Category Archives: Denver

Year-End Accolades

Annette best restaurant in Denver, Zagat’s #4 food city.

Year-end proclamations of the best this or the top that are conversational fodder for the food-obsessed. I always eagerly read them and report them here. Here are two that just broke.

Zagat has declared Denver to be the country’s No. 4 food city — beating out the likes of San Francisco, Seattle and New Orleans. Pretty heady stuff. Ruth Tobias explained it thus:

No. 4: Denver, CO

If major restaurant openings were the only criterion for a hot food city, Denver would be a shoe-in for a top 2017 slot. Nearly every established chef or restaurateur of the past several years either launched or is about to launch a new, landscape-changing hot spot. Case in point: James Beard awardees Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson debuted ​Tavernetta. Fellow recipient Jennifer Jasinski opened Ultreia. Nationally recognized innovators like Justin Cucci, brought us eye-popping penthouse tapas bar El Five, and Robert Thompson, opened a 32,000-sq.-ft. Punch Bowl Social in the control tower of the former Stapleton airport, of all incredible places. And that’s just to name a few.

Meanwhile, luxury and boutique hotels went up all over town anchored by splashy, ambitious destinations like Hearth & Dram, Citizen Rail, Quality Italian, Urban FarmerKachina and 20th-floor rooftop bar 54thirty. Still to come are The Ramble Hotel, home to NY-import Death & Co and the aforementioned Super Mega Bien, and The Source Hotel, expanding the groundbreaking RiNo food hall it’s named for. Speaking of food halls, Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace created a thriving outlet for acclaimed and breakout chefs and food producers in a former aviation factory; next year, Zeppelin Station will do the same on the RiNo light-rail corridor — not far from upcoming branches of Tyson Cole’s celebrated Uchi and Shake Shack.

Yet major openings aren’t the only criterion. The executives at Slow Food named Denver the new home of international conference Slow Food Nations, held annually in July. The producers of Top Chef also decided to film Season 15 here. In fact, it was Tom Colicchio himself who observed that Denver’s strong network of cultural support would guarantee its future, nurturing the talents of tomorrow. In short, as food towns go, the Mile High City has just hit the stratosphere.

And in our fab food city, Eater Denver just named Annette, an eclectic comfort food eatery in the Stanley Marketplace, as the Restaurant of the Year. The reasons:

In her quiet, cheerful leadership, a headband and high bun, [Caroline] Glover sets the tone for Annette. Originally from College Station, Texas, she has worked her way from a local Chili’s to The Spotted Pig in New York. There, after graduating from culinary school, Glover found her career path: “I think it definitely formed my palate more than anything else,” she says of working for chef April Bloomfield at the famous West Village gastropub. “I loved April’s palate. I love it still. It’s very simple, and clean, and bright. That’s definitely where it started for me.”

While people might expect white table cloths and tiny portions at a buzzy new Denver restaurant, Glover insists she’s only doing comfort food with a different approach. She keeps high chairs and kids menus, and for the adults, dishes that spin off au gratin potatoes, grilled chicken, and pecan pie. “This is what I want to make at home,” a regular has told her more than once.

At Annette, Glover and her husband and business partner Nelson Harvey are paying all of their employees equally. Let that sink in: “Everybody’s making the same amount of money, everybody’s helping each other out, and everybody’s responsible for the guests’ happiness. It falls on (servers) and it falls on my cooks, as it should, and my dishwasher,” Glover says.

It starts with every employee earning the same base wage and then pooling tips evenly. From the servers to the dishwashers and cooks, Glover says her staff should never earn below $18 per hour, even on a slow night. The result, she says, is that cooks can survive on one job, and servers who stick around are more invested in theirs. “We almost went back so many times,” Glover says of the policy, “but this is something I’ve always felt so strongly about. How could I do that? I worked my whole entire life for $11 an hour and couldn’t make ends meet. I don’t want to put anybody else in that position.” Much of Glover’s staff, starting with general manager Daniel Seibel, previously worked with her at Acorn at The Source.

