A second location of popular breakfast and lunch joint Sassafras opened last week at 320 East Colfax Avenue, bringing its laid-back yet inventive Southern-inspired dishes to Capitol Hill, and closer to home for many of the restaurant's devotees. See also: Southern breakfasts take center stage at Sassafras American Eatery, now open in Jefferson Park
The new space is a far cry from the original Sassafras, which is housed in an artfully restored Victorian (the original home of La Loma) in the Jefferson Park neighborhood, with a tranquil porch that won Westword's Best Restaurant Patio in 2014.
While the focus at the second spot is the same -- simple yet artfully done breakfast and lunch staples, including a "Deep South" Benedict with pulled pork and pepper jam -- the new space and neighborhood necessitated a shift in style. With carpeted booths, light-wood paneling and wrought-iron decorations, the new Sassafras has an old-school, classic Denver vibe, backed by a soundtrack of Elvis and other throwback hits. A small side room gives a nod to the breezy Southern influence of the original restaurant, with a painted nature scene at the back and distressed decorative shutters and gauzy white curtains on the walls.
Co-owner Julia Grother says a second Sassafras was something of a necessity after the first Sassafras became a victim of its own popularity, with the long weekend wait times typical of any Denver brunch spot worth its salt. She and business partner Richard Stewart will now be bouncing between the two locations to make sure that the spirit that made the original Sassafras so popular will be carried over to the new location. Since many of the staffers at the original spot have been with Sassafras since it opened two years ago, Grother says they'll help to keep things running smoothly.
Aside from the obvious differences in atmosphere, the menu at the Colfax spot has also been spruced up by chef Colin Mallet, with flash-fried frogs' legs, charbroiled oysters and an expanded mac-and-cheese selection that includes options like blackened chicken with blue cheese and a breakfast version with grit croutons.
And since the Capitol Hill spot was formerly the home of Uptown Brothers Brewing, which closed three years ago, it has something its older sibling lacks: a liquor license. "I understand if you a need a catch-up with your friends on Sunday," Grother says, "and you want to relax with a mimosa."
And not just mimosas. The cocktail menu offerings follow Sassafras' golden formula: classics with a modern flair, including a Hurricane and French 75, as well as the aptly named Old (Re)fashioned, made with house-spiced bourbon and hibiscus syrup. And, of course, there are the mimosa and Bloody Mary options that seem like a requirement on brunch menus these days. The Sassafras passion for scratch-made carries over into the bar, where bottles full of infused alcohols.
On its first weekend, the place was packed -- and Grother is looking forward to a big holiday weekend for the second Sassafras. "I was ready," she says. "I really wanted to play."
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