During our stay in Denver for the annual CEDIA Expo, we stayed at the Courtyard Marriott in downtown Denver. In the past, my boss was always big on the collegial gathering for meals. But as our company has grown over the past few years, we found that getting everyone together can be a logistical nightmare for restaurants that weren't expecting us. While I love my co-workers like brothers, I have begun to beg off of big gatherings for meals, mainly because the service and food suffer with a big group. So, during the time we were in Denver we were told that for many of the meals we were on our own. On the first full day that we were in Denver, I had not one, but two meals at the Rialto Cafe attached to the Courtyard.
The Rialto Cafe is part of the Concept Restaurants group of eateries that also includes Table Mountain Grill & Cantina, Woody's Tavern, Humboldt, Via Baci, and Ignite Wood Fired Grill. Frank Day is the man behind Concepts Restaurant with Kevin Brown running the day-to-day operations for the group. Day started the Old Chicago chain of pizza and beer places in Boulder back in 1976, and also started the Rock Bottom Brewery concept in Denver in 1991. Frank Day merged his Rock Bottom Brewery and Old Chicago restaurants with Gordon Biersch to form CraftWorks Restaurants and Breweries.
(In addition to those restaurants, CraftWorks also owns the Chophouse Restaurant and Brewery with locations in Denver, Boulder and Washington, D.C., and a handful of brewpubs around the nation. Day's wife, Gina, bought the Boulder Beer Company in 1991 saving the first brewery to legally brew beer in Colorado from bankruptcy. Frank Day is now semi-retired and a consultant to both CraftWorks and Concepts Restaurants.)
The Rialto Cafe faces the 16th Street Mall and features sidewalk seating out front. (see map) The inside is a contemporary bistro with a mezzanine level that overlooks the restaurant. A long bar with an ornate back bar sits along the east wall of the restaurant.
They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Rialto Cafe and it was breakfast where I had my first meal. The breakfast menu at the restaurant isn't extensive, but it features some interesting items such as a crab cake eggs Benedict, stacked huevos that featured a flour tortilla with two eggs made to order, topped with green chili, grilled corn, black beans, avocado and cojita cheese, and a spinach and gruyere quiche.
The French toast was really a triangle-shaped beignet that was deep-fried and topped with powered sugar. There was no bread involved with the French toast. When the waiter set the breakfast down in front of me, I knew good and well that I wouldn't be able to eat the whole thing. And I couldn't - it was extremely doughy and super rich. I think I ate one and possibly half of another one before I threw in the towel. I'm not certain if I care for it all that much.
We were having our company meeting at the hotel and instead of having lunch catered in, my boss decided for us to just go back to the Rialto Cafe. We gave them a heads up that over a dozen of us would be there for lunch and they were fully prepared. The lunch menu featured burgers, salads, sandwiches and a couple three dinner entrees. One of them - the bacon-wrapped bison meat loaf was calling my name. But I was still stuffed from the beignet French toast that I had about four hours before and I was thinking more along the line of the smoked salmon wedge salad or a club sandwich.
I opted for the club sandwich. And it was good - I don't know if I've ever had a bad club sandwich. And I don't know if I've ever had a great club sandwich. It was a regular club sandwich with fries. I didn't even bother to take a picture of it.
However, my colleague Ian went with the bacon-wrapped bison meat loaf. It was approximately a 1/2 pound cut of lean bison meat loaf sitting on a bed of green beans and a pool of red wine demi-glaze. Mashed potatoes usually come with the bison meat loaf, but Ian went with the fries. He said that the meat loaf was outstanding.
Also outstanding was an appetizer my colleague Simon ordered - the truffle fries. They were French fries topped with parmesan cheese, fresh chopped herbs, and a truffle aioli. Simon was seated across from me and he offered me some. They were very, very tasty.
I didn't eat at the Rialto Cafe the rest of time I was in Denver. I found other options for breakfast and we were at the convention center for the whole day the rest of the time. Dinner was an option there one evening, but I ended up going out to get a burger with Simon. While the club sandwich was fine, I'm still uncertain if I liked the beignet French toast. It may have been a bit of the culinary surprise that caught me off-guard. It was unlike anything that I've ever had for breakfast. And that may not be a bad thing.