First Bite: Lower48

By Ruth Tobias  |  December 16, 2013
Credit: Christopher Cina

A few weeks ago, when we chatted with Mario Nocifera, his chef-partner Alex Figura and sous chef Gregory Schesser about their dream project at the edge of the Ballpark district, the space was still under construction, and the menu remained a work in progress. But as of last Monday, the vision behind Lower48 became a reality - and boy, is it sharp.

The team had emphasized their commitment to America’s culinary heritage in terms of both the ingredients they’re bringing in daily and the time-tested techniques they’re applying. But it’s not until you sit down - preferably at the chefs’ counter, where the action on a busy Saturday night proved unusually fluid, even graceful - and take a gander at the menu that the reliance on heirloom grains and cereals, just-harvested produce and the preservation methods of old fully reveals itself.

And the delivery is every bit as vivid as the promise. We sampled a number of the $2 snacks as well as a few larger plates, and each seemed more packed with complex flavors than the last. Have a taste for yourself.

2020 Lawrence St., Unit A; 303-942-0262

  • Credit: Ruth Tobias

    On the left, brisket that’s almost confit-like in texture concealed in a fritter reminiscent of a fried raviolo (but lighter and crisper), daubed with intense garlic pudding. On the right, shredded carrots enriched with smoked sour cream atop a chewy, seeded brioche bagel. In back, freshly fried sunchoke chips.

  • Credit: Ruth Tobias

    Lemony chickpea fries garnished with a dollop of yogurt and a slice of pickled pepper, plus johnnycakes made with rye flour and topped with sunchoke cream and an olive-fruit tapenade.

  • Credit: Ruth Tobias

    A special that evening: sunny-side-up egg over earthy buttermilk-creamed lentils and fried maitakes, brightened with shaved radish and baby spinach.

  • Credit: Ruth Tobias

    Crisp-edged savory pancakes that sandwich a bold filling of button mushrooms cooked with shallots, garlic, onion, caperberries and raisins, accented by thick purées of spinach and more mushrooms.

  • Credit: Ruth Tobias

    Tuscan-inspired pici noodles in a surprisingly delicate chicken-liver sauce with fried sage and Parmesan.