Lunch is a great way to sample a restaurant's menu without splurging on a full-fledged dinner spread. Two tony Denver eateries — Departure and Milk & Honey — have just added lunch hours and new menu items to attract a daytime crowd. And up in Boulder, chef Bradford Heap has hooked some of the freshest salmon in town. Keep reading for the whole fish story and more on those lunch menus.
1043 Pearl Street, Boulder
Wild Standard chef/owner Bradford Heap loves cooking fish, but he also loves catching them. His fishing trips to Icy Bay, Alaska, over the years have landed a big catch for his family, but now he's figured out how to get King salmon from chilly Alaskan waters to his Boulder seafood restaurant nearly right off the hook. While on a recent excursion, Heap made a deal with his fishing guide to catch and ship salmon to Boulder overnight; the restaurant is now bringing in 150 to 200 pounds a week.
"I've always wanted to have that relationship with the person who catches the fish," Heap explains. And now Wild Standard customers — as well as those at Heap's other restaurants, Colterra and Salt Bistro — can taste the rewards of that relationship. The fish are gilled and gutted in Alaska and shipped in cold packs so that the salmon always stays at least as cold as the waters of Yakutat Bay, from which they were pulled.
The result on the plate? "The refrain I hear is 'That's the best salmon I've ever had,'" the chef notes. While the fish isn't cheap, Heap says it's an experience for those who occasionally want to enjoy wild salmon at its best rather than less flavorful farmed fish.
"Salmon is my favorite fish to cook because it's so incredibly versatile," he adds. "And we're always looking at the season for ideas." This month, for example, Wild Standard is serving the salmon crusted with horseradish and celery root with dill, crème fraîche and roasted local turnips or potatoes. Heap receives two or three shipments weekly and highlights the salmon until it sells out, so call ahead to make sure the fish is in stock.
249 Columbine Street
The arrival of Departure in Cherry Creek in August set diners abuzz with talk of chef Gregory Gourdet's pan-Asian menu, which had already earned acclaim at his first restaurant in Portland, Oregon. But Cherry Creek is bustling at lunch, maybe even more so than during the dinner hour, and Departure's location inside the Halcyon Hotel means a steady stream of visitors all day. So adding to the restaurant's lunch service seems like an easy decision, and now you can partake of spicy miso ramen, a King salmon salad or a hefty bulgogi burger — all new items being served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. There are also bento boxes loaded with yakitori chicken or tiger prawns, shiro miso soup, koshihikari rice, pickles and salad.
And dessert lovers haven't been forgotten; pastry chef Erin Koroll has added a few sweet lunchtime treats, like citrus mousse with kalmansi, coconut crunch and makrut lime, and koji ice cream with apple, cranberry, persimmon and maple crisp.
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Milk & Honey Bar + Kitchen
1414 Larimer Street
While lunch service in Cherry Creek seems like an automatic decision for a restaurant, a sultry, subterranean dining destination in Larimer Square may not look like such an obvious choice for a midday repast. So it's taken a year and a half for Milk & Honey to extend its hours to lunchtime, but the result is good news for the business crowd and tourists who make up much of LoDo's daytime population. Chef/owner Michael Shiell is offering some of the same small plates and "Market Table" bites available during dinner, plus entrees like a nine-ounce prime burger, duck confit salad and lobster pot pie. This is the kind of lunch where deals get done over steaks and drinks (luckily, the bar's cocktail program provides ample options); head down the secluded stairs starting at 11 a.m. every Tuesday through Friday.