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Dana Rodriguez’s new restaurant (that isn’t Casa Bonita)

Snack Bag: Denver’s most delicious news

It’s Thursday! My favorite day of the week, not only because it’s Friday Jr., but because I get to dish out Denver’s most delicious food news.

On the menu today: The iconic Welton Street Cafe is preparing to move into its new digs this spring. In May of last year, the family-owned restaurant, which has spent the last 40 years feeding Denver’s historic Five Points neighborhood, was teetering on the brink of closure. Co-owner Fathima Dickerson said issues with the building’s dated infrastructure were the main culprit. Then in November, with the help of community fundraising efforts, Dickerson announced plans to move to a larger (albeit unfinished) location down the street. But, she cautioned, it was going to continue to be a community undertaking. The entire place still needs to be built out so it can operate as a restaurant, and she’s had no luck getting a loan.

“We’re running into the conversation of, ‘Well restaurants right now, because of COVID … . It’s too much of a risk … . You either didn’t make enough, or you didn’t lose enough (during the pandemic),” Dickerson told The Denver Post about her unsuccessful loan applications.

In the meantime, the Welton Street Cafe family is asking for contributions to a GoFundMe to help the restaurant get a “running start.”

Speaking of new openings, a death-inspired, punk-rock, late-night, mostly-vegan bar called the Crypt is slated to officially open for business tonight in Uptown.

“It’s somewhere where we can be ourselves, where people can be themselves,” Crypt co-owner Priscilla Jerez told Westword. “Everyone is welcome here. But we definitely cater to the weirdos.”

In one of its first orders of business, the Crypt plans to host a benefit for the victims of the Dec. 27 Denver/Lakewood mass shooting this Sunday, Jan. 16.

Also, just opened: Dana Rodriguez’s new restaurant, Cantina Loca. Yes, we’re talking about Casa Bonita’s Dana Rodriguez, as I’m sure she will be known for the foreseeable future (you know, the chef who saved the Pink Palace!). I could have told you that she’s been a boss lady in the kitchen for years, and while I’m absolutely stoked she’s getting the attention she deserves, it’s been a long time coming (see: Super Mega Bien, Work & Class, AND her three James Beard Award nominations).

Cantina Loca in the Highlands is the chef’s first solo-venture. The menu will mostly spotlight Mexican street-inspired tacos, and the bar will offer Rodriguez’s own brand of mezcal, which she debuted last spring.

“While there are plenty of places to get tacos in Denver, this is the first spot where Rodriguez has been really able to share her take on Mexican cuisine, and it’s impressive,” writes Westword Food & Drink Editor Molly Martin. “If this new spot is any indication of what we can expect from Rodriguez at Casa Bonita, the future looks as bright as the cocktail selection waiting at Cantina Loca.”

And finally, in some sad taco-related news: Cap Hill’s Taco Bar (formerly known as Tacos Tequila Whiskey in the “before times”) may soon be no more. Owner Kevin Morrison told BusinessDen that the restaurant’s lease is almost up and the doors will likely close at the end of the month. But don’t worry, the TTW outposts in City Park and West Highland don’t appear to be going anywhere, and Morrison said he’d like to reopen Taco Bar, just somewhere else.

— Peyton Garcia, City Cast Denver Newsletter Writer and Unashamed Taco Lover


Other Denver Odds and Ends

🚫 FYI, if you shop at King Soopers: You’ll likely have to cross a picket line to enter the store. After months of tense negotiations, the UFCW Local 7 union rejected King Soopers’ “last, best” offer. Roughly 8,700 union employees at 78 stores across metro Denver walked off the job yesterday morning for a strike that is scheduled to last three weeks. 

  • But will YOUR King Soopers be affected? Probably. You can look at this map of striking stores to be sure. 

🏈 Let the Broncos bidding war begin: A court dispute that was standing in the way of a Broncos sale has now been resolved, officially clearing a path for potential bidders. Of course, there is the possibility that the team could stay within the Bowlen family, but speculators believe that’s unlikely. Personally, I have my fingers crossed for a Peyton Manning ownership situation 🤞 

🏚️ How do you rebuild from ash? Not easily, that’s for sure. City and county officials are saying that debris removal and clean-up of the damage left by the Marshall Fire is expected to take months and cost millions. Not to mention the dangerous health risks present in the area from heavy metals, asbestos, and other fire-related toxins in the ash. Only after demolition, soil testing, and property surveying can the rebuilding process even begin to unfold.

🎧 LISTEN: The Marshall Fire was undoubtedly a “climate fire”: Thousands of homes and businesses in Colorado burned to the ground in Colorado’s most destructive fire ever last month, leaving many of us to wonder: Are wildfires in urban areas becoming a common occurrence? We asked “fire scientist” Dr. Natasha Stavros.