Three chefs raising the bar in Western-accented Front
Golden, cozying up to the foothills west of Denver, is known as a charming town that plays up its Western roots, has a robust downtown and features the world’s largest brewery (that would be Coors). It is also boasting an increasingly diverse and tasty food scene. Visit Golden organized a small, intimate itinerary to a trio of interesting downtown restaurants (well, two downtown and one not far away).
Abejas is Spanish for “bees,” but this new restaurant has nothing to do with a honey-centric menu. The partners — Brandon Bortles and Barry Dobesh — met at the Hill Top Restaurant and went their separate ways when it closed. They rekindled their longtime dream of opening their own place, whose name subtly references the first letters of the partners’ first names.
Located in a once-upon-a-time-Piggly-Wiggly a few steps off Golden’s main drag, Shike Design, whose Denver previous restaurant projects include Biju’s Little Curry Shop, Cuba Cuba, Epernay and Root Down, designed the interior. The rustic and responsibly sourced interior features reclaimed barn wood, corrugated metal and old doors from a ranch in Golden that was being sold. The sprightly, modern and creative menu likewise aspires to source as much of the menu locally as possible.
With Dobesh occupied these days at Brexi and Steakhouse 316 in Aspen, he brought in Nick Ames to helm the Abejas kitchen. The California Culinary Academy grad’s C.V. includes Duo, an early culinary hotspot in Denver’s Highlands ‘hood.
807 13th Street, Golden, 303-952-9745.
For a long time, the Bridgewater Grill in the Golden Hotel was one of the few ambitious restaurants in downtown Golden. A changing cast of chefs with different visions was problematic, but now the elevated ambitions and executions of executive chef Mark Willig are bringing new creativity and refinement to the menu.
His career has taken him to major resorts, a cruise ship, the Chicago Bears and Peru, where he ran his own restaurant and catering company. This picaresque career has given him a cosmopolitan outlook and an appreciation of local, fresh and distinctive fare. Like other with-it restaurants there is also an ambitious cocktail program.
The restaurant, which is in the Golden Hotel, is cozy on a winter’s eve but really shines in the warm months with its creekside ambiance. 800 Eleventh Street, Golden; 303-279-0100.
The Briarwood Inn
The Briarwood Inn is a family-run and family-friendly Golden classic. Reid Pasko founded the restaurant in 1979, so this venerable restaurant, is pushing 40. Under his daughter, Lisa Patterson, it has matured with style and grace. It remains in the hands of the founding family who have guarded its traditional ambiance and fine service, even as the menus have been updated. It started as a small restaurant, became a supper club with food and dancing, and now is a large restaurant known for its opulent bunch service, holiday dining and décor, its large outdoor patio its place for weddings and other special occasions.
Still, it flies under the Denver area culinary radar. Except for Gabby Gourmet, it is missing from every local food guidebook that I own, including my own Culinary Colorado. Now that I’ve finally been there, I can’t understand why. The current chef, Jeff Jones, came to the Briarwood from P17 (formerly Parallel 17), so he knows how to prepare contemporary dishes that are as attractive as they are delicious. Duncan Newman, the general manager, gets kudos for perfectly orchestrating front-of-the-house activities.
The Briarwood Inn is at 1630 Eighth Street, Golden; 303-279-3121.