Cafe Society

Tables, D Bar, Argyll: A Trio of Transformations in 2014

With the year drawing to a close, it's time to look back on the top trends of 2014. The most important -- the one driving all the other trends -- is sheer growth. More than 300 bars and restaurants flung open their doors this year in the metro area, enough that you could eat at a new one every day from now until next fall, and still not sit down in the same place with the same menu twice.

But not all restaurants making headlines were fresh-out-of-the-box new. This was also a year of transformations and comebacks. Here's a look at three: See also: The Fifteen Best New Restaurants in Metro Denver in 2014

3) Argyll Whisky Beer 1035 East 17th Avenue 303-847-0850 If one restaurant can be a sign of the times, it would be Argyll Whisky Beer. Robert Thompson's original gastropub opened during the recession in a cramped, subterranean spot in Cherry Creek North, and closed a few years later -- always with Thompson's promise that it would return. Fast forward to this summer, when Thompson brought forth a restaurant that reflects the optimism and ambition of today's dining scene. Under the direction of culinary director John Broening, the menu is as sweeping as the space, with dishes we loved from the original (Scotch eggs, that means you) paired with food that's simultaneously tongue-in-cheek and sophisticated. Don't miss the scores of beers and hundreds of whiskeys, one of the largest selections in the state. This is not just the concept reincarnated, it is transformed -- so much so that Argyll rated a spot on our list of the best new restaurants of 2014. 2) Tables 2267 Kearney Street 303-388-0299 This was the year that Tables - the darling of Park Hill -- finally expanded, though not in the way that longtime fans had hoped: The restaurant is still not open for lunch. But at dinner, regulars have appreciated the extra seats inside and on the patio made possible by the 2014 expansion. "It was hard to put out the volume with the kitchen we had," says owner Amy Vitale. "That was the driving force of it." After being closed for two and a half weeks this summer, the newly-configured restaurant reopened with a private dining area that can be closed off with barn doors, thirty more seats inside, and a kitchen that doubled in size. "We didn't gain as many seats as we did space," says Vitale. "Compared to before, we have more room for the guests between the tables, more room for the kitchen, and better spacing for servers." 1) D Bar Denver 494 East 19th Avenue 303-861-4710 When Food Network celebrity chef Keegan Gerhard and wife Lisa Bailey opened the original D Bar in Uptown in 2008, "d" stood for dessert. But as demand increased, not just for the signature Cake and Shake but for savory nibbles as well, it became clear that physical space wasn't the only thing this D Bar had outgrown -- and the success opening of a much larger sibling in San Diego just emphasized that. So when the Denver eatery moved into its new digs in November after an eight-month hiatus, it got more than booths, a bar and a dessert bar big enough to accommodate everyone eager to watch the magic happen. At the new location, D now stands for drinks, dining and dessert, with a savory menu ranging from duck confit nachos to shrimp and grits. Some may miss the intimacy of the original, but look on the bright side: With a space that's roughly 4,000 square-feet compared to 1,300, you won't always have to wait for a table at the transformed D Bar Denver.

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Gretchen Kurtz has worked as a writer for 25 years; during that time she's stomped grapes in Napa, eaten b'stilla in Fez, and baked with Buddy Valastro, aka the Cake Boss. Her work has appeared in publications including Boulevard (Paris), Diversion, the New York Times and Westword. Our restaurant critic since 2012, she loves helping you decide where to eat and drink tonight.
Contact: Gretchen Kurtz