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Nibbles: Dine and Dash


Cafés come and bistros go, but when Dolan’s Restaurant went belly-up in January, it spooked restaurateurs and diners alike. I know because they started sending me emails with too many exclamation points.

We’d already seen the shuttering of Spud Brothers, Scotch Corner Pub and Seven Eurobar early in 2009. Then the dining dominoes started to tumble as Sunflower, Bimbamboo, the B Side Lounge, Peaberry Coffee, El Taco Loco, Burnt Toast on the Hill, Coffee Sanctuary and Sidney’s Coffee closed in Boulder. In Lafayette, Pulcinella Ristorante (not its nearby pizzeria), La Familia, Kerry’s Steakhouse and Casa Alvarez ceased business as well as Longmont’s DaVinci’s Italian Bistro and Himalayas. Ristras was shuttered in Westminster.

But Dolan’s? For 15 years Michael Dolan’s Boulder eatery was a go-to destination for business lunches, steak and lobster dinners and seasonal parties. And Feb. 2 another venerable special occasion destination, the 24-year-old Royal Peacock Indian restaurant, bid adieu. If such solid institutions as these could fail, is it a harbinger of worse things to come?

The short answer is “no.” These are challenging times, but there are myriad reasons why eateries go dark. Our tastes change, there are more restaurants, and owners get tired of the hours. And January is often the month of shutterings as chefs hang on through the holidays.

More often than not those empty retail shells are rapidly being re-filled by fresh culinary entrepreneurs. 7 West Pizzeria & Pub is open in one-time Left Hand Tap House space in Longmont. Bradford Heap’s Salt has filled the landmark Tom’s Tavern address, and Hana Matsuri replaced the Village Bistro in Westminster. Kasbah, from the owners of Boulder’s venerable Mataam Fez, is now serving Morrocan fare in the Pulcinella location
The roster of eateries that opened last year in Boulder includes Arugula, Full Belly, Larkburger, Agave Mexico Bistro, Modmarket, Tangier, Café d’Amore, The Rib House, Suki Thai, Upslope Brewing Co. Tap Room, and Pizzeria Basta (pictured) and Gindi Café in the Peloton development. Other births: Mamma Mia (Westminster), Heaven Star (Broomfield), Oskar Blues Home Made Liquids and Solids (Longmont), On the Rocks Southern Bistro (Lyons), a second A Grand Finale dessert shop (Lafayette), and the resurrection of Neopolitan’s in Nederland.
Looking ahead, the National Restaurant Association is forecasting that Colorado restaurants will experience the strongest growth of any state in 2010. Here’s some supporting evidence.

Jorge Gomez, owner of Efrain’s Mexican Restaurant, will open a second Lafayette eatery in the space at 502 S. Public Road, formerly occupied by Casa Alvarez, focused on breakfast fare (Casa Alvarez still dishes green chile in Boulder). The renovated Kerry’s space will become Tutti, a family-friendly American eatery.

The owners of the Boulder-Dushanbe Teahouse, Aji and Leaf in Boulder, and The Huckleberry in Louisville, are opening a new Italian eatery, Zucca, in the vacant Tulien’s space at 808 Main St. in Louisville.

Noodles & Company notables Aaron Kennedy and Joe Serafin are opening Basil Flats at 1067 S. Hover Rd., Longmont. The protoype quick casual restaurant will serve Mediterranean cuisine.

Peppercorn Pho, a Vietnamese noodle spot, will fill 2770 Pearl St., formerly occupied by Noodles & Company until the latter moved into the 29th Street Mall.

With all this vibrant gastronomic activity, some might argue that it’s silly to weep over spilled Hollandaise. We are emotionally attached to dining establishments—certain dishes, servers, even tables. Powerful memories attach themselves to eateries where we celebrate birthdays, break up, and make marriage proposals.

It’s OK to mourn the loss of an eatery. Heck, I still miss Pelican Pete’s, which preceded Dolan’s in the same location.

Denver Restaurant Week, Feb. 20 to March 5, features multi-course meals for two for $52.80 (or $26.50 each). It’s a wonderful (and cheaper) way to discover eateries and so popular it will last two weeks. Some restaurants aren’t even in Denver: Bonefish Grill (Westminster), Meritage and Bloom (Broomfield), Via Toscana (Louisville) and Terroir (Longmont). Info at denver.org.  …There’s a Valentine’s Day tasting Feb. 13 and 14 at BookCliff Vineyards’ Winery and Tasting Room, 1501 Lee Hill Road, Boulder, 303.449.9463; a Zinfandel tasting Feb. 16, Carelli’s at 645 30th St., Boulder, 303-499-2337; and a Northern Italian wine dinner Feb. 25 at Nissi’s, 2675 North Park Drive, Lafayette, 303.665.2757. …If you’ve got an upcoming event, a complaint or a closed eatery you still miss, let me know. [email protected].

Among the best things I’ve tasted at North Metro area eateries in the past month or so include craveable pan-seared vegetable-filled momo (dumplings) with chile dip at Tibet’s Restaurant, 321 S. McCaslin Blvd., Louisville; and deep-fried baby Brussels sprouts leaves—surprisingly sweet and addictive with just a hint of salt—at Happy, 835 Walnut St., Boulder.

Upslope Pale Ale from Upslope Brewery (Boulder) and Ten Fiddy imperial stout from Oskar Blues (Lyons) were listed by Maxim among the top 25 new brews… The metro area finally has a by-invitation supper club. Hush, co-founded by former Seven Eurobar partner Phil Armstrong, features unique private dinners cooked by area chefs and cooks. Leave your email address at hushdenver.com and you might get invited.
Chris Heinritz, owner of The Sink in Boulder, wrote recently to object to my October column on burgers: “It was apparent you haven’t been to The Sink in awhile, otherwise you would maybe have given us some credit for serving the same grassfed beef as Salt does. I don’t think you will find a better value for grass-fed beef than our burger and fries for $10.39.”
“Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only food: frequently there must be a beverage.”—Woody Allen


emailed aug 12, 2009

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