After covering Tupelo Honey Southern Kitchen & Bar’s many employee benefits, we were eager to sink our teeth into its the menu once it opened May 2. Tupelo Honey is a southern food concept operating more than a dozen restaurants in the eastern United States, but Denver is the brand’s first location west of the Mississippi River.
It only takes one visit to see that Tupelo Honey has brought southern hospitality to the heart of LoDo, along with a little bit of Denver detail.
Tucked behind Union Station, Tupelo Honey is warm and inviting. Windows line the walls (including in the kitchen) allowing for natural light to flood the space. With touches of wood and navy details, the interior feels cozy and inviting without being packed with over-the-top southern garb. Most notably, the “private dining” circular booth wraps around the front entrance, with a tap in the center for diners to serve themselves. This table structure is one of only three in the world, and the staff can serve anything — wine, beer or cocktails — on tap by request.
Other than the patio, our favorite seats in the regular dining room are the long, family-style tables that allow for social dining with friends, family or even strangers.
Tupelo Honey’s menus are a welcome step outside the standard meat-and-three southern fare. Executive Chef Eric Gabrynowicz is a four-time James Beard Award semi-finalist, and it shows. With a focus on communal dining and a lot of options to choose from, all of the menus also nod to other aspects of southern culture — fresh vegetables, simplicity and a little bit of indulgence.
It would take several trips to eat your way through Tupelo Honey’s many options on each menu. The lunch menu alone has more than 28 dishes to choose from, with highlights like the Slow Roasted Pork Grilled Cheese with white cheddar, chipotle cranberry barbecue sauce and pumpernickel bread ($13) or the Debutante Duck Confit with goodnight brothers country ham, greuyere cheese, two fried eggs and challah ($18).
As my fellow southerners would say, dinner is “a-whole-nother” story. We fell in love with appetizers like the Golden Beet Carpaccio with goat cheese, beech mushrooms, sherry vinaigrette and shallots ($12), but our favorites were the communal “Large Plate” entrees served with two sides, two kale salads, biscuits and a shared dessert — easily shared with a group. Because of my Tennessee roots, we had to choose the Chicken Fried Love — a whole fried bird, brined for 24 hours and sprinkled with its signature “bee dust,” grilled apple, pickled blueberries and hot honey sauce ($60). It was the best fried chicken I’ve had in awhile, perfectly balanced with the namesake’s honey flavor. If you don’t feel like sharing, head in for the Low Country Shrimp & Grits, with chorizo, peperonata, goat cheese grits and prawns served head-on ($22).
We even suggest heading in early for the “Dirty South Happy Hour” Sunday through Thursday 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. — during that time, the restaurant serves drink specials, “House Party Fare” for shared dining and “The Six Dolla Holla Y’all” selection — seven dishes all for $6.
For those who believe no southern restaurant is complete without brunch, you won’t be disappointed. Tupelo Honey offers brunch Saturday and Sunday mornings and again at night with a limited menu for Southern Moonrise brunch, Thursday through Sunday, 9 p.m. until close. If you don’t fill up on their life-changing biscuits and want a taste of something a little different, go for the Shoo Mercy Sweet Potato Pancakes with buttermilk fried chicken, apple cider bacon, spiced pecan, two fried eggs, grilled apple and fresh blueberries ($25), it’s big and beautiful — as it should be at that price point. Bring friends and dig in.
Pardon my accent, but my goodness, the drinks, y’all. Tupelo Honey took its entrance into Denver’s beverage scene very seriously. It has 47 beers on draft and another 31 by the bottle. There are non-alcoholic beverages on tap too, like a nitro flash-brew coffee and a dry hopped sweet tea on nitro.
The real star of the show, though, are the cocktails. Not only does it have five different variations of an old fashioned on the menu, it also has four group cocktails that serve anywhere from 2-8 people in a pitcher with fresh flowers on top.
If you’re sipping solo and have the willpower to resist the mouthwatering Cherry Bomb Frose with mint, lemon, maraschino liquor and bourbon cherry juice ($10), we suggest cozying up to the bar with the Georgia Mojito with white rum, charred peach, mint, lime and club soda ($12). If you like a smoky cocktail with a side of drama, order the Mountain Smoke Old Fashioned with high west campfire whiskey, rosemary simple syrup, housemade Cuban cigar bitters, coffee and rosemary smoke ($17). Smoke pours out of the top tableside, and it tastes just like a boozy campfire. And did we mention the 75 cent martinis weekdays from 11:00 a.m. until 4 p.m.?
Tupelo Honey Southern Kitchen and Bar is located at 1650 Wewatta St., Denver. It is open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. until close and Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. until close.
Unless noted, all photos courtesy of Tupelo Honey.