Dining Out: Woodie Fisher and Pepper

A cool setting for carefully crafted food and breezy farm-to-table.

Photo by Joni Schrantz

Woodie Fisher Kitchen & Bar

Cool setting for carefully crafted food

Woodie Fisher, the new restaurant in the old, red-brick Hose House No. 1 a couple of blocks behind Union Station, appears to be the happy ending to a sad story.

The restaurant is named after Redwood Fisher, who was in line to become Denver’s first fire chief until he stepped in front of a runaway wagon to save some lives. A Dalmatian appears on its sign and logo, and the interior features fire hoses and bike chains on lighting fixtures.

So much for nostalgia. The feeling inside is cheerful by day, with a bright skylight having replaced the towering hose house ceiling, and cozy in the evening, especially in the intimate bar area. The food is made to satisfy the Hose House No. 1 neighborhood of today, with a small but mighty menu designed for either casual noshing or a special dinner.

Chefs Nick Morgan and Franco Ruiz were continuing to tweak when we visited in late summer, and a new cocktail list was just a few days away. I guarantee it will include the beautifully balanced Café Manhattan, made with Stranahan’s whiskey, Vya vermouth, and Marble Moonlight Expresso ($12). It’s a fine match for two can’t-miss appetizers, the High Plains Wagyu Tartare ($12), topped with a pretty egg yolk jam, and the (painstakingly) House Made Burrata ($11). Our creamy burrata had a green tomato jam alongside grilled lavender sourdough from Grateful Bread; look for it in new variations in the seasons to come.

Photo by Joni Schrantz

There are just six entrées on the menu, and the WF Burger has received such great word of mouth, we had to try one. It’s made of Colorado Wagyu beef and topped with Havarti, bacon, crispy onions, and a house-made Worcestershire aioli. This might be the best $16 burger in town. The Alamosa Bass ($26) won us over, perfectly grilled and served alongside fennel and celery. A cucumber salad ($11), heavy on olive flavor, proved a worthy accompaniment.

A surprise hit came at dessert: Two people who don’t like coconut much agreed that the Coconut Rice Pudding ($10) tasted divine, with roasted cashews and fresh apricots on top. I couldn’t help thinking how a Palisade peach might work in this dish, but I had a feeling the magicians in the kitchen would soon be all over that. The man died in 1870, the building was established in 1881, but Woodie Fisher has become a place to enjoy long into the 2000s. —Susan Fornoff

Woodie Fisher
1999 Chestnut Pl.

Courtesy Pepper the Noshery

Pepper

Breezy farm-to-table

To understand the basic difference between chef Bradford Heap’s two Boulder restaurants, Salt and Pepper, which sit shoulder-to-shoulder on Pearl Street, look no further than their subtitles. Salt, which opened nearly a decade ago, is officially branded Salt the Bistro, while Pepper, new this summer, is Pepper the Noshery. The former is a little more old-school, swanky, and formal, while the latter is casual, funky, and modern.

Like its sister restaurant, Pepper focuses on sustainable, farm-to-table fare that tries to shave as many miles as possible off the distance its ingredients travel from source to plate. The offerings are thoroughly new American, and mostly familiar, but the menu’s many twists and improvisations keep things interesting and fit well with the generally breezy attitude of the place.

For starters, try the Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower, served with a vegan, cashew-based “blue cheese” that tastes unbelievably close to the real thing ($10), or the Mushroom Spring Rolls, made with three types of locally- sourced fungi—trumpet, oyster, and shiitake—with ginger tarragon ($12). Four salads, including an exceptional roasted beet offering with shaved fennel and mint ($11), lead into the sandwiches and mains, which include a chickpea-based quinoa burger with avocado purée ($14), silky wild salmon with shiitake vinaigrette on a sushi rice cake ($21), and a Wagyu steak (MP). An accompanying raw bar offers oysters ($2.50 to $4 ea.), salmon tartare ($13), and king crab (MP). —Andrew Weaver

Pepper
1043 Pearl St., Boulder