The Way Back: First Look at the West Highland Cocktail Bar

Excpect a creative drink list, spacious patio and Sunday dinners
April 7, 2016
by Lori Midson

The Gist: Three industry pros preside over The Way Back, a new cocktail bar and restaurant in West Highland. Cocktail scholar Chad Michael George made a name for himself behind the stick at Williams & Graham, while Jared Schwartz, formerly of Linger and American Grind, the food truck that was originally parked at the Occidental, is also a co-owner. Kade Gianinetti, also a Linger and American Grind alum, co-founder of Method Coffee Roasters and a Zagat 30 Under 30 Denver honoree, completes the dynamic trio. Here's what to know before you go.

The Drinks: George oversees the bar program, which emphasizes a seasonal craft cocktail list that features taste profiles of each cocktail, rather than a laundry list of unpronounceable ingredients. We love the ease and flow of it. Along with a house old-fashioned and a frozen banana daiquiri, there's also the Way Back punch (pictured above), punctuated with sherry and pomegranate and served in copper mugs. Imbibers can also expect sessionable craft beers, an eclectic, world-spanning wine list that boasts 20 selections by the glass (all 5-oz. pours),  and a formidable sherry and cider lineup.  

The Food: The kitchen, quarterbacked by chefs Samuel Charles and Marcus Eng (both of Acorn and American Grind), isn't up and running yet, although we got a peek at a few of the planned dishes slated for the menu. Broken down into "Essentials," "Supper" and "Sweets," it will include dishes like an artfully composed plate of radish halves with blots of rose tea–infused butter, as well as beef tartare, a chilled mussel salad, trout rillettes, roast chicken and berry cobbler. Cool side note: All of the leftover garnishes (including fruit rinds and pulp) are saved and used for things like powders and marmalades.

The Space: Designed by Raw Creative, the space includes a dining room, bar and lounge, with two community tables as centerpieces. The restaurant’s design elements juxtapose natural woods and raw materials with modern light fixtures, while an abstract back bar mural depicts farm-field-and-forest scenes from Colorado's landscape. Other highlights: a maple, live-edge bar underscored by a textured concrete bar face, jet-black metal finishes with gold rivets, espresso-hued concrete floors and a wood-slatted ceiling. In addition, a 1,500-sq.-ft. outdoor patio, soon to be filled with picnic tables, has the capacity for 50 guests.

The Extras: "Sour Hour" runs from 4-6:30 PM Monday through Friday and features $5 wines by glass, $4 Good River pilsners and discounted sour cocktails — playful riffs on drinks like margaritas, whiskey sours and  caphrinas. Pair your poison with housemade beef jerky or the addictive trail mix, a blend of dried peaches, sunflowers and peanuts (pictured above).

The Details: The Way Back is open Monday through Thursday from 4-11 PM; Friday and Saturday from 4 PM- midnight; and one Sunday night each month for a charity-driven supper involving local guest breweries and distilleries.

4132 W. 38th Ave.; 720-728-8156

Check out our list of more hot, new Denver restaurants.

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