Old Major is Newest Highland Eatery

New gastropub features rustic-style decor, tightly focused pork- and seafood-centric menu and keg wines

P1010905There’s a literary reference to the name Old Major, chef Justin Brunson’s latest venture in the neighboring red hot restaurant districts west of the South Platte and I-25. In Highland, Old Major, named after the featured porker in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, sports the trendy rustic look utilizing reclaimed wood and hefty furniture, has a small menu (changing every two or three months, says Brunson) and a big vision of featuring the distinctive tastes of “seafood, swine and wine.” A cool slogan, and the adjective “fine” could accurately be attached to each.

Executive chef Justin Brunson caffeine loading during Old Major's opening.
Executive chef Justin Brunson caffeine loading during Old Major’s opening.

The upscale gastropub’s buzz built instantly from a soft opening over the weekend, a couple of private parties and a mid-day media preview today. The food at Old Major is both robust and sophisticated, but what also really impressed me is the restaurant’s ground-breaking policies in the food service biz. There are no runners or bussers (those who bring the food-laden dishes also take the dirty ones away). In fact, there are just two levels of servers, a word that general manager Jonathan Greschler says actually isn’t used. because it implies a class system that is eschewed.

Along the same egalitarian line, Brunson says they’ve hired cooks who might become chefs and waitstaff who might become restaurant owners. Additionally, to help staff on the road financial stability should they want to take out a loan or a mortgage, tips are added to each person’s paycheck rather than distributed nightly in cash. Real admirable policy which Greschler calls revolutionary in the restaurant industry. In other words, policy copycats welcomed.

Spacious gleaming kitchen, open to view. Other kitchen
Spacious gleaming kitchen, open to view. Other kitchen “amenities” include a wood-assisted pizza oven, meat-curing room, butchering area, smoker and much more.

For the media preview, along with fine adult beverages at each place, tasting plates were set on the table — one for every four guests. We happily sampled what was put in front of us, but dining guests are going to be using iPads while the bar menu will be printed on conventional paper.

Beverages include a  smart, sophisticated cocktail program plus Infinite Monkey Theorem wines from kegs (environmentally smart) and 22 world beers.
Beverages include a smart, sophisticated cocktail program plus Infinite Monkey Theorem wines from kegs (environmentally smart) and 22 world beers.
Pretzel rolls served with a ramekin of Colorado pork butter.
Pretzel twists served on a board with Colorado pork butter — a great variation on the theme of bread.
Potato puree serves as the plain foundation for the exotic black truffle-pistachio sausage. The sauce is an herbed escargot vinaigrette.
Potato puree serves as the plain foundation for the exotic black truffle-pistachio sausage. The sauce is an herbed escargot vinaigrette.
Seafood is grouped on the menu under
Seafood is grouped on the menu under “The Monger,” which includes delicate smoked trout, the silky sturgeon rillettes and plump smoked mussels with honey-mustard sauce.

 

This beautifully composed vegetarian option is a smart consideration in a state where not all diner crave pork.
This beautifully composed vegetarian option is a smart consideration in a state where not all diner crave pork.
Pan-seared striped bass with lemon risotto garnished with crisp leeks and cute little beets and turnips. A wonderful winter combination.
Pan-seared striped bass with lemon risotto garnished with crisp leeks and cute little beets and turnips. A wonderful winter combination.
Hefty pork chop, brined and pan-seared, then served with parsnip puree, Brussels sprouts, an Italian bacon called guadciale and pork demi.
Hefty pork chop, brined and pan-seared, then served with parsnip puree, Brussels sprouts, an Italian bacon called guadciale and pork demi.
Pastry chef Nadine Donovan concocted this towering meringue-topped olive oil cake, inspired by the classic baked Alaska.
Pastry chef Nadine Donovan concocted this towering meringue-topped olive oil cake, inspired by the classic baked Alaska.
Maple-bacon creme caramel, topped with a crisp slice of Denver Bacon Company's bacon. That's three bacons in one sentence, which is not surprising from a restaurant whose slogan contains the word
Maple-bacon creme caramel, topped with a crisp slice of Denver Bacon Company’s bacon. That’s three bacons in one sentence, which is not surprising from a restaurant whose slogan contains the word “swine.”

Price check: Small plates, $9-$17 (plus pan-seared foie gras for $25); The Farmer (vegetarian), salads, $8  plus 3-course tasting menu, $30; The Butcher (meat entrées), $27-$30, plus 24-ounce bone-in ribeye, $60; The Monger (seafood entrées), $26-$30; sides $7.

Old Major on Urbanspoon

6 thoughts on “Old Major is Newest Highland Eatery”

  1. I get that including tips in a paycheck gives lenders a better picture of servers’ income. But it also means that servers pay taxes on their tips, thus decreasing their income. Is this a good thing?

    1. The folks behind Old Major emphasize the professionalism of their staff — people who are in the restaurant industry for the long haul. For a college kid or recent grad waiting tables until “whatever,” going him with cash after every shift is probably prime. And for those people, there are plenty of restaurants that follow that system. It’s just good, IMO, that there is now another option.

    2. It is absolutely a good thing. I’ve spoken to a number of tax preparers over my 15 years as a server, and the consensus is that folks who are paid in cash almost always get into trouble come tax season. We have to pay taxes anyway…dealing in cash at the end of a stressful night usually makes for a broke morning. We can talk about being disciplined with money all we want to, but as humans we need to set ourselves up for a disciplined life. If we don’t want to drink, we shouldn’t hang out in bars, right? If we don’t want to spend all of our money, we should put it where it’s least likely to get spent.

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