Start 2018 of right with a modern market-place, comfort food with benefits and a hip new spot filled with fun and games.
Eatery, bakery, market
“The menu here reflects my entire life,” says The Bindery’s chef/owner, Linda Hampsten Fox. Indeed. Her eclectic background ranges from the Eastern European dishes she ate as a child to culinary apprenticeships in Switzerland, Italy and France (including a stint as a pastry chef on the Côte d’Azur) to time as a cooking school instructor in Mexico.
The Bindery, whose name pays homage to the many bookbinding and printing factories that once peppered its LoHi neighborhood, has equally broad ambitions: The gorgeous, glassed-in, 4,000-square-foot space, located on the site of the former United Way headquarters with perfect views of downtown, includes a sit-down restaurant, an artisanal market, a café and a bakery, all overseen by Hampsten Fox. But despite its scope, she sees The Bindery, which opened in late October, as an intimate neighborhood spot, where locals will pop in for a Dragonfly coffee, house-made yogurt, $8, Dark Chocolate Liege Waffle, $12, or Croque Madame Tartine, $13, on a weekend morning, meet a friend for a late-night drink (try the “Syzygy,” a mix of Rittenhouse Rye, Aperol, Leopold Bros. Peach Liqueur, garbanzo, lemon and green apple) or have a carefully prepared dinner in between.
That “in-between,” coming out of executive chef Jake Riley’s kitchen, is meticulous but homey. You’ll find shared plates such as Rabbit Rarebit, $13, a smoky, mustardy twist on the Welsh classic, The Secret Garden, $13, a veggie-only charcuterie plate, and a stunning Charred Octopus Agua Chili Negra, $19, with habañero and lime. Pasta dishes and entrées include Cansuzei Ravioli Cortina Style, $15, a surprising radicchio-stuffed treasure in a poppy seed broth; Boulder Hen Coq Au Vin, $24, which tastes straight out of the Alsace countryside; the Cauliflower Sformata, $17, an with mushrooms; and the piquant Braised Beef Cheeks, $23, with ancho and guajillo chili and corn husk oil. A neighborhood joint with a global air? We’ll be regulars. —Alison Gwinn
1817 Central St.
BREMEN’S WINE & TAP
Refined comfort food
Comfort food with benefits. That’s what executive chef Isabel Ranney is aiming for at new Bremen’s Wine & Tap in LoHi.
“I ask myself: How can we respect the environment, each other and the ingredients?” she says. “My mom is a horticulturist and botanist. She also has an herbalism background and went for natural medicine when I was a kid. Herbs with health benefits are something I’ve always wanted to play with in food.”
After a recent tasting, all we have to say is: Thank you, Mom. Ranney has created something special at Bremen’s. Case in point: the pickled pear salad, $12. “Let’s say you’re out to dinner, you’ve had a bunch of appetizers and are feeling really full,” says Ranney, who first made a name for herself 12 years ago at Steamboat Springs’ Cottonwood Grill. “Pickled salad can help activate your digestion.” We believed everything she said after trying the tartar apps: asparagus pear tartar, $11, the asparagus intentionally crunchy, and steak tartar, $13, made with Western Daughter steak picked up across the street that morning.
You could order the excellent seared sea scallops, $28, veggie farro bowl, $16, or duck breast, $23, and call it a night. But then you’d miss Ranney’s seasonal dessert crumble, $8 (we got a tequila-soaked pear). Bremen’s has a large selection of local wines on tap, as well as local craft beers and a seasonal craft cocktail. Comfort food with perks? We could get used to this. —Kendall Kostelic
2005 W. 33rd Ave., 720.504.4410
PUNCH BOWL SOCIAL STAPLETON
Elevated bar food
For fun and games, a trip to Punch Bowl Social’s much-anticipated Stapleton location is a no-brainer. Bowling, arcade games, shuffleboard, giant Scrabble, karaoke—this is the stuff childhood (and adult) dreams are made of.
The company’s 10th location (the second in Denver) is housed in the iconic Stapleton Air Traffic Control Tower building, and the 32,000-square-foot space honors the area’s aviation history with nods including light fixtures made from airplane parts, travel décor and old airport signs.
But the Southern-style menu, created by“TopChef” judge Hugh Acheson, is where things get really fun. Start with an order of the “In-Flight Snack” (aka chile-lime fried peanuts), $2, and treat yourself to the Lobster Bacon Fries, $15, house-cut fries topped with fresh poached lobster, bacon, sour cream, green onions, cheddar and chives. Whoa. For something lighter, dig into the addictive Superfood Grain Bowl, $12 (crispy farro, quinoa, kale, veggies and a poached egg). Kicking the diet to the curb? The gluten-free OMFG Southern Fried Chicken, $16, is totally deserving of its name.
Breakfast, brunch and happy hour specials are also on the menu. For cocktails, try a signature punch or the gin and crème de violette Aviation, $10, unique to this location. On nice days, take your drink to the ample outdoor area, where you’ll find a fire pit, bocce ball, corn hole, Ping-Pong and even an AstroTurf “pool,” complete with a boat you can lounge in. After more gaming, you might even find yourself ready for dessert—like a Malted Maple Royale adult milkshake, $8, with whiskey, malted milk, vanilla soft serve, nutmeg and candied bacon. Game. On. —Lesley Kennedy
3120 N. Uinta St., 720.500.3788