Element Kitchen opened earlier this summer on North Broadway. At first glance, it may be mistaken for a run-of-the-mill neighborhood sports bar, but the team behind the menu offers much more than fried food and a TV on game night. Element markets familiar dive bar-oriented dishes, but each is focused on seasonal, local ingredients and an untraditionally healthy preparation. Four-time James Beard nominee and a two-time Top Chef contestant John Tesar is the restaurant’s culinary consultant, and he invited us in for a tasting last week to check out his newest venture.

The Space

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Element Kitchen is the first Colorado restaurant project for Punch Architecture, a firm based out of Las Vegas. The venue has a polished, modern-industrial feel and is fit to accommodate more than 175 guests between the dining room, downstairs and the soon-to-open rooftop patio. For a restaurant that houses 12 televisions — Element has retained a quaint, clean and authentic feel. Exposed brick and prohibition-style light fixtures add a homey warmth to the space. 

The “Sneakeasy” — a designer shoe boutique and watering hole — has yet to open in the space above the dining room, but the anticipation is high. The restaurant group has left us in the dark a bit with this half of its concept. We don’t know when the sneaker shop will open or what brand name shoes the store will carry — but we do know the space is designed to house “the rarest and most coveted” sneakers on the market. Stay tuned for more information on The Sneakeasy Facebook Page.

The Food

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Chef John Tesar took the reigns on Element’s back-of-house operations with a goal to combine two of his favorite concepts — sports and responsibly, locally-sourced food. The restaurant uses food purveyors that locals are already familiar with such as Boulder Farms natural chicken. The food on the menu can best be described as finessed-casual Baja bar bites.

The highlight on the appetizer side of the menu from our tasting with Tesar was the Hamachi crudo ($9). The crudo is tender at first bite and includes additional fatty acid from thinly sliced avocado, heat from a dab of sriracha and a delightful acidic zing from the ruby grapefruit. We think this dish is a perfect example of what the restaurant is aiming to change about pub food — the dish is light, refreshing, shareable and healthy.

The heavier portion of the menu includes what is boasted to be one of Denver’s newest and best burgers to date. The Pimento cheeseburger ($13) is made with house ground 44 Farms’ sirloin, Pimento cheese and Rocky Mountain heirloom tomatoes. A lot of publicity needs to happen before the city votes this burger onto Denver’s best burger list — but this is a damn good burger and very solid contender. The fish and chips ($22)  takes the classic bar food favorite and elevates it to a local level. Odd13 of Lafayette supplies its n00b IPA for the batter on this dish which leaves a crisp, flakey finish and a hoppy bitter flavor profile.

The Drinks

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The drinks at the bar match the ideas from the back of house — give them something familiar, but not too familiar. The bar menu sports more than 100 beer between the tap and the can — including a long list of locals and a great deal of gluten free options.

Bar team has put together a comprehensive list of cocktails that includes their own variations on drinks like the mojito, margarita and Mai Tai. The cocktails to take note of include the Pineapple Sidecar ($11) and the Paloma ($11). The Sidecar comes served up and with a burnt orange Raw Sugar rim to garnish. Instead of defaulting to the classic preparation, Element has substituted cognac for Colorado’s own Breckenridge bourbon. This variation on a classic cocktail is fruity, delicious and dangerously easy to put back. The Paloma is concocted with El Tesoro Platinum as a base and is carbonated with grapefruit soda. The drink comes served in a rocks glass and garnished with a cucumber — this is a patio pounder with a fizzy finish.

Element Kitchen & Cocktail is located at 1134 Broadway, Denver. The restaurant is open Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. until 10 p.m., Friday through Saturday 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. and for lunch daily between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

All photography by Tyler Wernet.