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Critique my Denver list on food caliber and child-friendliness, please

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  • Kelly Sep 21, 2010 08:19 AM
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Hi Denver 'hounds --

My taste buds are already gearing for our (roughly) annual trip to Denver to visit family and I'm starting to build my wish list. I'm already indebted to many of you -- particularly rlm and tatamagouche -- for previous postings.

We'll be in town for roughly 8 days, so obviously we won't hit all of the options below, but any recent commentary/preferential rankings/alternatives would be appreciated.

I'd also appreciate input on a very specific front -- the child-friendliness of the restaurants. Not that they need to have toys and food in bags (God, no), but we'll have our 18-month-old son with us for most of our restaurant forays and will be looking for places where high chairs might be available and where the occasional squawk, or child wandering about in the company of an adult, would not be frowned upon. (Last December, we brought him to brunch at Rioja and that was just fine.)

(The child-friendliness of the food, alas, is not a consideration. Despite my efforts to raise a little James Beard, the wee one has entered a phase where anything other than yogurt, bread and sausage is viewed with scorn and suspicion.)

We will probably sneak away for one dinner a deux, so any votes as to what that meal should be are welcome. I'm leaning toward Fruition...

Thanks in advance!

BISTRO/GASTRO/LOCAVORE
Beatrice & Woodsley
Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen
Fruition
Rioja
Root Down
The Squeaky Bean

CHINESE
Star Kitchen

INDIAN
India's Restaurant
Little India Restaurant

JAPANESE
Den Deli and Seafood Market
Sushi Sasa
Sushi Den

MEAT
Park Burger
Elway's
LoHi Steakbar

MEXICAN
Tacos y Salsas

MISCELLANEOUS
Gastro Cart
Pajama Baking Company
Sweet Action Ice Cream

THAI
US Thai Cafe

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Beatrice & Woodsley
38 S. Broadway, Denver, CO 80209

Rioja
1431 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80202

Sushi Sasa
2401 15th Street, Suite 80, Denver, CO 80202

Sushi Den
1487 S Pearl St, Denver, CO 80210

US Thai Cafe
5228 W 25th Ave, Edgewater, CO 80214

Elway's Restaurant
2500 E 1st Ave Ste B101, Denver, CO 80206

Star Kitchen
2917 W Mississippi Ave, Denver, CO 80219

Root Down
1600 W. 33rd Avenue, Denver, CO 80211

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  1. I have a suggestion for the misc list...http://www.dbardesserts.com/menus.htm I have a young son, who is now three, but we've been taking him there since he was your son's age. Not only are they welcoming the bend over backwards. We've probably been there a few dozen times (hey what can I say it's nice to get out to somewhere other than Stubens with the kiddo, lol) and each time, they've offered to make him PB & J or noodles and cheese and never once charged us (although I've always tipped accordingly). One day when he was teething, they literally brought out half of an unsliced loaf of french bread for him to chew on. And now that he's comfortable there, when Lisa isn't busy (keegans wife) she will come grab him and give him a tour of the kitchen, which always ends in a doggy bag for him *that mommy raids on the ride home, lol*.

    2 Replies
    1. re: tesnjen

      Thank you for the dbar suggestion! This actually sounds like a perfect place to go with both our son and my partner's two grown daughters, who are serious sweet freaks. And the list grows longer...

      1. re: Kelly

        Nextdoor to dBar Desserts is Strings, a Denver classic with good food and a fine community ethic. Multi-generational guests, from grannies to little ones.

    2. I probably wouldn't take my child to Fruition or B&W, but the rest of them should be okay (haven't been to LoHi, so I can't comment). Another vote for delicious child friendly restaurant is Tables in Park Hill. They have a great seasonal menu and are beyond kid friendly, it's amazing.
      Have a great trip!

      1 Reply
      1. re: ijack

        I've taken my 1 year old to LoHi and it's been fine. The restaurant is fairly loud and kind of casual/barlike so no one will likely notice if your little one makes a bit of a racket. And they have highchairs. Their steaks are awesome!

