Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sign O' the Times 11 -
Denver Restaurant Edition

The weekend before last, Evan and I took Leslie and Gianna to DIA for their flight back to Pittsburgh. After that, we decided to get some lunch, and check out a few things that you can't get or see in Grand Junction:

This is the Loco Moco from L&L Hawaiian Barbecue in Aurora. Evan had been here before.
This dish consists of two fried eggs and two hamburger patties atop a bed of white rice, covered in gravy. This is accompanied by macaroni salad. Sorry I didn't get a picture of their sign, but if you look closely you can probably make out the words WIDE LOAD AHEAD.
Unless you have the metabolism of a 19-year-old.

We actually have Hawaiian Barbecue in Grand Junction, down at Tropix on Orchard Mesa. It's comparable to L&L in quality and price. They had Loco Moco on the menu at one time, but it is inexplicably no longer available there. Hence it's inclusion here.

Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill is a Denver-based company, with restaurants along the Front Range. They were a favorite of mine when I went to school in Denver. The selections are varied and tasty, the quality consistent, and the prices reasonable.
You can't find this kind of food in GJ. The closest facsimile is the falafel and hummus at the Pita Pit on North 12th Street, which while kind of tasty is a bit pricey in comparison. Garbanzo has an active presence on Facebook, in case you'd like to give them a shout for expansion to the Western Slope.

The Ya Hala at Evans and Colorado in South Denver is a diamond in the rough for Middle Eastern food, no matter what the sign says. They're in a remodeled former gas station. I ate there a few years ago. The food was excellent, and the staff pleasant and welcoming. They're in an area with several local choices in mideast and Mediterranean cuisine, including the Damascus just down Colorado on the same side of the street.

T. Harris and H. Lecter, proprietors.
F. Dolarhyde and W. Blake, silent partners.
Unlike many of these similar places in Grand Junction, this one did not have a nail salon next door.

Evan and I took in Tron: Legacy at one of the IMAX 3D theatres in Denver. The movie was good, but wasn't enhanced by 3D the way that Avatar was. Judging from the trailers, the 3D movies made specifically for the IMAX format are extraordinary.

After the movie, Evan recommended Noodles and Company for a light dinner before heading back home. The concept of this Texas-based restaurant chain is noodle dishes with asian, mediterranean, or american origins, food cooked made-to-order with selection of meat and other options, and reasonably priced in a casual, comfortable atmosphere.
They have numerous outlets across the country, including several in both Metro Denver and Salt Lake City. Time to split that gap, Noodles folks.

In all fairness, Grand Junction is not a culinary wasteland. We've got some very good and very reasonable locally-owned restaurants (Conchita's, Suehiro, Blue Moon), as well as franchises such as Red Robin and Genghis Grill. Cafe Rio is the newest addition to this lineup, across Patterson Road from the Mall. Based in Salt Lake City with outlets in 6 western states, Cafe Rio specializes in freshly prepared Mexican dishes in freshly made tortillas. It drew crowds for its opening, but the staff was efficient and the food tasty. A little expensive, though.

Unfortunately, not all restaurants with a unique Denver presence seem to be able to survive here. Good Times at 23rd and North lasted over 10 years before shutting down recently.
When I lived east of the college on Elm Avenue, it was difficult to walk to Teller Arms without gravitating toward the smells coming from this place.
Christy Pennington, a spokesperson for the Golden-based company, told me that the Grand Junction outlet, which was a franchise operation, had "struggled long enough", and they hoped to be able to return to the area sometime in the future.

When reflecting on all of these places, I know that I'm better off staying at home and cooking my own food, especially when trying to eat healthy. Yesterday, Yahoo offered some interesting ideas on what to eliminate from the kitchen in order to eat healthier.

I've yet to perfect pan frying falafel and spinach in olive oil, but I'll get there.

Have a good weekend. Go Steelers.


Jenny said...

I remember the big treats for me in Denver were Red Lobster (44th & Wadsworth) and then Olive Gardens (Westminster Mall). But now that we have both of those here it's not the same. I love P.F. Changs. But they can keep it far away so it remains a rare treat.
Have you been to the new & improved Pantuso's? My parents said it was yummy, servers were great, and the prices weren't bad.

Chip Ferron said...

I keep hoping for a Panera Bread. It's my favorite mass-market place for lunch. I'm also waiting for a decent Indian restaurant somewhere in western Colorado. Montrose has a pretty good Thai restaurant now, but I'm sure missing Indian cuisine.