Year in review: Denver's ten biggest culinary stories of 2012

Categories: Cafe Society

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Lori Midson
After fifteen years with the Vesta group, chef Matt Selby moves onward and upward.

We had our mouths full in 2012 -- so full, in fact, that we're still chewing on the culinary headlines that made news over the last twelve months. We witnessed the demise of a restaurant that had survived more than sixty years; applauded the soaring resurrection of another; dropped our jaws in shock when a certain big-name, beloved chef decided it was time to take his knives -- and talent -- elsewhere; followed the ongoing saga of two popular restaurants that, according to the City, are allegedly on the verge of collapsing (literally); and experienced the loss of two iconic watering holes (and an owner). Here's a look back at the biggest restaurant stories of 2012.

Lori Midson
10) The Squeaky Bean reopens in LoDo -- bigger and better than before
The gush of anticipatory accolades began long before Johnny Ballen, Max MacKissock, Steven Gallic and the rest of the canny power squad behind the Squeaky Bean reopened their doors late last June in LoDo after a year-long hiatus, revealing an incredibly dynamic, remarkably resourceful and engaging restaurant that lives up to -- and often exceeds -- expectations. The hype was unreal, the demand from guests unapologetic and fierce, and the response from the Bean team? An exhilarating culinary adventure, combined with exemplary service, smashing cocktails...and a cheese cart that's worth its weight in cream. Bigger isn't always better, and it's a risky move when a restaurant closes and then reopens, but the crew took its time, rewarding our patience with near-perfection.

9) El Diablo and Sketch get slapped with "danger" signs from the City and County of Denver
Oh, the woe. El Diablo and Sketch, the two restaurants that Jesse Morreale operates in the 106-year-old First Avenue Hotel on Broadway, were slapped with brothel-red signs last year, warning that the building was structurally unsafe for inhabitants. Morreale, who has gone back and forth with the city more times that we can count, eventually got a reprieve, and both restaurants reopened three weeks after the signs first went up. But the fight is far from over: Earlier this morning, "Danger" signs were again plastered on the building, warning, yet again, that the premises pose a structural threat. And while Morreale insisted that both restaurants would stay open -- at least for today -- a drive-by late this afternoon proved otherwise; the house was black. The saga continues.

8) Gabor's goes dark -- and the neighborhood goes ballistic
Exactly one year ago today, I broke the news that Gabor's, an iconic neighborhood watering hole that payed homage to Marilyn Monroe, music of every genre, the color red and stiff drinks, was shuttering after thirty years in Capitol Hill. And, OH, MY GOD, did the haters descend in droves when it was revealed that Sam Roots, the owner of the Providence Tavern in Edgewater, planned to make that bar his own, leaving the gritty remains of Gabor's in the dust. Since then, the bar has gone untouched -- save for plenty of graffiti on the exterior -- but Roots hasn't pulled the plug. Construction issues have led to numerous delays, but he has every intention of opening a new bar in that space -- like it or not.

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Where was a story about the death of Becky Conda?  This was the first I heard this and I cannot even find any info by googling it.

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