Sunday, June 21, 2009

Brewery Bar II / III / IV, Mexican, Denver-CO, Aurora-CO

Last Visit: May 2013 (BB III)

Rating: Strong Buy

For any long time resident of Denver, you don't need the Regular Joe's Guide to recommend the Brewery Bar. It was an institution when we first moved here in 1995, and is even more so now - especially given the fact they've opened two more locations in the last 6 years.

The BB II (bee bee eye eye) is everything that the RJG looks for: Local, kind of divey, popular but definitely not hip, unique food, friendly and consistent service, and most importantly, great taste. This is the place where the cops, politicians and mobsters share a meal together - and maybe make a deal on the side. Where local sports celebrities may show up at the bar, and be treated with all the spectacle of a local neighbor. Where the lazy journalists hang out all day and get more scoop over a bowl of green chile, than a whole day of pounding the pavement. Judges and councilman plot the future of the city right here - over a smothered chile relleno. One time we were with a friend who locked his keys in the car. Two minutes later someone was walking by that just "happened to have" his lock pick kit with him. Gee, what luck! Yea-huh.

The original location was in the old Tivoli Brewery near downtown (thus the name), and when they shut it for renovations to add yuppie stores and shops, the exceedingly low budget Brewery Bar needed to move on. The "II" was born. They could not have found a better spot - an old closed down tacky strip joint just west of downtown in a seedy section known today as "Baker", but what locals would have called a "no go area". From the parking lot, you can see a grain elevator, warehouses and the railroad. Hardly the picturesque mountain scenery of your travel brochure. Jack Kerouac would've loved this place. This is the real Denver......man.

So what's all the fuss about anyway? Green Chile. Bowls of it. And hot enough to blow your head off. You will sweat and you will cry. And you love every minute of it, as the flavors become more vibrant with each bite. You can smother your burrito or chile relleno with it. Hell, you can smother anything in it. It's not even really a green chile at all - it just happens to have lots of very hot green peppers buried in there. No one in New Mexico would recognize their state dish. This is the real Denver.....man.

I don't think you can have a bad meal at the Brewery Bar. Even the crunchy ground beef tacos are world class, loaded to the top with tasty meat and cheese. And you get a yummy unique taco sauce to go with it, not just the chips table salsa. And make sure you wash everything down with a Colorado beer. A "big bowl of green, two beef tacos and a tiny Fat Tire" is my idea of heaven. (tiny = 24 oz).

Fussy yuppies complain that it's "dirty", that it's not like Chili's or any other pre-fabricated corporate dining experience. Well so sorry Amber, but the Brewery Bar wasn't designed with you in mind. It was made for Bill and Alice - and they don't give a rats poop what you think. Bill and Alice don't know how to ski either, and you're ruining their Denver.

Over the years, The Brewery Bar became too popular for its own good and getting into the place for lunch was near impossible unless you showed up before 11 or after 2. So they surveyed the folks on where they came from. No surprise that the Denver Tech Center (DTC) was a main source of the crowds. Hell, me and a few friends alone probably contributed to that. Not a week would go by where the blue shirt, tan pants, beeper (pre cell phone days) crowd would make our weekly pilgrimage. The locals even liked us - sort of. So they opened the BB III in the DTC. Only the Brewery Bar could open a new place that looked like a dive. Surrounded by corporate restaurant hell, the Brewery Bar III is a beacon for all that is good with the world.

Finally they opened the BB IV (eye vee) - now how apropos is that? Because indeed one does feel the need to I.V. the chile after awhile. This location is in Aurora near the intersection of Arapahoe and Parker (Hwy 83). And again, the Brewery Bar sits amongst the publicly traded restaurants - and once again it has become the most popular restaurant in the area. This is the location we go to, out of convenience more than anything else. Besides, it still looks and feels like a dive.

Funny enough, they did capitulate a bit on the heat levels for their new restaurants. And they now offer a mild and a half and half. Oh pu-leeze. Just go for it.

Want the real Denver? Go to the BB II, and have a bowl of green, and don't wimp out on the heat. John Elway may be the guy sitting next to you at the bar. And no one cares - he's a regular.

Brewery Bar II on Urbanspoon

Brewery Bar III on Urbanspoon

Brewery Bar IV on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 20, 2009

City Pub, Tavern, Hamburgers, Denver-CO

Ah, the neighborhood tavern. A relic from a bygone era, when one would stop by after a hard day of work and share a brew or two with old friends before heading to the chaos of home. The tavern's death knell were the sprawling suburbs, where driving distances to and fro work were long and time consuming. Drinking and driving laws became more strict, and the suburbs were rarely served by public transportation. My uncle, who lived in the inner burbs of Seattle, loved taverns. He knew them all within a 5 mile radius, what beers they served, the bar flys, the food, the waitresses, the bartenders and the patrons. It gave him a reason to live. When he died a couple of years ago, they were all gone and bulldozed - had to make room for one more Olive Garden, a Home Depot and a Starbucks.

And with that, City Pub is a welcome sight indeed. It's a throwback to another age. A dark, perhaps unwelcoming place - at least for newcomers. But once in the door, it seems oddly familiar. It's part of the neighborhood. And, maybe best of all, City Pub is a new addition to this southeast Denver area, an extension of the already established City Grille, which resides near downtown - the one area where places like this can still survive. And if you do decide to drown your daily sorrows, it's less than a 15 minute walk to the Dayton Light Rail station. The RJG loves public transportation - it brings the community back together.

