First Look: Meet Mister Tuna, Troy Guard’s Taste of Home

Guard's deeply personal but dead-sexy ode to a Hawaiian childhood
July 13, 2016
by Ruth Tobias

The gist: Just weeks after setting Lucky Cat loose in Lowry, Troy Guard is back at it — and this time it’s personal. Officially opening doors in RiNo’s Industry building last Friday, the indefatigable chef-restaurateur’s latest venture is a tribute to his Hawaiian upbringing — right down to the quirky name, Mister Tuna, which is also the nickname of Guard’s own father. “No one liked it,” he laughs, “but I had to go with my gut.” Run by a dream team that includes chef Adam Vero, bar whisperer Michael Cerretani and consummate host/general manager Mario Nocifera, it’s poised to become the Next Big Thing in a neighborhood brimming with Big Things.

The space: With high ceilings, garage-door windows, a bar running the length of the narrow room and three lounge areas — one downstairs, one on the mezzanine and one outdoors — Mister Tuna radiates streamlined, convivial energy. The bar in particular does quadruple duty as a chef’s counter, raw bar and pickle bar, as well as a beverage station. At one end, a black-and-white mural depicts Guard’s mother; at the other, a collage of family photos salutes his pop. (Look also for sly visual references to his father’s pet parrot, also named Mr. Tuna. There's also hilariously rude, lewd graffiti scrawled all over the bathrooms.)

The food: “It’s all about shareable, fun stuff,” Guard explains, and sure enough, the eclectic menu is easy and breezy without lacking for elegance. The wood-burning rotisserie/grill takes pride of place, yielding everything from hanger steak (pictured bottom) and whole roasted fish to oak-grilled veggies and the spit-roasted harissa-duck confit on the roti taco (pictured top). But seafood also figures prominently – don't miss the luscious brown butter crab with Palisade peach salsa (pictured above) – while toasts, pizzas and pastas round out the monthly changing selection, along with two desserts like the dark-chocolate brownie with mascarpone mousse, black pepper-macerated cherries and candied macadamias. On August 15, Mister Tuna will open for breakfast and lunch, though morning service will be quick and casual – think pastries, quiches and breakfast burritos, which may on any given day be stuffed with roast lamb or even rabbit, says Guard.

The drink: Though he’s leading with a list of 10 food-friendly cocktails, Cerretani emphasizes free-wheeling, interactive experiences above all: “I believe in bartenders having ownership in their drinks, and I want whoever’s sitting at the bar to never even have to look at the menu.” To that end, he’s keeping a notebook up front for his crew to record the custom libations they develop for their guests, who can then “come back anytime and say, ‘I’ve got a cocktail in the book.’” The wine list, meanwhile, is larger than expected considering the focus on spirits, with a few dozen bottles. And of course there’s a handful of craft beers. Hey, Mister Tuna may have roots in Hawaii, but it’s still got a Colorado address.

3033 Brighton Blvd.; 303-996-9985. (Photos by Nicole Branan)

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troy guard
mario nocifera
michael cerretani