The Bite

The Colorado Restaurant Association is predicting that the state's diners will spend $20 million per day in restaurants in 2002 -- but that money won't help the eateries that couldn't make it past December 31.

Several of the closures were no surprise. Exhibit A: Tasteez (9595 East Arapahoe Road, Englewood), which I guess is for sale after all, since it shut its doors for good last week. Tasteez owner Scott Wagner was pretty disgruntled when I reported that his place was for sale in the November 22 Bite -- a report based on information from two restaurateurs who'd toured Tasteez with the intention of buying it. But just a month after Wagner protested too much, Tasteez's phone has been silenced.

Although I loved the food at 3rd Avenue Eclectic Burgers (3000 East Third Avenue), especially the Best of Denver award-winning foie gras burger ("Look Out Below!" February 2, 2001), I never thought the location was right. Still, this elegant little spot managed to survive for a year and a half before giving up the ghost in December. No word yet on whether owner Lance Ortiz plans to market his great burger concept elsewhere.

I'll also miss Hana Japanese Restaurant (901 Oneida Street), which had cooked up very tasty sukiyaki for several years. The banner across the building promises that a new occupant, Taste of India, will be "Coming Soon!" I'd never made it to Blue Nile (2337 East Evans), and now I never will. Too bad, too, because I'd heard good things about it from University of Denver-area residents, including one who e-mailed me to say, "We'll never get another Ethiopian place to come in here, and that really sucks."

You've still got two days to visit Legacy Grill at the Legacy Ridge Golf Course (10801 Legacy Ridge Parkway, Westminster), which I picked several times for Best of Denver awards, honoring its well-priced wine list. Owner and former sommelier Bert Gehorsham is closing the eatery "to pursue other interests"; its last day is January 12.

Already gone -- and unexpectedly, at that -- is Ilios (1201 Broadway), which closed abruptly right before Christmas. A sign on the door, signed by the "Ilios Staff," announces: "The City of Denver gave us an early Christmas present! We are closed and unemployed five days before Christmas. Thanks for nothing." Well, the city wasn't offering nothing, exactly -- back when D Diamond, owner of Ilios, learned that her rented space was in danger of being condemned by the city for the Denver Art Museum expansion, she complained long and loud enough to get a buyout offer estimated at around a million bucks. Under the proposal given to Diamond this past June by Denver City Councilman Ed Thomas, the city was offering a minimum of two years' free rent in the current location (or until the museum-project construction reached Ilios), as well as a priority location facing Broadway or 12th Avenue for the restaurant in the new building, a $25-per-square-foot finishing allowance in that space, relocation expenses paid with a week of downtime thrown in, and a maximum new-lease cost of no more than $35 per square foot. It also included a provision for additional compensation for "hard fixtures" that couldn't be removed from the current building and would have to be replaced. Diamond's lease rate had been $10 per square foot, but Thomas thinks that rate may have been set artificially low because the property owners, Robert and Bettie Landie, knew that their building would be sold before the lease expired.

Diamond turned down the offer and instead filed suit against both the city and her landlord. According to her attorney, Garry Appel, that damages lawsuit is still pending (the case is set for trial in June); he says Diamond also has until mid-February to decide whether to appeal the city's condemnation -- despite a judge's ruling in late December that said Ilios had to close immediately. "Our position was and still is that the city could not evict Ilios for a variety of reasons, including that the city had no right to condemn the property for a partly private parking garage," says Appel. "Obviously, a judge disagreed."

"I don't know why they rejected our offer," says Thomas. "Now they're out on their cans with nothing."

Well, it just so happens that Diamond's can is pregnant, on top of everything else. So here's hoping this Diamond won't find things quite as rough in 2002.

The Incans who were rolling over in their graves at the insult that was Cafe Odyssey (500 16th Street Mall) can rest in peace once again: The eatertainment venture's Denver journey has ended. (The original, located in the Mall of America in Minneapolis, is still going strong.) Moving into Odyssey's space will be Sevilla (1801 Wynkoop Street), which has been serving Latin food and swaying to the music in the basement of the Icehouse for over three years now. Sevilla owner Bart DeLorenzo says the new Sevilla, which will be called Sevilla: A Spanish Steakhouse and Nightclub, is scheduled to open on Valentine's Day. Opening night will be a hot ticket, too, with Cuban flamenco guitarist Arturo Fuerte serenading the lovers, Latin or otherwise. Meanwhile, Sevilla's current incarnation is set to close on February 9, while DeLorenzo's gourmet takeout spot, DeLorenzo's Delicacy Shop, will stay in the Icehouse until "at least April" before moving over to the Pavilions, too.

Sevilla now has a corporate chef, Kristoff Bonnegrace, who hails from just across the Spanish border in France; he'll expand the menu for the Pavilions restaurant and also oversee the opening of a second outpost, Sevilla Las Vegas, which is slated to open in April at the Mirage. "Sevilla is a Spanish-Cuban restaurant," explains DeLorenzo. "We're going to make the new location more of a Spanish steakhouse, with the flavors of Spanish-Cuban food and the meat quality of a Del Frisco's."

Sevilla will offer USDA prime aged beef as well as top-grade meat from Argentina, according to DeLorenzo; the beef will share space on the menu with authentic paellas (a Barcelona style, with serrano ham, seasoned pork and melted cheese, and a Valencian version, with crab claws, roast pork, chicken, white fish, calamari, mussels and shrimp). And there will be hot and cold tapas, too, including such tempting tidbits as serrano ham with manchego cheese and romesco; shrimp gazpacho; spicy steak with habanero sauce; and a Spanish-style tortilla of potatoes layered with eggs.

The loss of the two DeLorenzo ventures will leave a gaping hole in the Icehouse. If you have a concept that could collect some of that $20 million a day, get in there.

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Kyle Wagner
Contact: Kyle Wagner