Archive for April, 2010

Big Game…Not Your Mother’s Il Fornaio

Denver by the Slice had the privilege last night to attend a Preview Dinner at the Big Game Restaurant and Lounge, about to open in the former Il Fornaio space on Wazee. Preview dinners can be chaotic affairs, but this one was not. This group is organized, professional and efficient…and the food was very good. It will be weeks, or months, before the kitchen settles into the routine we should see on a regular basis, so let’s re-visit the food at a future time.

Although, if you have the chance, don’t miss the Watermelon and Ahi Tuna Ceviche! Special!

But, we can discuss the room and the space makeover itself. The space that sat vacant for many months is remembered fondly by many local residents. Many of us bought bread, sometimes every day, from the front bakery counter. Very good bread. We liked the light levels and the fireplace. The entire operation made you think you may not really be eating in a chain restaurant. It was an accessible, easy-to-use neighborhood place.

Now, the room is quite different. Same space, of course. Most of the same booth structure. Same bar placement and same kitchen area. But, different.

The bar area has been opened up, but still has the marble half-moon bar and at least one of the marble stand-ups. But it feels bigger without the various fixtures and decor that were there. And, there are TV’s. Several.

You enter the dining area through a “horn door”, the only remnants of wild game decor spotted. So don’t worry about the guilt that goes along with dinner at the Buckhorn Exchange.

The dining area has plenty of tables, but also plenty of soft leather chairs and low cocktail tables oriented toward the fireplace wall. The fireplace, though, is dwarfed by very large video screens taking up the entire wall. These are above the several smaller screens running the length of the wall below. And, back on the entrance wall, more large and small screens. You won’t miss a thing.

It is a different feel for this space, so much the same, yet not. Over the months we will see how the effort to have such a video impact blends with the effort to have a true gastronomic impact in LoDo. Watch to see how the Big Game plays out…but DO have the Ceviche!

Matt’s Muddling Mounds of Mint!

Derby Day! Saturday, May 1 brings about yet another short horse race about which much is made…The Kentucky Derby. To help you view, drink, eat and enjoy this spectable (and the hats), Dixon’s has some fun specials all day.

Our friend Matt Raia, bar impresario at Dixon’s, is mulling lots of mint and opening lots of Jack. $4 Jack Daniels Mint Juleps, $4 Jack Daniels Whiskey Sours, $3 Derby Daly’s (sweet tea, bourbon and lemonade) and you can drink them all day if you really think you should.

The kitchen is turning out that famous Louisville tradition, The Hot Brown Sandwich. Named for the Brown Hotel, the Hot Brown first appeared there about 1926, invented by Fred K. Schmidt. Originally this sandwich included turkey and bacon on bread, covered in a Mornay sauce and broiled. Through the years, many variations have been concocted…and, this Saturday at Dixon’s, they are offering the “Mini Kentucky Hot Brown Benedictine Sandwich” for just $5, all day. The “Benedictine” of Kentucky food lore has to do with the Benedict Hotel in Louisville and it includes some combination of cucumbers and cream cheese. We don’t know where this is going, so try one out and let us know what you think!

By the Slice thanks restaurant guru John Imbergamo for the Derby Tip on Dixon’s. Betting it’s good!

Truck Runs Red Light in LoDo! Is that News?

No, it’s not. This happens all the time. Truck clearly in middle of intersection. Light clearly red. Caught on film! What you don’t see is that this same truck had just made a U-Turn out of a parking space, hurrying to run this light.

Denver by the Slice has a recently rejuvenated fear of vehicles running red lights. It is dangerous. People can be hurt. U-Turns on Downtown streets are dangerous to anyone nearby. So is crossing the street.

By definition, most drivers Downtown live somewhere else. They don’t know where they are going…and they are in a big hurry to get there. They don’t read signs. They don’t watch for peds or bikes or kids or dogs. They talk on the phone. It can be very scary out there.

Hundreds of cars everyday barrel down Wynkoop Street from 15th Street toward Cherry Creek. Yes, it is a dead end (or, cul-de-sac, if you prefer) and yes, there are only four (4) signs at the intersection announcing that. One car goes, another follows. And, worse, because of some trait of drivers still being researched, they drive back to 15th even faster to make up for lost time due to stupidity.

And, then there are drivers who rush to make lights, or just run them. The crosswalks at 15th and Wynkoop are especially dangerous, even more so when there are cars around. It’s not pleasant to see people or bikes being run into. Be careful!

Smashburger Plops Onto the Mall!

Most of us Downtown can see suburbs from our offices and rooftop decks. That doesn’t mean we ever go there. But, we know they are out there. After all, without the suburbs there would be NO traffic downtown.

But one Downtown-based company has decided that all of its suburban locations are too far away to keep a close eye on. So, Smashburger, the locally based national chain, is opening a restuarant they can see from their office windows. Company Headquarters is in Tower one of the 1515 Arapahoe building. The new Smashburger restaurant is on the Mall, right next to Ling & Louie’s, which is right next to the Cheesecake Factory. (I think, also, that if we did not have the suburbs, we would not have a Cheesecake Factory.)

Most of us Downtown resident types may not be familiar with Smashburger. We did not grow up with them. We can’t name their spokesclown. We might not be able to tell someone where one is. But, if we like it, we can all plan our travel dining around their places…in suburbs nationwide.

Smashburger is coming with Smashburgers, Smashchicken, Smashfries and Smashdogs (That last one doesn’t sound quite as appealing.). The picture above is from their web-site where you can also peruse the menu…or buy a franchise. I will admit to having read very good things about the namesake offering. I’ll have mine to go!

Beer by Horse and Wagon Starts Tomorrow!

Right here on the blog, we announced it on March 16. And, at about 7:00 p.m. Friday, the wagon rolls from the Wynkoop to make Beer Deliveries! First stop is the Wazee Lounge and Supper Club. Then, down the alley to Wines off Wynkoop, and then on to other downtown customers for Wynkoop drafts and Railyard Ale cans. This, finally, is a good use of our streets!

Doors Open to Feature the Light Art of LoDo Lights!

This week’s Doors Open Denver will feature a special appearance in LoDo! Mike Rogers will lead the Denver After Dark Tour Saturday night for 30 lucky people. And, this year, that tour (a Doors Open hit) will visit LoDo Lights at Manny’s Bridge. That, of course, is the public art project maintained by the Lower Downtown Neighborhood Association…and it only works at night. It’s on the pedestrian bridge over Cherry Creek at the end of Wynkoop Street.

The Doors Open Tour promises “a magical stroll through downtown Denver to take in the lights and sights of Denver at night. The tour will introduce attendees to many of Denver’s nighttime landmarks and will walk you through the art and technology of lighting in this vibrant urban landscape.”

Watch for the crowd, or be in it, at about 8:15 Saturday evening!

Rockies Get 2010 LoDo Spring Off to Good Start!

Opening Day. Beautiful weather. And, this year, an absolutely terrific pitching performance to match it. The Rockies win their home opener 7-0, sandwiched between two fighter jets and the closing fusillade of blasts to celebrate. Does RockTober start now?