A Bar That's Ready for Prime Time

August 2008

Brooklyn's CNN Grill Hands-down, my favorite hangout during the Democratic National Convention was Brooklyn's, across the street from the Pepsi Center and comandeered for the week by CNN which recast it as the CNN Grill. First, it's an excellent and inviting space, with great light, huge ceilings and many different kinds of seating. In addition to stools that run the length of the ample bar, there are also both bar and regular height tables and booths. The outside patio was roomy and festive. At night, crowds gathered round to watch the big tv's. Second, CNN hired the regular Brooklyn's staff to serve the guests and they rose to the occasion, making a great impression on the guests. In addition to taking orders, serving food and mixing drinks, they engaged in conversation. offered suggestions and never lost their cool, even at the most hectic times. Almost every request was met with "of course" or similar positive response. They answered the same questions from guests over and over as if it was the first time.

The bar menu had a terrific fruit plate as well as hot barbecued shrimp and lighter fare. The dinner menu was varied and tempting, from grilled salmon to huge salads to a wonderful Angus burger with great fries. In addition to a variety of brews, they also had soda fountain items, from sundaes to milkshakes. CNN picked up the tab for all the food and drink, so there were no checks and everyone was free to order as many times as they wanted. I got there at 3pm one day and stayed till 8pm, trying several items from both menus. But for not wanting to miss Bill Clinton's speech, I would have stayed longer. True, the food may not be the same as Brooklyn's regular fare since special chefs were brought in to create the menu, but it wasn't complicated food and hopefully they now have the recipes.

At Brooklyn's, chefs from New York's swank Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern and Blue Smoke restaurants will saute and grill for CNN's talking heads and their guests. ....The CNN Grill will serve private breakfasts (buttermilk pancakes, brioche French toast) and lunches (yellowfin tuna salad, half-pound hamburgers). Staffers will be allowed to invite people inside the Pepsi Center security perimeter for dinners prepared by the out-of-town chefs and Brooklyn's regular kitchen staff. Dinner features a Denver version of the famed Union Square hamburger and fries, buttermilk fried chicken and grilled steak sandwiches.

CNN hosts Anderson Cooper, and Campbell Brown ate dinner and mingled among the crowd, as did numerous other celebrities in town this week. Nothing seemed to faze the staff. When I returned last night after Barack Obama's speech, I was one of the first to arrive. I got to hear the staff discussing the task at hand and the goals (it reminded me of a sports team rally right before the game) and watched them interact with each other. General Manager Chris Walker gave me the history of the bar, which is owned by local Dave Keefe. An hour later the place was jam-packed. The staff stayed friendly and kept up with the increased pace. I didn't hear a single complaint. Apparently, I'm not the only one to sing the praises of Brooklyn's this week. The LA Times included it on its Best of the DNC round-up:

True, this is just temporary for the convention -- a place to entertain guests and broadcast coverage for the week -- but we yearn to see branches open up in Las Vegas and Cancun.

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