At the request of a reader who called it "Italian/funky," I recently visited Danny's Corner Bistro in Woodland Park. Just off the main drag in a small strip mall, Danny's manages to exude charm. Surrounded by window boxes filled with colorful flowers and fragrant rosemary and sage, the small, glass-shielded patio and tiny eatery offer wonderful views of Pikes Peak.
Five years ago, after living in Denver a brief time, St. Louis transplant Dan Kubiak moved to Woodland Park, feeling it had more of the "Colorado feel" he was looking for. When moving west, he'd sworn never to own a restaurant again. Luckily for area residents, that obviously didn't pan out.
Danny's menu offers up an eclectic mix of starters such as fried green tomatoes ($5.99) cornmeal-crusted with a peach, ginger and onion chutney. They needed a hint of salt, but the crispy yet tender calamari ($8.99) shone.
The funkiest thing of all was Danny's fried spinach ($6.99). He calls it a St. Louis thing: fresh spinach flash-fried crisp, then sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Think potato chips, only better. Light and crispy, they literally melt on your tongue, leaving the salty bite of Parmesan with the brightness of the lemon juice cutting any hint of greasiness. I'd caution against ordering this tooth-checking delight on a first date.
Entrees for both lunch and dinner measured largely solid. The lemon pepper chicken ($8.99) with choice of rice, roasted red pepper or Jack Daniels mashed potatoes, while cooked nicely, didn't wow. The Pasta Nicosia ($8.99), named after a local resident, arrived with tender chunks of Mahi Mahi over linguini tossed in a roasted red pepper pesto. Danny says it's a popular dish, and deservingly so.
At dinner, I went for a homemade mushroom soup (included with entree), rustic with ground and large slices of mushrooms. More brothy than thick, it proved deliciously subtle on the palette.
Our server Lesley had extolled the virtues of Provel cheese (another St. Louis staple), made with Swiss, cheddar and provolone. So when my veal saltimbocca ($19.99) thin slices of veal, pan-seared and topped with prosciutto and Provel cheese arrived without said glorious cheese, it was Danny-on-the-spot. When informed, he scooped up my plate, made the correction and then re-plated the dinner. My companion enjoyed the dish, while I found the white wine and sage sauce a tad off-putting. Chalk that one up to personal taste.
However, her bourbon-marinated grilled pork tenderloin ($15.99) scored. Although a touch over-done, the pork, made smoky with applewood bacon and sweet onion cream sauce, delighted with a sweet potato and apple mash.
After we ordered Danny's signature croissant bread pudding ($6.99), Lesley leaned in and assured us there would definitely be bread in the bread pudding. Nice save!
Light, flaky, buttery, eggy and piping hot with melted chocolate chips and tangy cranberries, it brought the house down.
"This has got to be one of the best desserts I've ever had," my friend said, gushing. If not the best, it certainly made me forget about what might be stuck in my teeth and proved that some promises are just downright silly.