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McCabe's gets a makeover, Smiling Toad and Odyssey get a thumbs-up 

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'The McCabe's makeover'

It won't be long until McCabe's Tavern (520 S. Tejon St., mccabestavern.com) hits its 10-year anniversary, and owners Greg and Ari Howard have chosen to renovate before they celebrate.

"We're calling it the McCabe's makeover," says Greg, adding that it's time to spiff up the furniture and splash a fresh coat of paint on the walls, but also to overhaul the brand a little bit.

So after a short closure, it will "reopen as a whole different place," he says, on Thursday, May 28. Greg says 18 new menu items will include small plates and six vegan options, such as fried avocado tacos, a grilled cauliflower "steak," fried Brussels sprouts and a brown rice and quinoa burger (with an optional gluten-free bun).

Refreshed décor will include new booths and a large central island of two-top tables for couples, plus vintage lighting fixtures that pay homage to the building's historic past as a trolley-housing unit.

"I don't like the term 'steampunk,' but I'd call it an industrial pub look," he says. "I hate to say we're copying Denver, but we are the little brother, and they're blowing up."

From a recent scouting trip of sorts, he names The Kitchen, Euclid Hall, Ace, and Steuben's among spots he admires. But he also likes the direction that 503W, Odyssey Gastropub and Brother Luck Street Eats have gone locally.

"Being downtown," he explains, "we've constantly been chasing the $3 beer guy around. But beers aren't $3 anymore. They are handcrafted. It's time to cater to that crowd." And to cater to vegans, and to people who appreciate Colorado-made products, which will star on a new cocktail menu.

"We're ready for McCabe's to have a stronger identity in the food scene," he says.

For those hyperventilating as they read this: Greg says staples such as the shepherd's pie, fish and chips, Reuben, chili cheese steak and chips and curry, will stay.

"Our regulars have been freaking out" over the changes, he confirms. But he won't apologize for making them.

"Yeah, I grew up a little bit," he says. "I want to do something new."

Odyssey of a Toad

As part of American Craft Beer Week recently, the Indy co-sponsored the inaugural Pints & Plates tasting with the Downtown Partnership. Hopefully you know this because you went to sample some pairings, and maybe even voted for a favorite.

Those who did both of the above selected Smiling Toad Brewery (smilingtoadbrewery.com) at Odyssey Gastropub (odysseygastropub.com) as the People's Choice Award winner. The two outfits had paired a watercress pineapple wheat beer with pork cheek pho.

Odyssey chef Matthew Wilcoxon told us at the time that he'd encouraged brewer Fred Davis to play with the unusual herbal component to balance out both earthy and spicy flavors, with the citrus element for brightness. Clearly, it worked.

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