The Bite

That hits the Spot: It was googie while it lasted, but the White Spot has finally closed its doors at 800 Broadway -- despite the fact that those doors led into a room so California coffee-shop classic that it ranked as a true googie (named after Googie's, a long-gone roadside Southern California eatery) and was perhaps even worthy of historic designation. In fact, worried that the landlord, the Rickenbaugh family, was about to pull the plug on the forty-year-old restaurant, the sole survivor of a once-mighty Denver chain, manager John Morris announced in mid-June that he was going to apply for landmark status.

But rather than fight on, as D Diamond is doing a few blocks to the north, White Spot owner Tony Clements, whose parents founded the chain in 1946, the year he was born, decided to let the restaurant die with dignity. Although his month-to-month lease ran until July 1, on Sunday fans of meatloaf sandwiches and other down-home fare gathered for a last supper, a final cup of coffee and a sad googie goodbye. And Monday morning, the doors were locked for good, with a simple notice that the place is closed -- "Sorry." No word yet on what will happen to the burnt-orange interior and cool, Jetsons-era grotto. And unless landmark designation comes through -- which is fairly unlikely, since the property owner isn't pushing for it -- one day soon the White Spot will be demolished, and a retail/housing/parking-garage development will rise in its place.

Meanwhile, Diamond is waging war with the city to prevent condemnation of the block that happens to hold her restaurant, Ilios, at 1201 Broadway. Like the White Spot's old home, it's slated for a redevelopment project overseen by Mile High Development. In this case, though, the landowner would be the city, which is pushing the project as an adjunct of the Denver Art Museum expansion. So Diamond, who leases the space from current property owners Robert and Bettie Landie, took her complaints to Denver City Council chambers last week and continues to advertise her plight to the rest of the city through large banners hanging from her restaurant.

Still, after several hours of debate Monday night, the city council voted 8-3 to allow condemnation proceedings to begin. If she chooses to stay, Diamond should have another two years -- rent-free -- in her current location before the building is leveled and replaced...not by a museum exhibition space, but by a parking garage connected with the project.

Open-and-shut cases: The folks who created Boulder's hip, happening Hapa Sushi Grill and Sake Bar had their own quibble with Denver when they were prohibited from painting their robot mascot on the side of their new Cherry Creek outpost, at 2780 East Second Avenue. It's so hard to be appropriately chic in Cherry Creek. But, mural or no mural, Hapa's owners renovated the old Modena space in record time (and almost beyond recognition) and are set to open this week for sushi fans who like their fish fashionable. To let Denver diners know that there's a new squid in town, Hapa this week inundated key Denver neighborhoods with 10,000 miniaturized versions of its mascot, attached to a card with the words " Here we come..."

A few blocks away, Little Ollie's (2364 East Third Avenue) emerged victorious from its own fight with the city over its right to have patio dining and now has enough energy to be thinking about expanding. Expect Little Ollie's to get bigger this fall, when a second restaurant opens near Park Meadows.

The D.C. Deli Cafe (275 South Logan Street) seemed to have a lot going for it: good location, appealing space, fair prices, good food (including some tasty vegetarian sandwiches and a great spaghetti deal), but the place is out of business. Arrivederci also to Ristorante Catalano (5970 South Holly in Englewood), which served up a great minestrone for a decade before calling it quits. And the Papa's Pizza at 540 East Alameda Avenue is no more, although the Papa's at 3212 Wyandot Street is still operating as a carryout and delivery place only.

Around the corner, Gabriela Watts, who'd run the East Alameda Papa's for twenty years, has opened Chavin (2257 West 32nd Avenue), a Peruvian restaurant, in the space where she once threatened to open a chicken-and-rice joint. "Gabriela's kids are almost all grown up and moved out," explains an employee at the surviving Papa's. "She wanted to relax a little bit for once."

News and views: I returned from vacation to find my e-mail overflowing not just with news about restaurant openings and closings, but also responses to recent reviews. My June 7 "Summit of the Ate," a rave of the Hilltop Café (1518 Washington Avenue in Golden), drew a strong response from Alexis Anderson. "Kyle Wagner must have visited the Hilltop Café on a good day for owner J. Allen Adams," she wrote. "With so many great restaurants in Denver, sometimes it simply comes down to customer service. Adams was rude, pompous and the epitome of what a snotty host is depicted to be in movies but isn't in most better Denver restaurants. He couldn't lure me back there with gilded strawberries."

Actually, I visited the place on three of Adams's good days -- I'd enjoyed the restaurant so much on my two review stops, I chose it as a celebration spot for a friend who'd recently had a baby. The staff didn't even flinch when we came traipsing in with my two children and a newborn; in fact, everyone went out of their way to make us feel welcome. And judging from the enthusiastic folks who wrote to share their favorable experiences, I'd say Anderson hit the place on a very rare bad day. (That's why I never review a restaurant based on one meal there, by the way.) Much more common were comments like this one from Jayne Fleury: "Why is it so hard for places to have both good service and good food? Hilltop makes driving from Denver to Golden well worth it for either, and now it's one of my favorite restaurants."

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Kyle Wagner
Contact: Kyle Wagner