Category Archives: Franchises & Chains

Snooze Poised to Grow

Denver-born breakfast restaurant group gets New York investor.

snooze-logoA decade ago, when Denver’s Ballpark neighborhood was beginning to take off, brothers Jon and Adam Schlegel established Snooze, an A.M. Eatery. In fact, it was born April 2, 2006, and became an instand hit, sparking a movement toward creative, breakfast-oriented restaurants. It became known for its “atomic age’ mid-20th-century décor, energetic atmosphere and friendly service — and of course, it’s great breakfast items.

There are now 17 Snoozes in Arizona, Texas and California as well as Colorado. The capital and managerial infusion comes from York’s Stripes Group. The big name, food industry-wise, is David Swinghamer, former CEO of Shake Shack. He and two other Stripes Group partners are said to be joining Snooze’s board of directors. Will this corporatize Snooze? Will there still be lines spilling onto the sidewalk? Will it loose its Ballpark soul?

Pei Wei: Chinese in Name Only

Melange of unathenticity in chain version of Chinese food.

005When we were in Australia a few weeks ago, I had a lust for Chinese food as soon as I learned that Sydney has a Chinatown. We found a good restaurant called Haymarket, uncrowded in the early evening, and enjoyed well-prepared entrees from a huge menu. Click here for my report.

Like just about every eatery at Twenty Ninth Street, Pei Wei has a fast-casual format, pleasant decor, friendly crew and music over the sound system.
Like just about every eatery at Twenty Ninth Street, Pei Wei has a fast-casual format, pleasant decor, friendly crew and music over the sound system.

Yesterday, it was my husband who wanted to go out for a Chinese dinner. I had gotten a $10 gift card to Pei Wei at some event that I can’t recall, so rather than going to China Gourmet, our standby, we headed for Twenty Ninth Street. Big mistake, food-wise.

Continue reading Pei Wei: Chinese in Name Only

Donut Magic on Colfax

Voodoo Doughnut at home in the Mile High City.

072Voodoo Doughnut got its start in Old Town Portland (Oregon, not Maine) back in 2003 and soon became a cult favorite — the kind of place that in-the-know locals would take guests to wow them with the cool, funky vibe and phenomenal selection of donuts (I prefer this spelling).

Retro interior and rope lines to channel traffic in the small store.
Retro interior and rope lines to channel traffic in the small store.

When Voodoo came to Denver, it wasn’t to a sanitized shopping mall or an upscale suburb but rather to Colfax Avenue, a fascinating, vibrant arterial with an urban mix of people and business that cater to them. There always seems to be a line, even on a midweek mid-afternoon.  This may be a deliberate strategy to add to the mystique of the wild flavors. The make cake donuts, raised donuts, crullers and fitters with various fillings and toppings — many of them cereals that I wouldn’t eat on a bet but many people really like — and display one of each on revolving shelves in a glass case.

If the artwork on the boxes weren't black a line drawing on pink cardboard, I'd call it psychedelic. The slogan is "Good Things Come in Pink Boxes."
If the artwork on the boxes weren’t black a line drawing on pink cardboard, I’d call it psychedelic. The slogan is “Good Things Come in Pink Boxes.”

My husband and I came out with just three treats: a huge classic glazed donut, an even bigger apple fritter and sinful Maple Bacon Bar donut. All were really delicious. I’m ordinarily not much of a donut eater, but I’d have a tough time if the store were closer.

1520 East Colfax Avenue, Denver; 303-597-3666. Useful facts: Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week (except select major holidays). Cash only; ATM on site.

Voodoo Doughnut Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chi-Mex in Loveland

Casual taqueria has surprising Midwestern roots.

005Taqueria Los Comales in a strip shopping center on the fringes of central Loveland has all the earmarks of a  real Mexican spot — a salsa bar with eight salsas and four other items, an absence of combination plates and menudo on the menu. The space seems to have been repurposed from something that wasn’t always Mexican. The black Styrofoam take-out boxes are labeled Church’s Fried Chicken.

I like the promise on the back of a waitress's T-shirt.
I like the promise on the back of a waitress’s T-shirt.

I didn’t grab a plasticized menu, and there were no paper take-out ones, so I went on-line and was surprised that Taqueria Los Comales was born in Chicago and still has restaurants there, as well as in northern Colorado and elsewhere. The graphics and menus are identical, but there is no obvious ownership or franchise link between the Midwestern taquerias and the outliers.

