After six months in business, Oak at Fourteenth was really building momentum this past spring, nabbing accolades from around the country that culminated in its listing in the March Food & Wine as one of the country's best new bars. That honor arrived the same week that a fire erupted in the flue of the Boulder restaurant's wood-fired oven, consuming the kitchen and leading to the water damage that destroyed the rest of the space.
At the time, owners Bryan Dayton and Steve Redzikowski were hopeful that the reconstruction phase would be short, allowing them to reopen the doors of their spot just six weeks later. The estimate proved optimistic -- way too optimistic. The location had to be gutted and entirely rebuilt, a process that stretched over eight months. At long last, though, the wait is over: Construction is done, final inspections are clearing and Dayton and Redzikowski finally have set a reopening date.
Don't expect to see the same restaurant from last March, though. "The interior is completely different," says Dayton, citing new banquettes and a private dining room as examples of the newly engineered aesthetic. They also procured a wood-fired oven, and the menu is getting re-worked a bit, too. While Redzikowski will continue to cook upscale twists on North American classics, he'll also roll out new dishes and late-night options for the re-opening. "We're bringing back anything popular that people really enjoyed," says Dayton. "But we're changing a lot."
Dayton, who just nabbed first place in a national GQ/Bombay Sapphire bartending competition, has also taken advantage of the break to rethink the bar. "We have quite a few changes on the cocktail menu," he notes, then cryptically adds, "and we're working on some different liquid options."
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He's also added to his bar staff, picking up, among others, Jonathan Watsky, who last held a post as the private dining sous chef at Frasca. "It's my first experiment in bringing a chef in behind a bar," Dayton explains. "Chefs are used to working long hours and they know how to use tools. They also have palates, and they're used to tasting. I think it will add a new dimension to the bar program."
So when, exactly, will all these changes be unveiled? "We're shooting to go live to the public on Wednesday, December 14," Dayton says. "We're ready."
This story first appeared in today's Cafe Bites, our weekly e-mail newsletter devoted to Denver's food and drink scene, which arrives in e-mail boxes every Wednesday afternoon. You can subscribe here.