Archive for February, 2011

Considerations on a Cloudy Friday Downtown

Cold…but Spring really will come. Thousands of Denverites would consider the significance of Saturday, February 26 to be the beginning of Denver Restaurant Week. From tomorrow, through March 11. And, at this link, you can find all the restaurants, menus and information for reservations at nearly 300 places. Dozens of them are Downtown. Most of the best.

But, to many others, the most significant event of Saturday is the first Rockies game of the season. Sure, it’s just Spring Training, but the record is still perfect! Watch it on FSN at 1:10.

By the way, Restaurant Week will end just in time for the March 12 St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Downtown. So, Restaurant “Week” is actually two weeks. And, St. Patrick’s “Day”, this year, will actually be six days. Ouch.

Then, for Sunday, another nagging question. Is Sunday the 27th with its Oscars and Red Carpet as big, bigger, or not as big a deal as the Sunday two weeks hence, March 13, Selection Sunday? That just causes one to go to Dixon’s to sign up for one of Matt’s (at the bar, of course) many profitable NCAA Tournament Pools. Everybody’s a winner, unless your lead team gets blown out in the second round.

And, isn’t it nice and spring-like to know that today an important meeting took place to plan five miles of professional bike race route through Downtown for this August’s Quizno’s Pro Challenge Bike Race? Trust us. It beats the St. Patrick’s Day Parade!

Have a good weekend thinking these things over. And, come back to the Slice next week for a look at gallery openings at Plus and RedLine, kicking off the Denver Month of Photography!

On Ghosts, Lipstick and Microclimates

Many Downtown Denver buildings are said to be haunted…or, to at least have some pretty odd things occurring from time to time. But, there is only one actual Ghost Building, and it’s named that for a person by the same name, not a spirit. So, now and not in the best spirit, it is again empty. The owners failed to successfully negotiate a new lease with 20-year occupant, the Rocky Mountain Diner.

By the way, there is plenty of interesting information about the building itself (actually the facade) that was originally at 15th and Glenarm, threatened with demolition in the name of development, but dismantled and stored for years in a warehouse, to magically reappear at 18th and Stout.

But, now we have lost the Diner along with the Blue Plate Special, hot turkey sandwich, pan-fried chicken and western saddles at the bar. And, schooners! That’s a shame.

Meanwhile, across town at 15th and Market, it looks like work is beginning to turn the former Ruth’s Chris Steak place into a nightclub. At least, they have a large grafitti-like sign on the door complete with Deborah Harry lips, a phone number and some xoxo’s, all signed by someone named Chloe. It’s that Lotus thing. An entire city block has become a spectator sport. So far, we like the door treatment at the former Rocky Mountain Diner much better. It just said, “Get in Here!”

And, don’t worry about driving down Larimer Street through Larimer Square for a few days. A street-wide high-tech tent takes up the length for a big to-do Thursday evening. This is a private event for 1500 attendees from around the world at the Young Presidents’ Organization “Global Leadership Summit”. The delegates are already in town, and the dress code Downtown has been changed to “Elevated”. Even former President Bush (the “W” one) will speak to this group on Saturday.

But, by then, the tent will be down, and we can all safely return to the microclimate that exists in front of the Market, making it a nearly year-round outdoor seating mecca. This spot of pleasant weather is one reason you never see owner Mark Greenburg wearing more than shorts and a t-shirt. As is golf.

Rumors Good Enough to Chew On!

Friday is always a good time to spread a little gossip. And, no, we don’t know any further changes in the status of Carmelo Anthony. But, isn’t it a shame that most of the rumored deals for him include a Chauncey Billups departure as well?

But I digress. Downtown is getting more restaurants. Surprised? A couple of new ones, a probable move, and a replacement. Let’s see how this all works out.

First, the replacement. Marrakesh, on that great little restaurant block of Blake Street between 15th and 16th, is going away. Just a couple of days left for Moroccan food in LoDo. Taking it’s place will be a bar/dog/burger place probably called Todd’s Dogs. Hmmm.

We heard some time ago that an upscale Downtown eatery needed to move. And, they are looking hard at the 20th and Lawrence area. We think we know who it is, but we won’t say and the property owners can’t say yet either. But soon!

The office building along Cherry Creek and between Wewatta and Wynkoop has filled up nicely. Soon, they’ll likely announce a new restaurant as well, one that will look out at, and try to grab, some of that Pepsi Center activity. Of course, you will read about it in the Slice!

And, the very personable Enrique Guerrero (until recently a partner in Mangiamo Pronto) is busy with his plans for the Spire and one other space. The other space is of interest because, as reported a few weeks ago in Westword, he will be the only chef, have only one seating, and only one menu each week. And, he’s good! But, where, you ask? We know that, too, but can’t tell you just yet. It’s in LoDo. It needs a little work. And, it looks like there may already be a car parked there. In fact, we can see it from here!

And, one last bit of Downtown development of the food and wine kind, a permit has been requested for a “high end” wine shop…in Writer Square. We suspect the new owners of the Square are not aware that one of those came and went rather quickly just a few years ago. This one is probably planning more neon to blend in to the rest of the center.

Translations to Open “New Perspectives”

Jac Kephart "Transparent Order"

Continuing with our weekly report of gallery goings-on in Downtown Denver, this week brings the announcement of a new show at Translations Gallery, 1743 Wazee. Opening today, February 17, and with an Artist’s Opening Reception on February 18 (5:30-8:30) is “New Perspectives: Exploring New Outlooks on Familiar Topics.”

