Restaurateur and chef Richard Sandoval doesn’t mess around.
If one of his many concepts isn’t working, its back to the kitchen table where he can conjure up a new approach to a floundering space.
Case in point: Exit Al Lado, a wine bar, enter La Biblioteca (Spanish for The Library), a testament to tequila. And even though Al Lado was still in its infancy since opening in August, Sandoval was willing to throw out the baby with most of the bath water.
In its metamorphosis, Al Lado surrendered to La Biblioteca, a Sandoval concept that’s found success in foodie-centric New York City. When Sandoval and his financial partners first decided to take over the small space next to Zengo, another Sandoval-owned eatery in the RiverFront Park neighborhood, the ownership group opted to try the wine bar concept that was missing in that part of town.
But Sandoval had a nagging feeling about the potential profitability of that venture. As Al Lado failed to gain ground, the tequila bar option came into play.
“Tequila is more exciting,” the charming chef told me during an invite-only preview of the place on Monday. “It’s a bigger hangover.”
The Biblioteca or library approach allows customers to buy bottles of tequila (from a 350-bottle collection) at the restaurant and store them in a personal locker available at no extra charge.
“Tequila is the fastest-growing spirit in the last 15 years,” Sandoval said.
And as to the food? The menu features all small plates that are primarily based in Latin cuisine with Asian and Peruvian twists. The ceviche offerings, for example, are called “suviche,” a Sandoval conceived combo of sushi and ceviche.
Sliders are served on Chinese buns stuffed with either achiote hoisin pork or bahn mi house-made beef and pork hot dogs. Sides are French fries with chipotle ketchup or potato chips with togarashi and cotija cheese.
The specialty drinks we sipped – Sweet Heat (my fave), Manzana Mexicana and Cucumber Pepino – tasted like well-crafted adult beverages that lacked the overly sweet taste of margarita mix.
News flash: Sandoval has officially relocated his company’s headquarters to Denver at Blake and 33rd streets. “We bought the building,” he said. “We’re here to stay.”
It’s all about the food and tequila at La Biblioteca, formerly Al Lado, on Little Raven in the RiverFront Park neighborhood just west of downtown Denver. (Photos courtesy of La Biblioteca).
The Art of the hotel business
Developers and city dignitaries broke ground (instead of bread) Monday on the Art hotel, a $50 million project at West 12th Avenue and Broadway, which will include 50,000 square feet of office space on the first three floors.
Designed by LoDo-based Davis Partnership Architects, the Art is a nine-story 165-room contemporary boutique hotel that will be part of Denver’s Cultural Center development area. The project is expected to be completed late next year.
Development partners include an investor group led by Lanny Martin, founder of Platte River Equity, and George Thorn, who partnered with Corporex Colorado LLC to develop the Museum Residences.
“We want to make the ART a place that is iconic to Denver,” said Mark J. Witkiewicz, chief operating officer of Corporex Colorado, in a statement. ”When people leave the city, they will remember the hotel. The Art will have the finest of what travelers and diners desire – a creative, beautiful, high-end look and feel; wonderful gathering spaces, excellent food, fine service and, of course, art. Our guests will experience art in the true Colorado environment; open, airy and bright.”
The hotel, which will be operated by Commonwealth Hotels, will be positioned above a three-story office building with views of both East and West directions. Guests will enter through a porte-cochere that opens to several spaces showcasing a collection of modern art curated by the former Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art of the Denver Art Museum, Dianne Vanderlip.
Rather than waiting at a reception desk, visitors will check in on the fourth floor with iPads. The restaurant, bar and gathering spaces will flow to a spacious terrace with a large fire pit on the fourth level overlooking the city.
“Development like what’s occurred here at the Cultural Center is driving our economy forward, positioning Denver as the ideal place to start a business, build a career and raise a family,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “The Art is the keystone of a project that has been years in the making. Everyone involved in the development of this neighborhood should be proud of the vibrant community they’ve worked hard to create.”
An artist’s rendering of the Art hotel coming to 12th and Broadway just south of the Denver Art Museum. (Courtesy of Davis Partnership Architects).
Von Miller tackles celebrity waiter dinner
Broncos All-Pro linebacker Von Miller is taking his talents from the field and onto the dining room floor during Von Miller’s Celebrity Waiter Night, beginning at 7 p.m. Monday at Ocean Prime, 1465 Larimer St. (www.ocean-prime.com).
Miller will be joined by teammates Champ Bailey, Wes Welker, Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, Wesley Woodyard and more who will trade in their orange and blue jerseys for aprons and assume the role of celebrity server for the evening.
Cocktails at 7 p.m.; dinner and live auction at 8. VIP tickets are $350, which includes a Signature Series football. General admission tickets are $250. Reservations: www.vonmiller.org.
Proceeds benefit Von’s Vision and its mission to provide low-income children with the eye care and corrective eyewear needed to be their best in the classroom and in life. The goal of Von’s Vision is to provide more than 50,000 children with eye exams and corrective eyewear by the end of 2016.
Von Miller’s trademark glasses drew him to his charity, Von’s Vision. The Broncos linebacker will host Von Miller’s Celebrity Waiter Night on Monday at Ocean Prime restaurant in LoDo. (Denver Broncos photo)
Nacho, nacho men (and women)
Did you know that today is National Nacho Day? Me neither, and nachos fall into one of my essential food groups!
While I have spent 20 years off and on my quest for the best nachos in Denver, I’ve yet to find that holy grail. But there are some worthy contenders.
Racines, at 650 Sherman St. (www.racinesrestaurant.com), packs a punch with a pile of cheesy, meaty (if you order the chicken or beef add-ons) taco chips topped with guacamole, pickled jalapenos, sour cream and layered with refried or black beans. Ask for the pico de gallo on the side and extra jalapenos, if you dare.
My other favorite nachos noshery is Blake Street Tavern, 2301 Blake St. (www.blakestreettavern.com). The Blake Street Nachos are a tower of taco chips covered in a mountain of five melted cheeses, olives, red onions, tomatoes and jalapenos. Add-ons are black beans, grilled chicken or flat-iron steak.
While the full order of Blake Street Nachos would feed (easily) a table of four, there’s the half-order option.
Zengo restaurant spokeswoman Maria Miller, who first alerted me to our country’s official homage to nachos, recommends her client’s nachos. “They are made with bean puree, cotija cheese and pico de gallo,” Miller tells me.
While I have enjoyed many a meal at Zengo, a Latin/Asian fusion eatery, I have yet to nibble the nachos. Zengo is at 1610 Little Raven St. (www.richardsandoval.com/zengodenver).
Where are your favorite nachos hiding? Shoot me an e-mail and I will make it my personal quest to taste test all your recommendations. For more of this country’s official “food holidays,” go to www.statesymbolsusa.org/National_Symbols/American_Hollidays.html.
Light up a new neon at the Candlelight on Friday
Speaking of bar food, raise a shot glass to the Candlelight Tavern on South Pearl Street on Friday as one of Denver’s top dive bars celebrates the debut of its new neon sign. The Candlelight has been serving up greasy pub fare, including a celebrated burger, for more than 50 years.
The Candlelight, at 383 S. Pearl St., is celebrating Friday with $2 specialty shots. More information at www.candlelighttavern.com or call 303-778-9530.
The new neon sign will debut Friday at The Candlelight Tavern on South Pearl Street. (Candlelight Tavern photo)
Eavesdropping on a woman: “Going to Target alone is a lot like going to the grocery store hungry.”
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