The restaurant space at 4900 East Colfax Avenue has seen as many ups and downs as the street itself. For decades, Tante Louise was Denver's nonpareil French restaurant before closing in 2005. The place was purchased by Ed Novak and Jerry Friztler, of the Broker fame, and named the Cork House (in honor of Tante Louise's original owner, Corbin "Corky" Douglass). In 2012, the Cork House closed for a few days and reopened as the Cork House Broker, bringing back some of the menu and flare of the original Broker downtown. When the Cork House threw in the towel last year, the place didn't stay vacant for long. Vail musician and business owner Phil Long scooped up the spot and rechristened it Red Octave Kitchen & Bar, opening it last week as a neighborhood Italian eatery and live-music venue.
Long has been a music fixture in Vail for more than twenty years, playing regularly at the Red Lion (where he's a part owner). He and his business partners also purchased the Vail and Beaver Creek Chophouses last month. A several-month overhaul at his new Denver restaurant has resulted in a much more open space than its previous incarnations. The south end of the interior (which is actually two conjoined houses) has been converted into a spacious bar and lounge area with a small stage where Long will perform every couple of weeks (other musicians will fill in during his absence). There are also a number of TVs that will tune in to sports, and a cozy fireplace flanked by stained-glass windows. Out front, you'll find the same spacious and tree-shaded patio that made the Cork House a favorite for outdoor dining and drinking.
The menu, from chef David Sanchez, is mostly Italian — about 90 percent, he says — with an emphasis on housemade ingredients like a burrata stuffed with creamy goat cheese instead of the standard cow-milk ricotta, and a red sauce that's been in Long's family for generations. The remainder of the menu includes modern flourishes like shrimp poached in vanilla-bean lobster brodo; scallops with Olathe corn risotto and bacon (smoked on Sanchez's offset outdoor smoker) agrodulce; and a selection of more down-to-earth bar snacks. Sanchez lived in Austin, Texas, for a number of years and studied under some of the barbecue masters there, so expect good things from the smoked items on the menu.
The bar (which has built-in USB plugins) will serve happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. daily, with 20 percent off food and beverages. The same deal will apply on NFL Sundays; Red Octave will offer NFL Sunday Ticket so fans can keep up with the games.
Red Octave is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with an open mike every Wednesday. Check the restaurant's website for other scheduled events.