Between numerous openings and closings, Thanksgiving (and #friendsgiving) feasts, and the unofficial start of holiday season, November was a busy month for the Denver dining community. But the 303 Food + Booze staff did manage to brave the cold, and enjoy ourselves off the clock.
Interested in discovering our favorite dishes or drinks over the past month? Look no further than our November food staff round-up.
Call me weird, but I love to eat out alone. There’s something about the rhythmic workings of a busy kitchen that puts me at ease. The successive rap of a sharp knife on a wooden cutting board, the hollow clang of a pot, and the occasional “Yes, Chef!” always seem to drown out whatever mental chatter is racing around my head. That’s why I make a point to snag a spot at a chef’s counter as often as once a week.
One of my favorite spots to do this at is Sarto’s, the gorgeous Jefferson Park Italian-inspired restaurant that opened up late last year. Recently, the new culinary team debuted an updated cicchetti & crudo bar—a selection of off-menu, Italian small plates. From this menu, I had one of the best bites I’ve had this season: a singular tortellini made with pork cheek so tender it melts. Chef Ivan Ceballos is the mastermind behind this heavenly morsel—and another major reason you should visit Sarto’s.
Aside from being incredibly passionate and talented, Ceballos—who will often personally man the cicchetti bar—is astoundingly knowledgeable about his food, and is able to provide you with such immense detail about what he’s serving. He can even describe the temperament of the cow where your cheese came from. Dining with Ceballos and his tight knit crew—with whom you often find yourself playfully bantering with—is really a treat.
Even for those that don’t like to eat out alone, I would highly recommend it.
Rebel Restaurant serves wonderfully presented and delicious fare in an environment that is anything but pretentious. At first glance some of the dishes may appear to be included for shock value, but after several visits it is abundantly evident that each menu item is well thought out without any gimmick. Although I have yet to pass up on the daily pierogi, and the curried snails were amazingly complex, yet ever-so-delicate in texture, the half-roasted pig’s head is without comparison. From the distinctive crunch of the skin, to the supremely tender cheek meat, this may be the best meal I’ve had all year.
I walked out in Cap Hill on a Tuesday night in November looking for a dish to fit the cool night, only to end up at a personal favorite, Bones. Typically, I’d opt for the green chile ramen—a standby on the noodle joint’s menu—but I was guided by executive chef Johnny DePierro to order a bowl of the newly added chicken ramen. Pining for a rich and warming dish, the mingling of ramen with confit chicken thigh, corn, carrots, mushrooms, and charred chile charmoula satisfied as a soul warming soup that perfectly matched the season.
This month, I ventured to Vert Kitchen in Wash Park West and upon stepping foot into this French cuisine-inspired café, it was love at first sight—and bite. Known for its fresh, 100% organic and local ingredients, Vert gives you a classy and healthy twist on bistro favorites and award-winning sandwiches like their curry chicken, braised pork shoulder, lemon tuna, and croque, as well as seasonal soups and salads inspired by old world flavors. With a delicious brunch menu to boot and a back outdoor patio that makes you feel right at home, this hidden gem will not disappoint.
I made my way over to Blue Island Oyster Bar for lunch recently, and I’m still kicking myself for living so close to Cherry Creek and having taken such a long time to eat there. This fall, Blue Island joined the small but often commendable lineup of seafood-centric concepts in the city, offering a tasty list of oysters (the exclusive-to-Blue Island Hog Islands and Baja Kumamotos are exceptional), shareable plates, and lightly-battered fried dishes. As a New Englander, this is the closest to home I’ve felt, at least food-wise, in quite a while.
I love when unexpected combinations lead to a memorable dish and that’s exactly what I got when I sampled the one of appetizers on the new fall/winter menu at Trattoria Stella on Colfax. With tender seared scallops paired with a savory apple gallette and crispy pancetta over smoked gouda & caramelized onion fondue, this dish is creative comfort food at its best. Just be warned: this seasonal addition to the menu may not be around much longer, so try it while you can.
Choosing from Wild Standard’s roaming trays of food can be overwhelming, but this was the best decision. The tuna spring rolls with duck dipping sauce were the perfect combination of crunchy, tangy, with a hint of sweetness. Definitely to be paired with a drink from their Siren’s Call make-your-own-drink menu, make sure you spot these in the crowd.
Amante Coffee recently opened a new expansion to their European-style cafe in the Union Station environs, serving tasty, crafted coffee drinks during the day, light meals at lunch, and a list of exquisite-sounding cocktails at night. The cappuccino was rich but balanced, a warm core of espresso beneath deep layers of light foam and creamy milk, and came with a chocolate-covered espresso bean on the side. The presentation was lovely as well, with the contrasting white of the milk blending with the rich brown of the crema. But what I’m looking forward to, as winter begins in earnest this year, is coming back to try their Louis XIV hot toddy: hot chocolate spiked with Green Chartreuse.
As a native Virginian, I’m always on the search for good southern food—especially fried chicken. This month, I found some of the best in the area. And, in true Front Range fashion, it’s at a brewery. The Post Brewing Company, a bit out of town in Lafayette, has everything you’d want in fried chicken: it’s juicy, it’s crispy, and it comes with an addicting country gravy on the side. Try it plain or hot (I recommend a piece or two of both), order a couple of sides (the buttermilk cheddar biscuits and collard greens are both excellent) and pair with a Townie Ale, a balanced, smooth beer that’s brewed with food in mind.
Fried chicken this good is well worth the drive.