Believe it or not, right now is the best time we’ll have (this year? ever again?) to try out a truly promising crop of new Denver restaurants. For starters, it’s August, and the produce from area farms is at its peak, from tangy tomatoes to juicy melons. Plus, those who are venturing into the food business these days are, in so many ways, putting it all out on the table.
For example, at Roots, a converted event space in Broomfield, Madhoo Seth is harvesting veggies and berries daily from her garden. She adds these local ingredients to dishes from around the world and serves them to diners seated in a tucked-away backyard setting. My favorite part: Her traditional Indian menu is served with chai for a weekend breakfast.
And one night last week, I had a weirdly perfect dinner date at Brasserie Brixton, an unassuming new French spot inside a 136-year-old building in the Cole neighborhood. Late into the evening in a cozy dining room we had mostly to ourselves, we dipped warm gougères in leftover olive oil and tomato juice and spooned buttery little escargots over saltine crackers.
From lovingly reconstructed brick-and-mortars to online-only first endeavors, these new “restaurants” can be so creative. I came across Aura Langdon’s Instagram page for her eponymous virtual bakery and couldn’t help but put in an order for the fried and filled Venezuelan pastries known as tequeños. When Aura dropped them off at my house personally, with some frozen kinds and others fresh-baked for me to taste immediately, they were wrapped in a blue ribbon, and she told me this is just the start of her business. She was glowing.
So not only is it the best time of year to patronize restaurants but maybe there’s never been a better moment to experience a scene on the verge, in the way some of these chefs and entrepreneurs are thinking. Maybe it was the hand-delivery, the (masked) face-to-face exchange of heartfelt food, or the Nutella I later found on the inside of those flaky fried crescents. I was just so happy to be dining in Denver again. Here’s what I’ve recently discovered:
The suburban garden oasis: Roots, Broomfield
Seek out this former Elks Lodge, now an event-space-turned-restaurant, for eclectic meals that stem from Madhoo Seth’s longtime Denver catering business, The Gourmet Kitchen. Dinner options span spiced chicken satay ($10) to mac and cheese fritters ($9). Weekend brunch features an international menu, including four traditional Indian breakfast dishes. Try the fried poori with chana masala and coconut and cardamom-topped halwa ($15).
1200 Miramonte St., 720-279-0570, open Wednesday through Sunday for happy hour and dinner and weekend brunch. Check the website for each day’s opening times. rootscolorado.com
The city’s French surprise: Brasserie Brixton, Cole
If this spot in the Cole neighborhood is any indication of the direction of new Denver restaurants in 2020 and beyond, I’ll happily take it. Chef Nick Dalton (formerly of Mercantile) is perfecting a compact menu of paté ($8), panisse ($9), steak frites ($27) and some more traditional and seasonal items. From the bar, you’ll want to try a house cocktail (pastis spritz, republique) or order from the mostly French wine list. Get ready for an offbeat streak, too, with Stormtroopers painted on the brick walls and international hip-hop playing in the background.
3701 N. Williams St., 720-617-7911, 5 p.m.-close Tuesday through Saturday, brasseriebrixton.com
The pastry you didn’t know you needed: Aura’s Bakery, remote
Aura Langdon has lived in Colorado for seven years, but she’s just now starting her bakery business, which she hopes will familiarize Americans with a popular Venezuelan pastry, the tequeño.
“Any party in Venezuela has to have tequeños,” Langdon said. “If not, it’s not a party.”
Her proprietary dough recipe has been adjusted and re-adjusted for frying or baking in Denver. Fillings including the traditional white cheese, or paisa; Nutella; apple pie; and ricotta with crispy bacon and leeks ($14-$40 for packages of 12-36).
Menu and more information available only on Instagram, instagram.com/auras.bakery, 970-415-5483
The traditional Colombian family spot: Los Parceros, East Colfax
This summer, husband-and-wife Andrés Chaparro and Martina Will took over 7-year-old Los Parceros on East Colfax Avenue and returned the restaurant to its Colombian roots after a time operating with a Venezuelan menu. They’ve redecorated the inside of the space so it feels like a pueblito paisa, or a traditional village outside of Medellín. And they’re serving comfort foods like cheese-stuffed plantains; platters of rice, beans and meats with a fried egg (bandeja paisa); and sancocho, a hearty beef, chicken, yuca and plantain soup.
5922 E. Colfax Ave., 720-379-3808, 11 a.m.- 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, facebook.com/losparcerosrestaurante/
The TikTok crowd-pleaser: Slater’s 50/50, RiNo
I brought my only 30-something friend who uses the popular social media platform TikTok to Slater’s 50/50 to try out their viral milkshakes ($12), as well as some half-bacon-patty burgers ($13.50-$18), “vampire” dip ($13) and also a number of healthy menu options. Turns out, the kids and my friend on TikTok love Slater’s milkshakes, and frankly I was giddy when my “Happy Happy Birthday” shake arrived with a Twinkie on top and a side of pyrotechnics. It’s worth going here for the shakes alone: They’re made with a $27,000 machine, after all. But the burgers and that garlicky artichoke “vampire” dip were also solid.
3600 Blake St., 720-387-7177, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily, slaters5050.com/locations/denver/
The Ben & Jerry’s rival: Right Cream, remote
This was certainly one of my more exhilarating experiences with a new food business. It started on a Monday, when owner David Right posted the week’s flavors to the story of his business’ Instagram profile. (If you don’t know what that means, I caution continuing farther down this road with me.) But I messaged Right, asking for two pints ($20). He agreed and said they would be ready by Saturday. Simple enough.
Come Saturday, Right asked for my address, at which point I was running errands. When we still couldn’t overlap by Sunday (this is my fault), I ended up driving to his house to pick up the goods. Their names and ingredients have already been removed from the internet, so all I know is one involves kettle corn and “almost too salty” caramel, while another features a label written in permanent marker and then crossed out. Only the letters “CPL” remain underneath it. Mysterious. The chunks in these ice creams are impressive. The combos are handmade and packed by Right, who was just the nicest when we finally connected at his home on Sunday. instagram.com/rightcream
MORE: Scratch-made ice cream is harder to find than you’d think. Meet two Denver companies bringing it back.
The new neighborhood staple: The Fifth String, Highland
Denver certainly lost a beloved restaurant when Old Major closed in June after seven years as the whole-animal-butchering staple of Tejon Street. But the building’s reopening earlier this month as The Fifth String promises a new era of meaty family-style dinners and seasonal small plates. Former Old Major chef Amos Watts bought the business from his longtime friend and colleague, Justin Brunson. And Watts is making the space his own with housemade pastas ($18-$28), summer salads ($14-$16), and bone-in short rib platters ($98, feeds 3-4 people).
3316 Tejon St., 720-420-0622, 5-10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, opentable.com/r/the-fifth-string-denver
The swanky nighttime destination: Toro, Cherry Creek
Cherry Creek’s Marriott hotel is the setting for Denver’s newest Richard Sandoval restaurant. It’s a Latin-Asian fusion concept with previous locations in Tokyo, Mexico City, Cabo San Lucas, Belgrade, Serbia, Scottsdale and Snowmass Village. Which is to say, Toro has it all dialed in. Go for a big morning and the bottomless brunch ($30-$49), or a night out with lots of tequila, ceviche and the lobster quesadilla ($18).
150 Clayton Lane, 303-253-3000, open for lunch and dinner daily and happy hour weekdays, check the website for hours for each, torodenver.com
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