On Tuesday, February 27 The Way Back reopened its doors in a delightfully revamped space in the heart of the bustling row of restaurants on Tennyson. Taking over the old space that formerly housed Irish Pub legacy Patrick Carroll’s and Patty the Yank — the new space is one part neighborhood bar and one part intimate, white-tablecloth dining area. The 110-seat room is filled with ornate plant arrangements, omnipresent floral print and a repurposed bar from the Patty’s days. The blend of casual and refined aesthetics suits the restaurant well — much of the menu is comprised of intricate and forward-thinking dishes disguised as simple plates. Executive chef Jon Lavelle and his sous Michael Calabro have redesigned the menu in line with the well-defined vision of good, locally sourced eating that has long been the principle motivation for restaurant owners Chad Michael George, Kade Gianinetti and Jared Schwartz. Having started with Avanti burger joint American Grind, the group has committed to providing the community with real food since their food-truck origins. The new menu focuses on ingredients that are not only local but many that are indigenous to Colorado.
While the interior is certainly an improvement on the last location, the real motivation is becoming a part of the neighborhood. Their former space on 38th — only about six blocks away — felt isolated. Being a part of the community at large has been an important motivation — as much as the restaurant wants to showcase Lavelle’s kitchen mastery, creating a personality-rich space has been equally significant. As cultivated as the interior may appear, that hasn’t kept staff from keeping ’80s hair bands in heavy rotation.
The beans ($12) are a well-composed combination of pinto and Anasazi beans, radish, sour cream and cornbread crumbles. Beans are hard to make sexy, but in Lavelle’s hands the appetizer comes out both elegant and utterly delicious. The squid ink fettuccine ($18) is house-made pasta, green chili pesto, diced squid, ground nori, dried lime zest and puffed rice. The dish fits Lavelle’s style — the pasta pops with a deep emerald green, and the dish succeeds in offering nuanced flavor and a complexity of texture. The pork chop ($23) is sous vide prepared, then charred to perfection on the grill. Accompanied by shio koji marinade, caramelized onion puree with malted milk and charred cabbage, the dish succeeds in both novelty and complexity.
Bar manager and co-owner Chad Michael George brings sophistication to expected classics and flair to his own creations. The fluffer ($11) is tequila ocho and Aperol with Rocky Mountain orange cream soda — the result is sleek and all too easy to down. The smoke on the water ($11) is mezcal and cinnamon-infused Campari — the result is bold but not overtly aggressive.
The restaurant has a daily happy hour from 4 – 6 p.m., featuring elevated bar snacks, $3 Coors Banquet, $5 house sours and $6 house wines. For now, it is only open for dinner, but there are plans to start doing weekend brunch come summertime.
The Way Back is located at 3963 Tennyson Street, Denver. It’s open Tuesday – Thursday 4 – 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday 4 – 11 p.m.
All photography by Samantha Jo.