If you haven’t lived or traveled much in Australia, it may surprise you to learn just how passionately they love their chicken Down Under. Per capita, Australians eat more of the bird than anyone else in the world, and by no small margin. The local suburban chicken shop—the cultural equivalent of the American hamburger joint—is a culinary staple across the continent.
A new counter-service restaurant in Platt Park called Chook—Aussie slang for chicken—has adapted and elevated this chicken-shop concept under the direction of James Beard Award winner Alex Seidel, of Fruition and Mercantile; Denver bar expert Randy Layman; and Snooze Eatery’s Adam Schlegel, whose wife, not coincidentally, is from Melbourne. The organizing principle of Chook, according to Schlegel, is a mixture of expert cooking and modest presentation. “We don’t like calling it ‘farm-to-table,’ ” he says. “It’s just nice, clean food. You can always feel good about eating it.”
This is certainly true of the main dish, the “chicken over coals,” cooked on the restaurant’s rotisserie and available four ways—quarter dark ($6), quarter white ($8), half ($13), and whole ($20)—with a choice of English gravy, chimichurri, or piri-piri for dipping. Though almost everything else on the menu is meant to accompany this central showpiece, the genius of Chook lies in how deftly it avoids coming off as one-note. The winter mixed greens salad ($5 small, $10 large), tossed with beets, fennel, and pistachio vinaigrette, is a knockout in its own right. The roasted delicata squash ($5), coated in warm brown butter, sprinkled with hunks of almond, and finished with feta from Seidel’s Fruition Farms, is like an appetizer, main dish, and dessert rolled into one, fresh and sweet and satisfyingly hearty. Even the Chook Chips ($4), made with Colorado potatoes, are assembled with great care, seasoned with Chook’s take on chicken salt, an umami-rich blend of spices that Aussies have been known to sprinkle on just about everything.
Add to this some winning touches—a kid’s play nook attached to the dining room, wines from a vineyard owned by Schlegel’s brother, a B Corp certification—and the result is a place that feels widely inclusive, with something available for everyone, children included. A chicken, as they say, in every pot. —Andrew Weaver
1300 S Pearl St.
Chow Morso Osteria
Some restaurants just know how to make guests relax: With the right music, seating, and staff, it’s easy to de-stress. It’s no surprise I found this reprieve in Chow Morso Osteria. Though it’s just down the street from Union Station, you feel like you’re at Grandma’s house (assuming that Grandma recently adopted a modern but cozy aesthetic), which is just what Ryan Fletter wanted.
Owner of Barolo Grill for almost four years, Fletter was looking to create a spot centered on Italian staples and street-food basics. “It’s a sibling to Barolo that’s a casual, not-so-white-tablecloth, eat-this-everyday restaurant,” he says.
Chow Morso Osteria’s permanent location opened in September (Fletter tested the concept at Avanti for two years) and boasts a somewhat seasonal menu of Italian classics: fried risotto balls, Bolognese, agnolotti, carbonara, lamb osso buco, and more. You’ll also see things not found on most Italian menus in the U.S., like piadina flatbread sandwiches. The arugula salad with truffle aioli ($10) makes a great lunch. We’d eat the gnocchi ($18) by the bowlful. The vanilla bean panna cotta ($10) was equally impressive. Wash it all down with something off the mostly Italian wine list.
After lunch, I strongly considered going back for dinner—another thing Fletter hopes to inspire: “Chow sounds Italian, but it’s spelled like ‘chowing down.’ In Italian, moreso means bites, but in English it sounds like ‘and more so…’ It’s playful.”
Chow Morso Osteria
1500 Wynkoop St.
dinner reservations recommended