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Old Major: One of America’s Best New Eateries

The Thrillist site cites LoHi restaurant as one of just 33 nationwide

OldMajor-logoI like the verbal juxtaposition of OLD Major being named one of the country’s top NEW restaurants. But that’s exactly the situation with the selection of what Thrillist cites as one of the 33 best to open this past year. Thrillist is a site devoted to food, drink, travel, 22 cities (including Denver) and buying stuff. The write-up in its entirety:

Old MajorDenver, CO
What you’re getting: Nose to Tail Plate
Denver’s LoHi neighborhood is bursting at the seams with new, popular bars and restaurants, but Old Major’s “elevated farmhouse cuisine” stands out among the pack with exceptional cocktails and decadent, inventive cuisine (think CO rib eye with bleu cheese, foie gras butter, and pork fat fries). If you’re smart and/or just understand weekly calendars, swing by on a Wednesday, where you can watch the chef/owner butcher two pigs in-house, you saucy, food-based voyeur! Then you’ll eat the fruits of his labor on the Nose to Tail Plate, which features cuts like braised belly, confit rib, schnitzel, ham, and ears, all accompanied by mustard spaetzle, sauerkraut, and a demi-glace.

I was a guest at pork-centric Old Major’s media preview last February. Click here for my thoughts. The big guy in the first photograph is Justin Brunson, who before Old Major started Masterpiece Delicatessen, a gourmet sandwich shop that pioneered the making of LoHi a local dining destination area, and later was instrumental in the launch of the Denver Bacon Company. Masterpiece Deli recently opened a second location in the Wells Fargo Center, where downtown Denver meets the Uptown neighborhood. Its Monday through Friday opening days indicate that its target is the downtown office worker rather than the Uptown brunch crowd. The address is 1710 Sherman Street.

Two New Denver Restaurants on Bon Appetit List

Old Major and The Squeaky Bean on select list

Last year's logo,
Last year’s logo,

Bon Appétit magazine has released a list of 50 nominees for its “Best New Restaurants of 2013” honors. There are seven from California, five each from New York and Texas, and a smattering from elsewhere, including two from Colorado. Both are in Denver. Old Major, which the magazine’s selectors noted specializes in nose-to-tail dining that they “execute it perfectly, from the in-house butchery and rock-solid charcuterie program.” The Squeaky Bean, which is cited for “the wide-ranging four-course prix fixe, with offbeat dishes like congee and leg of Colorado lamb.”  I have not been to the Bean, either in its original location or the current one, which qualifies it as “new.” We won’t have to wait long for the final 10 and also the overall top winner to be announced. That will happen on August 14 when the September issue comes out.

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

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