First look: Atticus, a quintessential neighborhood restaurant, opens today
All photos by Lori Midson.
It's still early in the year, but if you've paid attention to the restaurant scene over the last few months, then you've no doubt noticed the surge of small neighborhood restaurants. Peter Ryan, chef-owner of the Plimoth, opened a smashing forty-seater on the northern tip of City Park in late November, and if the constant crush of crowds is any indication of its popularity, then Ryan has a huge hit on his hands.
Work & Class, a diminutive, 55-seat restaurant on Upper Larimer, opened in late January, and, again, residents of that 'hood can't stop talking about what a terrific addition it is to that enclave. The crew behind Table 6, now umbrellaed under Table to Tavern, a restaurant group that's spearheaded by CEO Brian Midtbo; CFO Dan Ferguson; COO Rob Lanphier; and Aaron Forman, general manager of Table 6 and the group's wine director, knows a thing or two about building neighborhood restaurants, too -- Table 6, located in Congress Park, has long been one of Denver's best -- and today, the foursome, who also run Boone's Tavern and HandleBar Tavern, is gracing the Platt Park hamlet with Atticus, which resides directly next door to Boone's, and like Work & Class, the Plimoth and Table 6, is everything you'd expect from a neighborhood restaurant.
By day, "Atticus will be a European-style cafe where you can grab a coffee and something to go, stay and have a working breakfast or lunch, or enjoy charcuterie and a cocktail in the late afternoon," says Midtbo. And in the evening, he continues, "this is a restaurant where you can have a great dinner and a bottle of wine."
And the lovely space is certainly conducive to all of those things. A conversation-piece, stone fireplace perches in one corner, its flickering flames a blanket of warmth for the petite room, hued cornflower blue and putty. Antique collectibles -- an old eye chart, Polaroid cameras, a retro radio, film reel and rusted miner lamps -- grace the wooden shelves, while the walls are mounted with everything from a penny-farthing bicycle and Victorian hats to a vintage typewriter. "We were going for a rustic, eclectic and old-world vibe, but we wanted to have some fun with the space, too," says Midtbo. Custom-made wood tables, booths the color of caramel, rough-stained bamboo floors, a corrugated metal bar and re-purposed timber from hangers at the original Stapleton International Airport, round out the quarters, which are overseen by a veteran staff of pros.
Forman, who runs the wine program, is also in charge of the service aspect of Atticus. "The secret to Table 6 is its service, and that's because of Aaron, so he's definitely helping us with the service side of things," says Midtbo.
Anthony Giovanni, who was most recently the face behind the bar at Gaetano's, is heading up the beverage program at Atticus, as well as Table to Tavern's other bars and restaurants, while Chris Fitzpatrick, formerly of the Samba Room, Tables and Osteria Marco, is the general manager of Atticus. "Chris is amazing and perfect for this job," notes Midtbo. "I love the fact that he has high-volume experience from his time at the Samba Room and that he worked for Frank Bonanno at Osteria Marco. Working for Bonanno Concepts is really good for you, and they turn out the best people," adds Midtbo.
The chef at Atticus, Robert Alfaro, who also does all the cooking at Boone's (it and Atticus share a common kitchen), is no stranger to the industry either. Before coming to Atticus, he opened Toast and spent nearly four years at LoHi Steakbar, and, says Midtbo, he's "inventive, creative and a wicked perfectionist." He's a grower, too, using his basement at home as a greenhouse to harvest vegetables and herbs. And, reveals Midtbo, Atticus will soon follow suit, when the staff turns the lower level of the building into its own garden, complete with soil, misters, grow lights and automatic water.
Alfaro's menu, which covers breakfast, lunch and dinner (there's separate charcuterie menu, too) is easygoing and comforting. Breakfast dishes include biscuits stacked with pork belly, croissant sandwiches and burritos enveloping chorizo and black beans; lunch turns out sandwiches, soups and salads; and dinner zigzags from a delicious cioppino to wild-boar chili. "Rob has a masculine style of cooking, and he uses simple ingredients and creates easy combinations," says Midtbo, adding, too, that Alfaro is obsessed with vegetables. "He's great with vegetables, and he firmly believes that vegetables should retain their integrity -- that they should always taste like vegetables."
Atticus, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday, and breakfast and lunch on Sunday, will also add brunch within the next few weeks. And on Sunday nights, the restaurant will host private, ticketed events, including beer and wine dinners, educational seminars and cocktail classes.
Atticus opened this morning at 7 a.m. Here's sneak peek of the space and the food. Later this week, we'll have a post that focuses on Giovanni's cocktail syllabus; recipes, too!
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