      2. Our toddler likes:

        JAPANESE
        J'Shabu
        Domo
        Kikis

        CHINESE
        dim sum like Super Star Asian
        fun interiors like Ocean Forest Cafe

        DINERS
        Gunther Toodys

        KOREAN
        Han Kang in the patio

        . . . and picnics outside.

        Actually the only places we have had a problem are (1) Indian restaurants and China Jade Sichuan because many of the dishes are too spicy, (2) Pho restaurants because the long noodles are hard for him to manage, and (3) Budapest Bistro because it was too quiet a restaurant to have a toddler making funny noises -- we escaped to Pajama Baking a few doors down.

        4 Replies
        1. re: eade

          I am gnashing my teeth in jealousy of your omnivore toddler...

          1. re: Kelly

            Oh I did not mean to point out that my kid eats everything. Let me say this: some restaurants might stimulate's your toddler's interest in different foods.

            For example, Kobe An is a decent, but not stellar, Japanese restaurant in Lakewood. Our toddler loves it because he can see the sushi chef making sushi. He pretends to make sushi and give it to us. And since he is so enthralled the sushi making process, he then eats it too (only salmon, because of mercury worries with the larger fish).

            Similarly, J'Shabu, is an excellent shabu shabu place in Aurora. (It is the only shabu shabu place in Denver, and it is authentic.). It is quite interesting for toddlers and older kids because you make the food yourself right in front of you. The kids can help "cook". Same with the Korean BBQ places.

            We went to Sushi Den once and found it a bit upscale for toddlers, although other families do not hesitate to take their young ones there.

            1. re: eade

              J'Shabu seems to be closed.
              http://blogs.westword.com/cafesociety...

              1. re: Pastajohn

                Oh noooo. It was the only authentic shabu shabu in the Denver area.

                I wonder why it was not popular. The main problem with Shabu Shabu, at least from our perspective, is that it did not have tables that you could sit around the pot and easily share the meal with your meal mates. A main point of shabu shabu is the communal nature of the meal. Shabu Shabu made that very difficult if you were there with more than three people.

        2. beatrice for dinner would be better w/o child, it's fairly romantic and childfree. you'd probably also enjoy the silliness of the decor more alone. brunch would be ok though and the young un might get a kick out of the tree stumps and chain saws, not to mention the bathrooms! foodwise though, i'd vote for fruition for your special dinner. beatrice food can be really unpredictable--amazing escargot, disturbingly burnt "charred" pork, root veggies cooked improperly because of too much variation in size. that said, it's cute and fun for a cocktail and small bites or brunch.
          euclid hall is good but not great, and one only needs so much of one chef. rioja is her best work.
          root down would be lots of fun with the kid for dinner--it's loud, it's bustling, it's kitschy, and the food is awesome.
          squeaky bean is good for a casual thing and often has families. one warning though, if they're busy, food times can be excruciating, always important to keep in mind when dealing with very young children.
          den deli closed recently to reformulate. i wouldn't dare bring a toddler into sushi den--too see and be seen, too long of waits. if you're set on bringing kiddo out for sushi, maybe try izakaya den, the middle sister of the den family. it's less crazy (sort of) and more friendly (sort of). definitely make a res, but don't count on being seated on time unless it's 5:00 on a tuesday. domo would be fun, but it's usually on the quieter side.
          everything else seems fine, although denver's indian food is really terrible.

          3 Replies
          1. re: ephemeral8

            Many thanks for the feedback. Yes, B&W was definitely on my child-free list - and based on your comments, I'm more than happy to make it just a quick stop for a cocktail.

            Agreed on the Jaczinski overkill, and Rioja is definitely our go-to place, so we'll skip Euclid Hall. You know how it is when you go to a restaurant for the first time and everything - food, setting, weather, company, whatever - just aligns perfectly and it makes you love the place for the rest of your life? That's Rioja for us. :o)

            Root Down just moved up a notch on the list.

            I hear you on the Indian food - but it has to be better than Brussels' and I haven't been getting over to London nearly often enough these days, so I am willing to settle for mediocrity...