Last week, during a typical dinner service, Glover and her team had the chance to cook for New York Times columnist and former restaurant critic Frank Bruni. The opportunity was serendipitous for Glover, who had cooked for Bruni before, during his review of the Spotted Pig. In 2006, the critic took aim at the Pig’s ridiculous wait time and unruly front of house (which has new meaning given recent news events). But he extolled chef Bloomfield’s food, from the “fantastic gnudi” to a “luscious smoked trout.”

When Bruni walked into Annette in Aurora, more than a decade later on a dinner interview with a politician, Glover had a stressed but familiar feeling. She turned to chefs Chelsey Maschhoff and Michelle Senna, and she decided to take a minute with them: “We’re going to put out the same food that we put out every single night,” she told the two, “but this is really cool, this is a really special moment.” The chefs would then gather themselves and prepare a grilled beef tongue and bone marrow toast, also a wood-fired half chicken — “perfect,” Bruni would later Tweet. But before that last social media review came in, and amid the shower of other recent accolades, two weeks before the holidays and the close of their first business year, Glover turned to her chefs and stopped the line just for a moment. She wanted to remind them and perhaps also herself: “Take it in.”

‘Top Chef’ Season Features Colorado

Series filmed in Colorado kicks off on December 7.

It’s been 10 seasons since a Colorado chef won top honors on “Top Chef,” the wildly popular Bravo TV chef competition. The last Colorado champ was Hosea Rosenberg, then with Jax Fish House and now partner chef at Blackbelly Restaurant & Butcher and the new Santo, both in Boulder.

Chef Hosea won Season 5, and Season 15 starts on December 7 with two Colorado chefs in the mix. Here’s hoping the hometown advantage helps one of them rise to the peak of chef celebrity.

“Top Chef” Season 15 Cheftestants

  • Fatima Ali. New York
  • Tyler Anderson. Simsbury, CT
  • Carrie Baird. Bar Dough. Denver
  • Adrienne Cheatham, New York
  • Laura Cole, Denali National Park, AK
  • Joseph Flamm. Chicago.
  • Rogelio Garcia. San Francisco
  • Tanya Holland.  Oakland, CA
  • Bruce Kalman. Los Angeles
  • Brother Luck. Four By Brother Luck, Colorado Springs
  • Melissa Perfit.  San Francisco
  • Tu David Phu. Oakland
  • Joe Sasto. Los Angeles
  • Christopher Scott, Brooklyn
  • Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins. San Diego

Coloradans will all look for familiar sights as the program showcases our breathtaking landscapes and the thriving culinary scenes in Denver, Boulder, Telluride and Aspen. The show kicks off with a block party Larimer Square — unfortunately in the 11 to midnight. Hoping I don’t doze off. Fortunately, it is possible to record it and watch when convenient.

Also appearing are local star chefs Troy Guard, Alex Seidel, Hosea Rosenberg, Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson, Keegan Gerhard, Jen Jasinski and Frank Bonanno. The program has all sorts of twists and audience-pleasing gimmicks, but for those of us who appreciate Colorado’s burgeoning school scene, it’s all about the chefs.

Ramen Competition Coming Up

Five Denver chefs compete for a good cause.

Ramen — that cheap student staple that comes in a cellophane package with its own (usually salty) flavor packet– rises to ethereal heights when five gifted Denver chefs who do a lot with contemporary Asian cuisine prepare their versions from scratch. They compete for the title of Ramen Showdown Shogun on Monday, November 13 from 6 to 10 p.m. with guests slurping (or not) and doing the judging.

Departure Restaurant + Lounge hosts the event. Its own chef, Gregory Gourdet competes against Steve Redzikowski (Acorn, Oak on Fourteenth), Lon Symensma (ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro and others), Tommy Lee (Uncle, Hop Alley) and Corey Baker (Sushi Ronin). Guests attending the ramen showdown vote for a winner and watch the live results unfold on a 55-inch screen.

Each guest gets to try five ramen tasting bowls plus  Departure’s bite-sized Koji-Chestnut ice cream with persimmon and miso butterscotch dessert for $30 including tax and tip. There’s also an optional five-course sake pairing for $20.

A portion of the proceeds goes to Project Angel Heart, a fabulous organization that  has delivered 335,000 meals to more than 2,900 Coloradans living with AIDS or other life-threatening illness this year.

Departure Restaurant + Lounge is located at 249 Columbine Street, Denver. FoMoInfo or tickets, call the restaurant at 720-772-5020.