Multi-item salsa bar. Guests may take as much and as many little portions as they wish. The tortilla chips brought to the table are double-thick and crisp.
Multi-item salsa bar. Guests may take as much and as many little portions as they wish. The tortilla chips brought to the table are double-thick and crisp.
The fajitas come in a hot cast-iron pan, but there the resemblance to typical Colorado fajitas ends. The meat and vegetables are chopped, cooked and topped with white cheese.
The fajitas come in a hot cast-iron pan, but there the resemblance to typical Colorado fajitas ends. The meat and vegetables are chopped, cooked and topped with white cheese. Two huge flour tortillas, rice, shredded yellow cheese and mashed refried beans come on the side.
The veggie burrito contained rice, onions, peppers and a bit of tomato wrapped in a flour tortilla. Too bad it was barely lukewarm. Smothered burritos are, of course, an option.
The veggie burrito contained rice, onions, peppers and a bit of tomato wrapped in a flour tortilla. Too bad it was barely lukewarm. Smothered burritos are, of course, an option.

Price check: Tacos, $1.75 or 3 for $7.99; tortas, $5.25; burritos, $5.85; dinners, $11.99.

1518 Madison Avenue, Loveland; 970-667-9998.

Taqueria Los Comales Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kilwin’s Coming To Boulder

Franchise fudge shop named one of the best in the US.

Kilwins-logoIn part of the space on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall that once housed Trattoria on Pearl, a Kilwin’s shop is taking shape with a promised January 9 opening. I’ve been to the Kilwin’s in downtown Fort Collins and am therefore looking forward to its appearance in Boulder too.

TheDailyMeal.com just release a list of what it considers “America’s 25 Best Fudge Shops” to be. Eight are in Michigan, but Colorado’s Front Range will soon have two locations of one brand. Here’s what the site says:

Kilwins was founded in 1947 by Don and Katy Kilwin, and today there are nine locations as far and wide as Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Atlanta. The fudge recipe used at all the locations was created by Don and Katy themselves, and crafted on marble slabs. Top selling flavors include classic chocolate, sea salt caramel, and turtle; with seasonal favorites including egg nog and peppermint stick.

The Daily Meal’s writer isn’t much of a reporter, claiming that there are “nine locations far and wide,” when in truth there are more than 100 which would be both farther and wider.

Pinkberry Bought by Multi-Brand Company

Upscale yogurt chain joins Kahala Brands family.

Pinkberry-logoIf you are, say, nine years old, frozen yogurt stores have been around for your entire life. If you’re a grownup, their rise was meteoric and their shrinkage seems precipitous.

Now comes the news that Kahala Brands has acquired the  frozen yogurt chain, Pinkberry, joining 17 other brands that Kahala franchises, including Cold Stone Creamery, Blimpie and Planet Smoothie.

It’s part of a trend. According to Fortune, between 1991 and 2005 per capita frozen yogurt sales fell from two pounds to 1.3 pounds. Pinkberry, which opened in 2005, is often credited with reigniting the frozen yogurt craze with 260 stores in 20 countries, according to Consumerist. There appear to be two Pinkberry stores in Colorado, one in Glendale and one in Colorado Springs.

A press release quotes Michael Serruya, chairman and chief executive officer of Kahala Brands using a lot of clichés of the merger and acquisition biz: “The Pinkberry brand is known worldwide for its super-premium frozen yogurt and truly is the concept that reignited the frozen yogurt category over a decade ago. It’s an excellent strategic fit for our company and presents an exciting opportunity for future development.”

Lunch in Long Beach

Crepes & more in downtown restaurant.

P1060752We paid a long-overdue visit to friends in Long Beach, and after a gabfest at their home, we headed downtown for a bite of lunch.  French fare always hits the spot, so I was happy to visit Crème de la Crepe, a delightful little restaurant — and perhaps our own little food tribute to the recent tragedy in Paris.

This appears to be a small local chain. The Long Beach one is light, airy  and has French literary quotes stenciled on the ceiling. Yellow appears to be the theme color, carried out with yellow cloth napkins and a yellow rose on each table. I am generally not a fan of chains, but I would not be unhappy if someone from Colorado would buy a franchise.  One reason: at least at lunch, the fresh mixed salad with an authentically French salad dressing, not the bottled orange glop, that came with each dish four of us ordered.

Crème de la Crepe is a "restaurant tres charmant."
Crème de la Crepe is a “restaurant tres charmant.”
Chicken Panini with potatoes au gratin.
Chicken Panini with potatoes au gratin.
Crab (not crabcake) Benedict, with hefty French bread slice.
Crab (not crabcakes) Benedict, with hefty French bread slice and also potatoes au gratin.
Croque monsieur with the customary accompaniments.
Croque monsieur with the customary accompaniments.

P1060754

A dessert crepe was called for. Caramel-mango crepe with a zig-zag of chocolate sauce on top, and ice cream and whipped cream alongside.
A dessert crepe was called for. Caramel-mango crepe with a zig-zag of chocolate sauce on top, and ice cream and whipped cream alongside.

Price check: None to add. The menu is not on-line, and since I assumed it would be, I didn’t take notes.

The restaurant is at 400 East First Street, Long Beach, CA; 562-437-2222.

Crème de la Crêpe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato