Old Major — Justin Brunson’s LoHi shrine to all things meat — will turn six this February and has recently undergone some major changes to celebrate the well-spent time. Since the restaurant’s opening, the neighborhood has experienced substantial transformations both in terms of a growing and shifting clientele and changing to be one of the city’s major restaurant hubs. Brunson and new chef de cuisine Jason Brown reshaped over half of the already superb menu — adding new appetizers, entrees and signature cocktails.
The most dramatic modification is the addition of two televisions in the bar area with a brand new menu of taproom snacks fit for a more casual crowd still seeking real cuisine. The chefs wanted to make items that they could “produce at a higher level but sell at a cheaper cost,” said Brown. The menu is meant to appeal to the new neighborhood populace — a younger crowd full of sports fans and party people that still appreciate good dining. “I’m noticing a lot of people are starting to drink pretty early in this neighborhood,” said Brunson with a smile.
Brown started as a line cook at Old Major four years ago before leaving for a stint at Bittersweet. His return as chef de cuisine marks a highlight in the young chef’s career, one that has included graduating from Le Cordon Bleu and a two-year residency at Torre del Saracino, a two Michelin-star restaurant in Italy. Brunson views Old Major as something of “a finishing restaurant” — many of his employees have gone on to own and operate successful operations of their own. Brown’s contribution since returning has been substantial, the two chefs have splendid culinary chemistry.
The bar menu consists of nine items, none of which cost more than $15. The smoked trout dip ($8) is a smokey preparation set on house-made chips and topped with dill pickled beans. The potato croquette ($6) is a crispy roll with ham, cheese and tomato jalapeno jam. All the items are available in the bar area from 5 p.m. until close during the week and 3 p.m. until close on weekends. Everything on the list is $2 off during the weekly happy hour, Wednesday through Sunday 4 – 6 p.m.
The new dinner menu is full of dishes that epitomize the strength that comes from Brunson and Brown’s collaboration. The roasted delicata squash and kale salad ($14) is thin-sliced kale, house-made bacon, compressed apple, fresh pear, bufala mozzarella, cider vinaigrette and tart cherries. The salad has a particular decadence reminiscent of the style that has made Old Major a go-to for high-quality indulgence. The Spanish octopus ($17) includesparsley shells pasta, Calabrian chile relish, dried olives and bacon. The octopus is cooked in the sous vide for six hours then grilled — the dish is a smokey testament to bold flavors and squishy textures. The Strube Wagyu hanger ($38) includes gold potato gnocchi, brown butter glazed mushrooms, salsa verde and hazelnut gremolata. The expert preparation gives the aged steak impressive depth, and the fatty noodles provide perfect support.
Brunson has been enormously busy — he is set to open River Bear American Meats, a 70,000 square foot USDA approved meat-processing facility during the first week of December. He also is set to appear on Best Thing I Ever Ate season 10. His contributions to the Denver dining scene have been substantial and with the new menu, he continues to prove his versatility and dedication to local farms and fine, sustainable produce and seafood.
Old Major is located at 3316 Tejon St., Denver. It is open Monday and Tuesday 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., Wednesday – Friday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 9:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
All photography by Alden Bonecutter.