All this is fine and dandy, but if the food doesn't hold up, then it's just another dive bar that will see its demise soon. Fortunately City Pub puts a strong emphasis on the quality of their product. They boldly proclaim "Best Burgers in Town" on the sign out front, and you know what, they may have a case here. The steakburgers, with an array of cheese choices, are delicious. Heavily seasoned to penetrate the quality ground beef. Fries are good, if perhaps not exceptional. Maybe best of all is the green chile, an award winning concoction that has exceptional flavor and a little kick to it. City Pub offers many other dishes, of which the RJG is excited to try in the future. Especially appealing is the Wednesday night special of spaghetti and sausage. We'll be there.

Keep the neighborhood concept alive, forgo the national chains, and support your local independent.

City Pub is on Yosemite, just south of Hampden, on the west side of the road.

Website: http://www.citygrille.com/citypub/

Citypub South on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Gutierrez, Mexican, Hays-KS

First visit: June 2009

Over at Urbanspoon, I wish they offered a middle grade between "I like it" and "I don't like it". Judging from the relatively low score for Gutierrez, I'm thinking most of the "don't" votes may be more towards the middle. That's where we sit.

This is fairly bland, safe, Mexican food.Gutierrez makes a big deal out of not being a chain. I think they do that because they ACT like a chain. Give us some spicy options! Put tequila in the margarita for crying out loud! But to say we didn't like it isn't fair either, as their basic salsa's are tasty - one containing that smooth texture that the Kansas taco chains are known for. The ground beef was heavily seasoned, though not overly tasty. The chicken is all white meat, and prepared very well.

Hays is a great place to stop on the long journey to and from our other home in Denver on I-70. But I would recommend Taco Grande over Gutierrez. Next time, though, we're trying the brew pub! (11/22/09 note: And we did - it's excellent!)

Gutierrez Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Great Outdoors, Submarines, Dallas-TX

It was our place. The place where father and son would go to enjoy a meal, talk freely, and savor the moment. We'd talk politics, religion, school, his job, etc... He wanted to talk with me about girls, but I was never too comfortable with that. Just enough to let him know, you can relax Dad, I definitely like girls. We first discovered the Great Outdoors near Bachman Lake sometime in the early 1980s while I was still in high school. On sporadic weekend college flights home from Lubbock, he'd meet me at Love Field and we'd beeline over there. My first job out of school was near Addison Airport, so we relocated to the Carrollton store. The wife and I had relocated to Colorado, but on trips home, with the Bachman Lake restaurant now closed, we'd still venture up to Carrollton for each visit. Or on one particular business trip I was working near LBJ and Central, so we'd go to the Forest Ln one (now also closed). Finally, after we relocated back to DFW, I had an office near Belt Line and the Tollway, so we made the Belt Line and Montfort location our new home base for once a week lunches. Today, this is the only one I go to - about once a year when I see my accountant and sit in silence and reminisce. NE Tarrant even had one when we moved back - in North Richland Hills. Obviously I took it for granted, as it closed nearly as quick as we arrived (sometime in mid 2003). The Great Outdoors remains primarily a Dallas area institution, with one lone Ft. Worth location.

The ritual was always the same. I'd get a double #1 (Ham, Salami), or a double #3 (Turkey Pastrami) and he'd get a single #6 or #12 (the ones with the most variety of meats). Always on white. Then it was time for the glorious "Works". As one African American worker said to me with a certain ghetto street tone "THAT'S WHAT MAKES THE SANDWICH!!". Incidentally the workers, over the years, have been uniformly great - many had worked there for over a decade (rare for fast food). So back to the Works. I'd get it without tomatoes. On queue, Dad would automatically say "give me his tomatoes" and snicker-laugh unconsciously. I would dress it with mustard (regular), and he would always say a "big blob of mayonnaise". We'd each get a pickle spear (15 cents!). I'd usually go a chocolate chip cookie. He'd get Diet Pepsi and I'd choose a Mountain Dew.

Then the games would begin. Dad would try to wolf down his sandwich as fast as he possibly could stuff into his mouth. I'm no slow eater either, though I would put down the sandwich and chew the food at least. Why did he do this? So he could smoke, that's why. Back in the days when you could still smoke indoors at restaurants. His goal was to get in as many cancer sticks as possible before I would say "it's cold, let's go". See, since the Great Outdoors is a deli with meats, the place is always kept at a frigid temperature. In the winter, we'd be dressed appropriately, but in the summer... are you kidding me? Plus he'd just assume spend all day there smoking ciggy's and talking about whatever, and I'd rather actually have a life and maybe see a friend, or do something else other than talk about the military ex-officers club. Or his sales figures. Or my low grades.... So while sitting there enjoying my sandwich, he'd already reached into his shirt front pocket and grabbed a cigarette. And he'd puff away on it and instinctively reach for another one. And another. And another... so I had to time it perfectly. Just as he put one out, and began reaching for another, I'd say "let's go, it's cold!". "Already?" he'd plea. "Dad!" "Ok..." he'd acquiesce.

Very sadly, it's not something we can do anymore. Dad passed away near the end of 2003 at the too young age of 68.

This post is dedicated to my father, who I miss dearly. And Dad, I look forward to sharing a double #1 with you in heaven.

Website: http://www.greatoutdoorsubs.com/

Great Outdoor Sub Shop on Urbanspoon