Greg Smith "Poppies"

Gallery owner Judy Pereira Hagler and Assistant Director Jillian Pate have assembled a show of several artists in a variety of media to challenge both theirs and our normal views of the world around us.

The show runs through April 2. Translations is open Tuesday-Saturday, 11-5. Join them for new work by artists you need to know!

This New Mall Kiosk Has Sole!

Scuffs! Right there close to Tremont and  Republic Plaza, Starbucks and Peet’s. Shoes are shined for $6. Boots for $8. Leave them off, or stick around. Monday through Friday. 7 to 5.

No Flip-Flops at this Tourist Center!

The 16th Street Mall is a work in process. One of the Downtown Denver Partnership’s efforts is to populate the Mall with appropriate kiosk businesses for us to walk around or into. They don’t all work. The food carts change. Coffee comes and goes. News was a wrap after just a few days last August.(Read about its bright beginning here in the Slice)

But, there’s no business like shoe business and we are all for any effort to clean up the Mall…and the look of its patrons. At least those wearing shoes. That need a shine. Probably why this Kiosk isn’t outside the Nike store. Wishing Scuffs a good run!

(Photo: Diane Huntress)

Assignment: Stay on 16th Street. And, Find a Good Cup of Coffee.

Can you do it? It may not be as easy as you think. And, yes, we have our reasons for saying that.

Recently, a woman visiting from San Francisco and riding the Mall Shuttle asked if the 16th Street Mall had a Starbucks on every block. It seemed that way to her. That’s not the case, of course. In fact, there are only four along the Mall…out of the 18 or so Downtown.

And, to be fair, there’s not even a real coffee place on every block of the Mall. Along the 17 blocks between Broadway and Wewatta, we come up with just 13 or 14 places where you might go searching for a well made Espresso or Americano. And, only some of those places have the really necessary ingredients for the proper coffee experience…windows, tables, no rush, well-trained baristas, porcelain cups and their own “neighborhood within a neighborhood” feeling. And, really good coffee.

Some of these might be the most convenient for you, or your personal favorite, but there are others worth trying and you just might come away with a longer walk and better experience. Let’s start at Broadway.

In the first block,  on a darkish corner, we find Daz Bog. Then, before we get to Court, tucked back off the sidewalk is Aspen Coffee, complete with a Salad Bar?

Between Court and Tremont, two more choices. Starbucks and Peet’s. Years ago, Peet’s actually begat Starbucks, but that’s a long story. The story in Downtown Denver is that Peet’s is back, at the Sheraton. But, beware. While the coffee is truly Peet’s and very tasty, this is not a company-owned store. They don’t take the frequent Peet’s coupons and promotions, and they don’t use the same brewing system. A true Peetnik will definitely know the difference.

We can cross the street and have coffee in the Barnes & Noble Bookstore. Or, better yet, go to Cook’s Fresh Market and enjoy drinks crafted with ILLY coffee from Italy.

Between Glenarm and Welton, nowhere for that fix. But, the next block is anchored by INK!, with their popular Black & Tan Blend and modern digs.

Tucked away at the corner of 16th and Stout is Tuscany Coffee, but only on weekdays. Then you have to go all the way to corner of 16th and Curtis to find the next Starbucks. And, two more blocks to the next Starbucks at Writer Square. But, here the choice to have a French-style café served to you at the table of Crepes n’ Crepes is a pretty easy one to make.

Now, on down the Mall, (this, again) two blocks to the next Starbucks, at Blake. Your next stop is the iconic Tattered Cover Bookstore, truly filling the above mentioned “neighborhood” feeling. Loitering encouraged.

One more choice before you run out of Mall is the new little place by the EPA building, My Favorite Muffin. Yes, mostly muffins. But, coffee drinks, too, and friendly people…and tables with windows!

We just stayed on the Mall and found a little variety and a couple of special standouts. Of course, you can venture a block or two either way to Mangiamo Pronto for Italian Style, Common Grounds for the hangout and a beer with your coffee, or, The Market in Larimer Square for the ultimate “neighborhoodness”.

Coffee is a very personal thing. In taste. In place. In porcelain or paper. So…is the 16th Street Mall all a’buzz? Or, are we just full of beans?

Spring Arrives at MCA Denver!

Step out of the cold and into the Spring exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver.

Three major exhibits opened last Friday, February 4 and they fill the Museum with some intoxicating, thoughtful and strong work. Houston-based Dario Robleto has created An Instinct Towards Life including one piece done especially for this exhibit. It fills the first floor until May 15.

Oakland-based Allison Smith created Piece Meal, and is still creating it, along with viewers. And, from the “notoriously theatrical” Austrian artist, Hermann Nitsch, Bloodlines. Both of these second-floor exhibits will be there until May 29.

Bloodlines: Paintings by Hermann Nitsch

But, don’t wait. These will cause you to spend time, go home and think, and return for re-examination. MCA Denver, at 15th and Delgany, is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10 until 6, and every Friday until 10 p.m. (See details here.)

Step in. See this.  And, talk about it. Then, when you leave, stop and look around and think about where you would put an exciting new restaurant concept. If you could!

Spring is strong at MCA. Always something in the air!