What: Southern-inspired hearty American food with a Colorado-centric, classic booze program.
Where: 2844 Welton Street
Neighborhood: Five Points
When: Sundays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Pro: Steak and a stiff cocktail for breakfast.
Con: An under-generous helping of the pecan praline sauce on the Praline French Toast.
Is it poor form to literally haunt one’s favorite haunts? To show up one afternoon for a late lunch or early dinner, stick around through the haggard hours, well into the night until last call, and then return, after the sun has long gone down and risen again, to do it all over again — starting strong with a curative, heavy breakfast? Dunbar Kitchen & Tap House seems like it could be the kind of place to give it a try, especially once the weather makes up its mind and one can take full advantage of the spacious patio…
General Manager Becky Alter expressed how readily the neighborhood has embraced the new business, describing her customers as “eclectic and appreciative of the historical integrity of the building and the name.” When you first walk in the restaurant, right where the few tables and host stand are now set up, you’re standing in the same spot where multiple generations of the family-owned Dunbar Barber Shop cut hair. Owners Charles Wessels and Mike Ayre exposed the brickwork but repurposed all the wood they took from what was the family residence behind the storefront. The side-yard became the kitchen; the backyard spruced up into the sun-drenched patio area. The old Dunbar sign now graces one of the walls next to the kitchen.
Much has been said about the descriptor that follows Dunbar in name (the tap house part), and its happy hour (from 2:30 – 6:30 pm.m every day you can get $3.50 craft pints, $5 cocktails, and any glass of wine less than $10 becomes $5, glasses over $10 are half off) has been the talk of the town since the restaurant opened in December. But as for that post-hangover cure, the bane that gave rise to the meal’s odd hours (served Sundays only), it is also worth putting the food on the table for discussion…
Wessels worked with Head Chef Kara King to design a southern-inspired brunch menu, though not exclusively so. Hailing from the crown jewel of southern cities — Savannah, Georgia —Wessels’ influence is evident in the inclusion of shrimp & grits ($15) and BBQ pulled pork ($11), but otherwise the accessible variety of other, typical American fare on the menu prevents a full-on “southern” label. Still, the south rears its head again in the chicken n’ biscuit ($11), a well-portioned and tasty blend of two guilty pleasures, and praline French toast ($10), which is slightly underwhelming but luckily comes with a side of meat (go for the Polidori pork sausage). If the object is to make the most out of your visit, the steak and eggs ($12), will surely do the trick. Not that there were many indications otherwise, but Alter was quick to point out that “there aren’t any newbies in the kitchen,” so other than a few minor hiccups, you’re sure to get well-cooked and satiable food all around.
Prior to Dunbar’s opening Alter had busied herself with getting to know what some of the established cocktail slingers have been up to, meanwhile brushing up on her knowledge of the classics (the first three drinks on the menu are the martini, the sazerac and the old fashioned). Though, Alter has facilitated a localized approach to the craft: “80 percent of the back bar is from Colorado. We were reticent to go outside — why go out of the best state for liquor and beer?”. Gin drinkers will applaud the perfect pear ($12), which is one of the current mainstays but must ask for, and should try, the bitter end ($12), a special twist on the Barnum, consisting of Leopold’s gin, Apricot liqueur, fresh-squeezed lemon juice and Angostura bitters.
Within this locale known for its neighborhood charm, it is probable that the Dunbar name will become synonymous with good food and affordable cocktails.
All photography by Camille Breslin