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            Rioja
            1431 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80202

            Root Down
            1600 W. 33rd Avenue, Denver, CO 80211

            1. re: ephemeral8

              Better alert Keller that he should shutter Per Se, Ad Hoc, and the multiple Bouchon locations immediately and just focus on that little laundry business of his. :-) Yes, the media is all hot-and-heavy on the new kid on the block Euclid Hall right now, but how is that Chef Jasinski’s fault? If you were spending money to open a business, would you tell no-one and hope that no-one wrote articles about it? People need to know businesses exist in order to patronize them. I love Rioja, but Euclid Hall is a completely different (and equally valid) concept—otherwise, why not just call it Rioja II? I’m not always in the mood for white tablecloth dining, so it’s nice to know there’s somewhere I can go for high-quality pub food and unique beers that are appealing even to this die-hard wino. Euclid’s Chef de Cuisine Jorel Pierce was formerly the sous chef at Rioja, so if you liked his cooking there how can you not have a soft spot for things like Euclid's sausages, poutine, and pickles? ;)

              Between Rioja, TAG, Osteria Marco, and Euclid Hall (as well as the other concepts coming soon from Chefs Troy Guard and Frank Bonanno), it’s getting difficult to decide on Larimer. What an “awful” problem to have though!

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              Osteria Marco
              1453 Larimer, Denver, CO 80202

              Rioja
              1431 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80202

              1. re: rlm

                i did really like the curry blood sausage and the stilton sandwich at euclid, but thought everything (especially the duck poutine) was pricey enough to keep me from going back. $11 for a plate of fries with a very meager amount of duck? $5 for a single kumamoto paired with 4 oz of beer? the pickles i sadly did not try (i love piccalilli), so i will put them on my list if i do go back.

                as for their beer selection, while it shows promise, i really didn't find the list that exciting. they class young's double chocolate stout under "calculus: pushing the envelope"? young's?? really about as exciting as licking an envelope. and a 750 of gulden draak is $32.75, which you can get retail for under $12. i've worked at enough places to know what the typical margin is, and that's just ridiculous. table 6 carries 375s of girardin for $9, which is about a dollar more than you'll usually find it retail. i know there may be special circumstances regarding pricing for specific things, but i'm familiar with quite a few things on their list and they all seemed unnecessarily high, even for larimer.

                i like the concept and i like the space, i just think the execution makes it seem like the management group is a little over confident about the public's eagerness for jen jasinski as a brand. she's a great chef, and i think the place will be successful, it just seemed a little full of itself. that said, i'll probably go back at some point and enjoy myself, but it's not a place i'd ever get excited about going.

            2. My opinions....
              pass on Pajama as it used to be better and now it's just meh
              Park Burger is the BEST burger place in the area IMO - a MUST do!
              Banzai has excellent sushi, it's in SE Denver and it's way cheaper than SD and others
              Root Down is very tasty and has a great vibe - would be fine with a kid
              I've heard really good things from friends about Euclid but haven't been yet....supposed to be great! Venue is one of my fave restaurants in town - their shrimp and grits as well as soups cannot be beat!

              Have fun!

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              Root Down
              1600 W. 33rd Avenue, Denver, CO 80211

              1. Haven't been to most of these places, but let me give a whole hearted recommendation for US Thai. It's very casual and there is lots of room so it should be good for the kid. The food is quite hot, so order one spiciness level lower than you would normally. I typically go for "hot" but definitely ask for "medium" at US Thai. The quality of the food is very high, the portions large, and the prices are great. I've gotten lots of different things there but what stands out the most is the Pad Piew-wang (sour and sweet) - I get it with tofu. It seems to take longer to prepare than other things though, one time in a big group it came out well later than everyone else's entrees.

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                US Thai Cafe
                5228 W 25th Ave, Edgewater, CO 80214

                1 Reply
                1. re: castiron

                  I ate at US Thai and it was good, certainly better than most if not all of the thai food in the Front Range. One thing worth noting, as you do, is that they make their food spicier than most places; at least that was my experience the one time I ate there. I also found the entire dining room to have a little bit of chili spice in the air, presumably because of how spicy they are cooking things (and maybe not a great ventilation system?). It was just slightly uncomfortable to me, and it might be more uncomfortable to a child. Of course, that was just one experience. And I'd go back in a heartbeat if I lived any closer.

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                  US Thai Cafe
                  5228 W 25th Ave, Edgewater, CO 80214