Jay Fox's Dining Guide

And life goes on...

“No man in the world has more courage than the man who can stop after eating one peanut.” — Channing Pollock

I STARTED WRITING A NEW COLUMN, GOT ABOUT 550 WORDS into it, and it crashed, sorta. I was doing a new piece on one of G and my favorite eateries, mark & isabella’s, when they were gone. As in closed forever. We were astonished, flabbergasted, and heartbroken.­

The several e-mails I received from owner/chef Mark Tarbell were less than enlightening. Reading between the lines, and being a regular customer at what was Belmar’s finest eatery, it was obvious. The economy has not been good since it opened just under a year ago, and while the weekends were packed, the lunch and dinner business during the week had few customers. Which is too bad, cuz not only was the food terrific, prices were very reasonable. Perhaps too reasonable. The house-made meataballs were 2-die-4 and the bugger was one of the best.

That, coupled with the fact that Mark opened his second The Oven Pizza e Vino at the Streets at SouthGlenn, and another upscale restaurant, Home, also at Streets, probably caused a major financial drain. The Oven continues to be packed all hours and I’m sure Oven II will do very well. G and I will check out Home next week.

This has been only one of many closures of good restaurants in the metro area, and I’m sure there are several on the brink.

I was shocked to recently hear about the closing almost two years ago of Michele’s Ice Cream in Colorado Springs. Open since 1952, this has been a long time destination eatery for the finest ice cream ever. The restaurant grub was also terrific. But the old generation had passed and the kids that took over thought the world was their oyster and they opened new stores and didn’t bother paying the Tax Man or their lenders. So they are all gone by the wayside as well.

The three McDonald’s (aka bugger barf) in Iceland closed last month so the issues aren’t unique to Colorado. The last two years have seen some terrific eateries leave the scene. Sparrow’s, Ocean, Juicy Lucy’s Steakhouse, Prime 121, The Red Room, Alto, 975 (again), Maharaja, two Ruth’s Chris steakhouses, all the Bennigan’s nationwide, Palomino, and Tula. I’m sure I left out a dozen or more.

The only suggestion I can make is before you travel to any restaurant, call and see if it is still in business. Also, some restaurants are closing one or two nights a week, so that call may be doubly important.

THERE HAVE BEEN SOME OPENINGS. A chain outta DC, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, gets rave reviews from Easterners and some who have tried it. I ain’t going, cuz they will only cook em burnt. So why bother? They now have seven (franchise) locations in Colorado, including two in Aurora.

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & ­­Steakburgers has opened (2660 W. Belleview Ave, Littleton, 303-730-2999; www.freddysfrozencustard.com). Steak burger? Ha!! It’s a doily patty; less than 2 ounces of something that looks like a charred lace doily. They call ‘em crispy edges. I say burnt beef. Takes less than 10 seconds to cook and is almost disgusting, unless you load it with lettuce tomato ketchup mustard pickle and onion. And paint the patty brown. Then it tastes like a salad. Ah, but the Vienna hot dog, the French fries and the chicken nuggets are very good, and the frozen custard is outstanding. The menu is very confusing and the pricing is stupid. Some combos are $2 extra, some are $2.10 extra and others are $1.90 extra. Go figure.

I think Smashburger is just a bit better. They also will only cook well done, but I did get a cook at one to try his hand at something akin to pink medium, and it was still awful. I guess it’s the folks that add stuff to the buggers that don’t care. Seems I may be the only one who doesn’t like them cuz all y’all are raving about ‘em. The fries are bad too, but the grilled green beans are terrific. If you want a good bugger, head to Billy’s Inn or the Blue Cow in Morrison. Or any of the upscale steakeries.

There are some good new restaurants. The best of the new is the second Brio opening in town, this one at Cherry Creek in the space vacated by Macaroni Grill (never did think grilled macaroni would go over). A beautiful room, good service and fabulous food. The waiter recommended the tilapia and the short rib sangie. Both were spectacular. My dining companion sed his rib sangie was the best sangie he’s ever had anywhere. My tilapia was superb. The first Brio in town is at Park Ghetto.

I FOUND SOME NEW old places….Or is it old new places? O’Brien’s Café (5585 North US Hwy 85, Sedalia, 303/688-4672). An old fashioned cafe just east of the Sedalia Grill and the turnoff to Bud’s Bar, has been serving fine food for over 20 years. The breakfasts are amazing, the homemade pies are terrific, but the buggers blew my mind. Hand-packed and very delish. Breakfast and lunch only. They close about 2 p.m., but call first. Doesn’t look like much from the outside, but spotless on the inside. The service is super friendly and efficient.

Last spring I found myself motoring south on US 285, and stopped at two old favorites. In Saguache County. In the town of Saguache, just as the road bends south, lies The Oasis Restaurant. It does have an address but what are you going to do with it? They have terrific Mexican fare and one of the best buggers in the state. Service is prompt and friendly.

About 12 miles south on Hwy 285, at County Road G, if you turn west six miles, you’ll come to the La Garita Trading Post, where the buggers are terrific, the home fries fantastic and the locals discussing everything from the price of barley to the snow depth expected. They serve grub til 3 p.m.

Continuing south into Monte Vista, I found a terrific little sangie/ice cream shop on the main street (Adams, I think). Had a good real turkey on a bagel with stuff in it, and very good malt. Nice friendly folks run the place. Not sure it had a name, but you can’t miss it. It’s on the east side of the street.

FUNNY LINES. Had a client call a while back to tell me that her new mortgage broker who thought himself to be one of the “young and restless” was really one of the “young and clueless.”

Bubble and Squeak

Have you tried the grilled onion rings at the DU snack bar in the lower level of the cafeteria building just west of Sturm Hall? Frozen, never fresh, and very yummy…Howsabout the buggers at Ruby Tuesday? Mighty fine sez I. Prefer the original instead of the new expensive three-kinda-meat ones…The house made, dark chocolate ice cream at the Capital Grille is 2-die-4…

Cya.

Tax season is luckily over for this restaurant critic/tax consultant and Mr. Fox is back at his best, telling us about food. A little criticism, a little humor, a little sweetness, and a bit of whatever, Jay can be reached at Jay@Jayfoxcpa.com.