Creole is suddenly on a roll in Denver: Zydeco's opened last fall on Wynkoop Street, a new Gumbo's is going into the space that had been Roam on East 17th Avenue, and the 1812 Restaurant & Bar is currently amassing funds to build a restaurant in Five Points. Now you can add another spot to the list: Big Easy Creole Kitchen is going into the former home of Tambien at 250 Steele Street.
Owner George Gastl, a native of Denver, graduated from the Culinary Institute of Scottsdale and cooked around the world - in Santa Fe, Germany and, yes, New Orleans - before returning to Colorado a few years ago and starting G.G.'s, a sauce company, while he looked for a place where he could open his own restaurant. And eventually, he found one in Cherry Creek, in the basement space next to Ondo's and close by where he once worked in the kitchen of Mel's Bar and Grill. Now he's remodeling that address and working on the rest of his plan. "We want it to be as if you were in the French Quarter in New Orleans, and you walked into a nice restaurant," he explains. "We're going for upscale, casual, good Creole food."
And the Big Easy will feature another hot trend -- albeit one based on a long-time Southern tradition: an oyster bar. "We'll do oyster shooters, peel-and-eat shrimp and oysters on the half shell," Gastl promises, along with a happy hour. The rest of the menu - dinner-only -- will be small and seasonal: charbroiled oysters, crab cakes, New Orleans barbecue shrimp, Creole-seasoned filet mignon served with confit fingerling potatoes and crab remoulade served in a crispy tomato cup. "I have no walk-in, so I'll be getting orders daily," he notes. "Food will be as fresh as possible from local sources."
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He'll pair that food with a beverage list that includes a small wine and bottled beer selection, and focuses on New Orleans-style cocktails, "you know, like hurricanes, brandy punch, sazeracs," he says.
Watch for Big Easy to open in September -- prime hurricane season.
A version of this story originally appeared in Cafe Bites, our weekly newsletter devoted to Denver's food and drink scene, which arrives in e-mail boxes every Wednesday afternoon. Find out how to subscribe here.