Garret Meyer Joins Sarto’s

Jefferson Park eatery re-establishing  its cicchetti bar.

Garret Meyer

Sarto’s, a metropolitan Italian eatery in the Jefferson Park neighborhood, has had a challenge finding its focus. When it opened nearly three years ago, Brian Laird of Barolo Grill was the first chef. Click here for my report. 

There was at least one other top toque before Meyer was appointed as executive chef. He was an interesting choice, having been at Sarto’s veteran in the early days, but his experience is broad. He once cooked at a trout fishing resort near Alamosa and did stints at Old Major, where he worked his way up to junior sous chef before initially joining Sarto’s. He left to help a friend open a fine dining barbecue restaurant in Singapore, returned briefly to Sarto’s before heading north to Alaska to serve as a chef at a boutique fishing lodge where he learned how to cure his own caviar, forage for wild mushrooms and filet a 300-pound halibut. Back in Denver, he returned to Sarto’s to take the helm as executive chef. Hopefully, the third time is the charm.

Meyer has worked  to create a culture where employees feel like they can thrive and grow. Despite his fish diversions, his approach to the menu is quintessentially Italian, using the best seasonal ingredients expertly prepared  simple and elegant dishes that are also approachable and authentic. 

Meyer doesn’t believe great food should just be reserved for special occasions.  He has returned the restaurant’s popular Cicchetti Bar back to its roots, making it less of a chef’s table and more of a place where diners can gather socially for cocktails and cicchetti, Italian small bites that change daily. The Cicchetti Bar is open from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Sarto’s is also adding a new calendar of events, including Saturday cooking classes and Sunday Night Screenings, featuring a themed dinner and movie in the restaurant’s private Verona Room.

Sarto’s is at 2900 West 25th Avenue, Jefferson Park, Denver.

Sarto's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pizzeria Locale One of the Best ‘Small Chains’

Restaurant trade site likes Colorado chain.

Pizzeria Locale, a casual spin-off of Boulder’s heralded Frasca Food and Wine, got a shout-out from RestaurantBusiness.com in a roundup of “20 Small Chains Poised to Break Out.” The first Locale next door to the mother ship is a table service spot, but the newer locations follow a fast-casual format with lower prices but still with the high food standards expected at a place that Frasca co-founder. chef Lachlan Mckinnon-Patterson, has set up and oversees. Pizzeria Locale is a joint venture with Colorado-based Chipotle. Here’s what the site wrote about Pizzeria Locale in a piece on small chains with fewer than 20 locations:

“The Denver-based build-your-own pizza concept made headlines three years ago when it got funding from Chipotle. It’s since expanded the brand—which cooks pizzas in two minutes in a 900-degree oven—into the Midwest, with restaurants in Kansas, Missouri and Ohio. The chain’s method of differentiating in the saturated pizza segment: a focus on southern Italy, from the ingredients used to the house creations.”

Daily Meal Picks Columbine for Affordable Steaks

Federal Boulevard classic gets national nod.

The Daily Meal’s selection of “The Best Inexpensive Steakhouses in Denver” features a Federal Boulevard standby that is not on everyone’s radar screen when it comes to Denver steaks. Anyone looking for less spendy places than Elway’s, The Capitol Grill, Ruth’s Chris, Guard & Grace and Shanahan’s, can go casual way south on Federal Boulevard (#300) for a super-affordable steak dinner with Texas toast. Here’s what the site posted:

Columbine Steak House & Lounge, Denver

This low-slung, no-frills Denver legend has been going strong since 1961, and its main claim to fame is how amazingly inexpensive it is. Fried chicken costs $8.75, a steak sandwich costs $7.95, pork chops $11.25. And most impressively of all, there are six steaks on the menu, and the most expensive one of the bunch, an absolutely massive porterhouse, costs just $20.75. As for the rest: the large fillet is $18.25, a T-bone is $16.25, sirloin and New York strip are $13.95, and a small fillet is $12.75. Tax is already included in the price, and all steaks also come with salad, potato, and toast.

Not a steakhouse but a old-style New Mexican restaurant that is also a Federal Boulevard classic is going away. Jack-n-Grill at #2524 is closing.