If you're having trouble keeping track of all the openings this month, you're not alone — November has been a nonstop whirlwind of new restaurants and bars. To help you prioritize, here are five Denver newcomers that require your patronage pronto (for more of the latest arrivals, head here).
The gist: How does this just-opened gastrodiner, bar and entertainment venue — complete with a bowling alley, a video arcade and karaoke rooms — differ from the Baker original? Location, location, location: It’s set in the old Stapleton International Airport control tower, where there’s also room for a 14,000-sq.-ft. Astoturfed patio featuring bocce lanes, a fire pit and a charming faux “wading pool.”
The fare: By celeb chef Hugh Acheson, the Southern-inspired comfort food menu boasts several new items worth trying, including the OMFG GF fried chicken, pot roast au jus over whipped sweet potatoes and Sriracha fries with crushed peanuts, pickled chiles and onions, and garlic aïoli. With a name like Punch Bowl, cocktails go without saying, but we’re equally taken with booze-free concoctions like the Season’s Soda with cranberry shrub and cardamom syrup and the strawberry-and-aloe-flavored Jeanette’s.
The space: Founder Robert Thompson calls the decor a mash-up of four influences — midcentury-modern, mountain-chic, industrial and Victorian — down to the last detail, from the antler chandelier above the second-floor bar and the safety manuals and luggage tags plastering the bathrooms to the pastoral paintings above the bowling lanes and a giant game of wall Scrabble in the downstairs east corner.
The details: 3120 N. Uinta St.; 303-765-2695
The gist: A joint venture between Edible Beats’ Justin Cucci, Little Man Ice Cream’s Paul Tamburello, distiller Rob Masters and others, this LoHi distillery and tasting room has all the hallmarks of a Cucci jam: inspired cocktails from bar manager Nick Touch, eclectic, lifestyle-conscious small plates by exec chef Tim Dotson, and sexy atmosphere to spare.
The fare: After sampling the house spirits straight, pick your favorite for a tipple with kitchen-driven panache — our favorites so far include the (unnamed) concoctions of vodka, mango, yogurt and cardamom on the one hand and rum, passion fruit, avocado, chile and lime on the other. To eat, the three-cheese fondue served in a tiny pumpkin with skewers of roasted veggies and bourbon-buttered croutons makes for delightful dipping, and the pork and beans with housemade sausage, heirloom legumes, collard greens, sour cherries and hazelnuts in chorizo vinaigrette tastes like fall in a bowl.
Fondue in a pumpkin. Photo by Ruth Tobias
The space: High ceilings and a skylight that illuminates the copper still on the mezzanine make the space feel like a shrine to spirits, with the royal-blue booths that line the tasting room functioning as pews, while comfy, low-set ottomans encircle the bar and kitchen for up-close and personal service.
The details: 3245 Osage St.; 303-481-8185
The gist: After a year of market testing at Avanti F&B (in the stall now occupied by sibling Quickfish Poke Bar), this chic Portland transplant opens in LoHi on November 27 with a menu from exec chef Jin Soo Yang that puts a progressive, sustainable spin on traditional Japanese food.
The fare: Whatever nigiri you order, you won’t regret the $1 upgrade for yakumi (garnish), be it a quail egg to go with salmon roe or bittersweet chocolate and ground sesame atop housemade tamago. Other highlights include the Green Machine, a roll filled with tempura long beans and scallions, then topped with avocado and sweet-chile aïoli; the Asian Caesar with fish-sauce dressing, seabeans and rice croutons; and anything with Wagyu, including a showstopping burger.
The space: Clean lines, paper lanterns, blue tiles and dark woods set the modern Japanese standard for the 95-seat space, flanked by a 40-seat patio. But quirky artwork, like the portrait of the woman with lobster claws near the bathroom, injects some funk into the proceedings.
The details: 2715 17th St.; 303-284-6600
The gist: At Bistro Barbès, chef-owner Jon Robbins is known for French-Mediterranean cuisine that’s as elegant as it is forward-thinking. So it stands to reason that his sophomore venue would be — an old-school Italian-American parlor? Actually, that makes total sense for the family-oriented Park Hill neighborhood, whose residents are already packing the three-week-old joint.
The fare: Meatballs, mozzarella and marinara, baby — that’s what it’s about, plus piles of pasta, all redolent with garlic gone wild and paired with a well-priced bottle of Italian wine from a list that’s low on kitsch and high on regional diversity. Don’t miss the clams oreganata stuffed with sopressata and herbs.
The space: Classic. Snug and cozy with scuffed woods, red-and-white-checkered tablecloths and a crackling fireplace, Red Sauce already feels as though it’s been here for years.
The details: 2230 Oneida St.; 303-974-5304
The gist: The team behind Element Kitchen + Cocktail at the edge of Cap Hill is emphatic about the fact that its spacious new second-floor hangout is a lounge, not a shoe store. That said, you can’t miss one of its coolest features: an up-front display of rare and collectible sneakers, listed on a separate menu for sale. (Take the Air Jordans that were banned in Japan for their Rising Sun motif; one of only 150 pairs left in the world, they’ll set you back the cost of a new laptop.)
The fare: Director of beverage Chris Wilson, formerly of STK, plans to update the drink list weekly, but the inaugural version showcased his smarts in the form of eight drinks like the Eazy E with gin, St. Germain, ginger beer and wintermelon bitters, and the Red Rum with cranberry juice and cinnamon-honey syrup. Twelve beers and about 17 wines — more than a third of them champagne — round out the selection, along with small plates like pork belly quesadillas and hamachi crudo.
The space: Speaking of Eazy E, rock and rap memorabilia dot the room to underscore a focus on music, with DJs spinning tunes on the regular in a space where lounge furnishings and high-top communal tables alternate with pool tables and Skee-Ball machines. In other words, you’re encouraged to hang out — perhaps in a fetching pair of Nike Dunk Low-Pro De La Soul kicks — and make a night of it here.
The details: 1134 Broadway; 303-653-9169