On our plate: Southern food with a modern, chic spin, hearty fare at the Marriott in Cherry Creek and Vietnamese-inspired dishes (with a side of Ping-Pong)
“I loved the bologna!” Those are words I never expected to hear myself say. But at chef Kyle Foster’s new Southern- with-a-twist restaurant, Julep, be prepared to throw any previous notions about Southern food out the window. Foster, who started cooking in his grandmother’s kitchen (and more recently impressed at Colt & Gray and Rebel), traveled extensively south of the Mason-Dixon Line and pored over old Southern cookbooks to find traditional recipes worth modernizing for his lunch and dinner menus.
The results are as unexpected as Alabama’s not vying for the national football championship. That bologna, for example, is house-made and served on a crisp, toasted housemade Pullman loaf with a yummy butterbean chow chow and Dukes mayo. But I’m getting ahead of myself: After admiring the décor (the magnolia- and-camellia wallpaper looked as if it came straight out of Aunt Pittypat’s parlor), I downed a refreshing ginger julep (made with Buffalo Trace bourbon). My very knowledgeable waiter, Jayson, made sure to point out the deeply stocked, Southern- influenced bar, which offers Prohibition- era classics such as Roffignac and Vieux Carré, makes its own syrups and includes such boutique liquors as Jefferson’s Ocean, aged at sea in the well of a ship. Any of the sips go well with these starters: a lighter- than-air cornbread hoe cake topped with a Cajun “Holy Trinity” sofrita (onions, celery and green pepper) and a smoked trout dip with freshly made benne seed crackers that crunched their way into my heart.
Other great dishes to try: Broccoli with sweet but piquant blood orange pieces and grated egg yolk served atop a parsnip purée, grilled radicchio in a pear brown butter sauce with sliced chestnuts, a flavorful pork and oyster sausage atop a caramelized malted barley and a rabbit and Andouille gumbo with Carolina Gold rice.
But save room for desserts, including the pineapple upside-down cake with peppercorn ice cream, a banana trifle with candied walnuts and chocolate and sweet potato crème brulée with sumac marshmallow s’mores. Are y’all drooling yet?—Alison Gwinn
3258 Larimer St.
Modern American comfort food
Hotel restaurants can be quite formal—often hosting business travelers, special-occasion diners or lunch or dinner meetings. But this spot, open since mid- January and replacing Second Home at the JW Marriott Denver Cherry Creek, is looking to change that reputation.
Of course, you’ll still find traditional hearty (and delicious) dishes from exec chef Randall Baldwin, including the Braised Short Rib, $26; Rotisserie CO Half Chicken, $22; and Wagyu Tri Tip, $26. But the new emphasis is on shared plates, which we happily made a recent meal of. Crispy Truffled Gnocchi, $11, melts in your mouth. Maple- Roasted Brussels, $9, served with Tender Belly bacon, toasted pine nuts and crispy onions, were fought over. The PEI Mussels with Spanish chorizo, lemon butter and grilled bread, $15? A table fave. The Duo of Dips, $11, two cute mini Mason jars—one filled with pimento cheese, the other with smoked onion—and served with house-made ranch potato chips and bread? Oh, my. And the Carnitas Poutine, $14, fries slathered with green chile, cotija cheese, pico and a chipotle lime drizzle? Swoon.
True to its name, Social Fare will host daily happy hours—think Whiskey & Wine Wednesday, Feeling Fine Friday ($1 from featured cocktails go to a local charity) and a weekend Brunch Booze Bar. On Sundays, it’s Pancake Social Brunch, with a free pint-sized hotcake buffet for kids 8 and younger. Gather your pals, grab a patio spot near the roaring fire pit and get social. —Lesley Kennedy
150 Clayton Lane
ACE EAT SERVE
Great bar? Check. Party-worthy Ping-Pong? You bet. Elevated apps, entrées and desserts that will have you wanting seconds? After a recent tasting with Ace Eat Serve’s new executive chef Thach Tran, we’d say, yep, the restaurant has that down, too.
What Tran, who was born in Vietnam and moved to Denver with his family at age 9, is bringing to the table: “The Asian street food I grew up with in Vietnam in my grandmother’s restaurants. She’s the one who taught me how to cook.”
Case in point: The Jade stir-fry appetizer, $6, a warm salad with lotus root and garlic, is a common dish his family cooked in his younger years. Try the Spice Market Beef Ramen, $15, with braised short rib and beef broth spiced with comforting flavors such as cinnamon. Broth was one of the first dishes Tran, who has worked with Sushi Den and Cholon and competed on “Chopped” in 2017, learned to make. Feel adventurous? Order the Crazy Sichuan Shrimp Wontons, $6; the Sichuan peppercorn chili oil may make your mouth go a bit numb. Or try the Scallop and Shrimp X.O. Rice Pillows, $18, Tran’s winning job interview dish, featuring thin rice crepes rolled up and cut into small, velvety pieces. And when it comes to comfort food, nothing beats the Golden Fried Rice, $12, topped with crispy bacon and a poached egg from Wisdom’s Natural Poultry.
Executive pastry chef Nadine Donovan’s “O.M.G.,” $9, which stands for orange, mango and grapefruit, was the cherry on top of our feast. —Kendall Kostelic
501 E. 17th Ave.