Thursday, September 27, 2007

DEN: PDX or LSV?

Glam. Is that what we are trying to do in Denver? Emulating Las Vegas is the last thing this place should be trying to do. Vegas is the Disneyland of the Desert, it has to make it up as it goes. Denver should not follow suit. We have a history here; beautiful inner-city neighborhoods. Yet the move continues to start from scratch in every decommissioned piece of land that becomes available. I know, people want to be close to the city, but don't want the hassle of an older home.

This attitude is infectious and it is reflected in the restaurant scene in Denver. Take for instance Watercourse Foods, a great place to find imaginative vegan and vegetarian cooking. You know what? I hate their new place. My "deep-fry spy" agreed, saying simply "its lost its soul". Now, I don't pretend to know all the details of why they moved, but here's my "consumer POV": the old place on 13th felt right, the new place on 17th feels like a high-school cafeteria staffed with look-alikes. The new Watercourse inhabits a new building with all the bells-and-whistles, I'm sure it is more convenient and easier to maintain than the old store front on 13th. For a little perspective, head over to City o'City, the coffee shop/bar that Watercourse put into their old space and feel the vibe of this place. Unbelieveable! It appears that the Watercourse sprite refused to leave the building! It is attached to their rough edges and chipped walls. I love it!

Yesterday's New York Times article brought home the point to me in a poignant way. Portland, my old stomping grounds, is still pointing the way forward in using it's old neighborhoods as they were meant. Restaurants and markets continue to open up in old store-fronts. Think South Pearl and Highland, but multipled by 10, in a city maybe 3/4 the size of Denver. Do you kids like Marczyk's on 17th? Yet we continue to cheer at the inexorable spread of shiny new Whole Foods? Lip service to seasonal, organic, local?

Denver has such potential and I so want to see it succeed. No, I'm not talking about all that open land in Stapleton or the Platte Valley. However creative the architecture, it all feels so contrived. Just think of all the beautiful old neighborhoods in your part of town. Areas that were the nuclei of little communities, all linked by street cars. Each with their own school, grocery, deli, cleaners. Sure we live in a mondern world with different realities but some cities are taking the best of the past and showing us the beauty of local food and community.

Who in Denver is keeping it real? Tune in next time. . . .

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