to France, where he bought an old manor house in Beaune that he turned into a restaurant and residence club.

But now he's put that property on the market and is back in Denver, the town where Cliff Young's revolutionized the dining scene 25 years ago. And Young's next venture promises to be almost as revolutionary:

He's taking over the restaurant at the Diamond Cabaret. Come November, it will be CY Steak -- with a fleur de lis between Young's initials to signify what a little French flair can do for a steakhouse connected to a strip club. 

When Young opened Cliff Young's, in the space at 700 East 17th Avenue that later held Dante Bichette's and today is home to Hamburger Mary's, you couldn't get fresh fish or a cappuccino in town, he recalls. Although Dudley's had opened five years before, with Cafe Giovanni coming close behind, the Rattlesnake had yet to make its appearance in the Tivoli. Those restaurants signified the start of a new epoch in Denver dining, he says, an epoch that ended when he moved on.

His time in Beaune was "another epoch," he says. The estate where he opened his restaurant/residence club and started his wine importing business got its start in 1269, when a Temple Knight built his home there. "You can still see the stones coming through where his residence was," Young recalls, and the manor house still on the property dates back to the 16th century. The decision to sell the property -- influenced by the world economy -- was a real cri de coeur, a blow to the heart, he admits.

But Young's heart is now back in Denver, where he has four children and two grandkids. "I missed Denver; I missed the United States; I missed the energy of America," he says. "In France, I'd never have the opportunity I do at the Diamond."

France's influence will definitely be felt at C Y Steakhouse. Young has spent the past six weeks working on the project, adding nine tables (Jim Sullivan, who'd opened Oscar's there back in 2007, had reduced the room to 32 seats), picking out art nouveau pieces that will emphasis "the eternal feminine," and working on the menu with Mike Wiest, the chef he's bringing in from Allred's in Telluride. Young attributes some of his inspiration to Steve Wynn, who put his own initials on his steakhouse in Las Vegas; he also credits BLT Steak, at Bistro Laurent Tourondel in New York, for showing what French flair can do for a steakhouse.

That flair will be seen in the marrow bone that comes on the edge of every steak plate, and in the dessert menu based entirely on creme and chocolat. But it will also be seen in the entertainment Young plans to introduce in the dining room after 8:30 p.m. every evening, "topless entertainment" that dresses the dancers in light. If it worked for Paul Bocuse at Crazy Horse, why not at CY Steak?

After all, Young knows the business; he consulted with former Diamond owner Bobby Rifkin for eighteen years, and even helped him open the Diamond in the mid-'90s, creating a legendary wine cellar.

"I'm really glad to get it back," he admits, and he's embracing everything else that comes with the Diamond Cabaret, too. "By branding it," Young says, "I'm saying I believe in this location, I believe in the image. I think there's a fundamental need for it. I'm not going to hide from the Cabaret."

Ooh la la!

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun