Is there such a thing as accidental stalking? Logged onto Westword’s F&D blog, Cafe Society, this blurry & screechingly bright morning to discover Jason Sheehan must’ve been blogging away mere feet from where the Director & I were getting sloppy over at the bar of The Corner Office. (I don’t think he was either of the 2 gorgeous Asian chicks I remember sitting in the private area temporarily & without a hint of irony designated the
but you never know. Maybe he was both of them at once.) If this were the first instance of blogging about the same place either just before or just after him, I wouldn’t mention it, but it’s not—not by far. It kinda freaks me out & makes me feel as though I need for one part of my apparently split & scheming personality to slap a restraining order on the other part’s ass before Westword’s lawyers do.
Anyway. We went to the woods because we wished to live deliberately, by which I mean we went downtown because we wished to get blotto while gawking at the sideshow freaks both on the streets & on the tube. & we started at the Second Chance Saloon, by which I mean the Office, because the more snark-patties I hurl at a place 1 day, the more I regret my bitch-chimpiness the next & resolve to give it yet another shot.
It could be argued that my timing was totally unreasonable—that no place should be judged by its performance in a globally televised shitshow. I get it but doubt it. If anything, every downtown venue, representing by extension every Denver venue & Denver itself, had better be freshly scrubbed & polished this week—every recipe, every greeting, every everything down pat. So the fact that the Corner Office is offering a special DNC-themed menu is neither here nor there. Whatever you’re serving, whenever, perfect it or forget it.
The menu is, to be sure, cheeky in ways that are both characteristic and, in small amounts, charming (Economic Prosperitini excluded. I guess I don’t believe in hell but I do believe in an everlasting bar crawl wherein every conspicuous snifter comes with a bottomless chaser of devil puke).
I opted for a cocktail only on the regular drink menu—which I was inadvertently initially handed & therefore perversely more interested in—& our bartender, remarkably calm & kind at the eye of the chaos, obliged: the Paper Shredder, a tingly-all-over combo of bourbon, ginger ale & fresh ginger.
But the slew of small plates we ordered mostly made me wish the kitchen would put a wad of cash where its cheek is. Having just given Steuben’s props for its savvy appropriation of meth-lab chic, I’ve got to knock the Corner Office’s clunkier efforts. If the words “Cheez Whiz” were set in quotation marks to indicate they actually referred to some sort of artisanal cheddar fondue, I’d probably have been secretly salivating even as I made an elaborate show of rolling my eyes—but they’re not. That goo really accompanies this undersalted, underwarmed pretzel, such that the whole thing tastes like spitballs formed from the very paper it must’ve sounded cute on to somebody.
As the pretzel went, so went the barely thawed tater tots haphazardly scattered alongside a mini-burger with chili that, far from honoring this piquant historic moment of ours, captured Reaganomics in a bite—just a trickle-down of tomato product.
& as the chili went, so went the bland salsa on the sope—singular rather than plural as advertised: in its absence, you realize just how important a good hot salsa is for delineating the blurred silhouette of all those other dollops, at least at their own least carefully seasoned.
It wasn’t all bad, though. In fact, my expectation was proportionally inverse to the execution: the south-of-the-heartland concession-stand snacks that should’ve been the kitchen’s bread-&-butter paled & slumped over next to, 1, crisp spring rolls with wazoo-hot mustard over cabbage dressed in a vivid sesame-ginger vinaigrette
& 2, this mini–chicken pot pie, whose gravy smacked of chicken stock so you could almost hear it:
Still, a few bright spots in a dull expanse—sounds more & more like a typical day at the Office.
In need of a change of scenery, namely one with closed captioning (a convention on mute ≠ must-see TV), we hit Harry’s Bar in the Magnolia Hotel—neither resembling its Venetian namesake nor really finishing the atomic-era aura it starts,
but then, a bar that doesn’t try very hard to do much of anything but be there is really my kind of bar.
Which is why Harry’s perfectly serviceable quesadilla & wings trump the Corner Office’s forays into freezer-aisle-style gourmet fare. To repeat myself ad nauseum, better to surpass low expectations than fall short of higher ones.
Granted, the company we were keeping contributed something to our contentment. Back in Boston, I’d have had to make the trek to Jamaica Plain, home of much-beloved crumbling pub Doyle’s Cafe, to knock one back with Ted. Here at Harry’s, he never seemed closer.
On that note,