Maybe we've got the munchies from all the pot smoke lingering in the air after yesterday's 4/20 activities, but our watch list this week is filled with craveable burgers, sandwiches, fried chicken and pizza. But there's also a new French bistro and some equally French-inspired pastries. Here are seven spots that are trending up, at least with our tastebuds. And if you read to the end, you'll find our complete list of all the bar and restaurant openings and closings for the week of April 17-21, 2017.
You'll want to wrap your arms around this sandwich at Annette.
2501 Dallas Street, Aurora
Chef Caroline Glover's enchanting eatery at the Stanley Marketplace has been drawing attention for making the difficult seem effortless: turning elaborate creations with esoteric ingredients into heartwarming comfort food. On both the lunch and dinner rosters, intimidating offerings like lamb neck, whole fish and bagna cauda become the stuff of cravings, much of it scented with smoke from Glover's wood-burning grill. That goes for the charred octopus "sammy" on the daytime menu, which, despite its grilled-gastropod contents, comes across as a classic deli sandwich with a twist. The char on the octopus is light, so the sandwich isn't overwhelmed with ashy flavor. Instead, the mild, meaty arms, sliced thin and layered with dry-cured chorizo from New York's Salumeria Biellese, bracing mustard greens, caper aioli and tangy romesco sauce give a firm but tender texture to the construction that almost mimics a chicken-parm sandwich. Once you wrap your head around the idea of an octopus sandwich, you'll want to get your tentacles on this one again and again.
French cuisine is in — thanks to Radek Cerny's return to Denver.
Atelier by Radex
2011 East 17th Avenue
Long years have passed since chef/restaurateur Radek Cerny's Denver days, when eateries like Radex and Papillon wowed guests with gastronomic wonders well before the current restaurant boom. Since then, we've had to content ourselves with occasional drives to Boulder for creative French and fusion fare at L'Atelier. But there's good news for both Denver and Boulder: Cerny is keeping the original L'Atelier (which he was planning to close) in Boulder while bringing in a new version of the restaurant to East 17th Avenue, in the former home of Il Posto. Francophiles and modernists alike will find something to love in the new menu, and Cerny's wine lists are always worth perusing. For something fun, check out the Homard "TV Dinner," butter-poached lobster tail served with sides on a compartmentalized platter. But, really, anything French, French-ish, French-fusion and French-American is what we're looking forward to sampling over the coming months; Cerny has been doing this for decades, ensuring nary a misstep on the menu.
Black Shirt's beer tastes great straight from the glass or mixed into the sausage that tops this pizza.
Black Shirt Brewing
3719 Walnut Street
What was once a brewery and taproom can be called a full-on brewpub, now that Black Shirt has unveiled its new kitchen. Pizza's the main offering here, along with a handful of salads and a few appetizers. So now you can sip at your seat without having to stand in line at a food truck or head somewhere else when hunger hits. Since beer is the draw, it makes sense that there's beer in the food, too. We're in love with the Johnny (named after Johnny Cash), which comes topped with Fontina cheese, roasted fennel and garlic, and — most important — housemade Berkshire pork sausage dosed with BSB red ale. The sausage bursts with tangy, savory flavor perfect for washing down with, you guessed it, one of the house ales. We recommend the new dry-hopped Stringbender Saison, aged in enormous oak foeders — Belgian-style vessels that hold nearly 1,000 gallons of the liquid gold. Cheers — and bon appétit!
We'd start a food feud over Fudmill's new pastry lineup.
Available in multiple locations
There are big names behind this new wholesale bakery: Keegan Gerhard and Lisa Bailey from D Bar Denver, and Alex Seidel and Matt Vawter from Fruition and Mercantile. Their combined experience and passion means that Füdmill's breakfast pastries rise above standard grocery-store options. Doughs are naturally fermented using the pain au levain method, which results in complex, old-world flavors. Start with a croissant to experience Füdmill in its purest form, then sample your way through scones, muffins, morning buns and kouign-amann, the croissant's savory-sweet cousin coated in crackly caramel. Pick them up at D Bar or Mercantile or at one of several Denver Whole Foods stores.
Giot Dang's bitter melon and pork floss doesn't get much further from standard American bar food.
Giot Dang Cafe
472 South Federal Boulevard
When it comes to bar food, familiar is usually better; we just want our wings, burgers and nachos — and our brains are only engaged in choosing the cold beer that will best match the toppings, sauces and heat levels. But on Federal Boulevard, you can dive into how bar food is done half a world away. What's adventurous and unfamiliar for us is welcoming and expected for Vietnamese residents of Denver who just want cold beers, snacks, sports and karaoke. So tuck into hot wings and waffle fries at Giot Dang, but stray outside your comfort zone with a dish of chilled bitter melon and cha bong, dried pork that's been pounded into a fluffy mound. The pork tastes similar to jerky, with sweet, salty and spicy notes to counter the bitter, vegetal flavor of the melon — all of which goes great with the cold Asian lagers served from the bar. This uncommon snack might just become your new bar-food favorite.
Feel the heft of Jack's street burger.
Jack's Uptown Grille
1600 East 17th Avenue
Jack's just opened a week ago in the former home of P17, and Uptown neighbors have been wandering over for drinks at the bar and American classics bolstered with KC-style barbecue. Chef/partner Lindsay Donnelly, a London native who moved to the U.S. thirty years ago, offers a blast from his past on the restaurant's burger slate. The street burger is so named because Donnelly spent much of his youth figuring out how to sell street food to pub patrons spilling out after last call. He and a friend concocted a burger that's topped with pulled pork and slathered in barbecue sauce — a recipe that hasn't changed much over the years. Donnelly now makes his own bourbon barbecue sauce and tops the burger with kale slaw for added crunch. The whole thing feels heavy in your hands — you'll have to use both — and the kitchen crew at Jack's knows how to hit the perfect level of pink in the juicy beef patty — if that's how you like it. This is how Jack's brings a hint of the street to 17th Avenue.
Nashville comes to Denver at the Post.
The Post Chicken & Beer
2200 South Broadway
Everyone in the Rosedale neighborhood and beyond is packing the house at this South Broadway outpost of the beer and chicken joint founded in Lafayette, proving that there's no such thing as a restaurant black hole — as long as you give the people what they want. And what they want is chicken, whether fried, rotisserie-roasted or slathered in red-hot seasoning in the style of Nashville's classic hot-chicken joints. But it's not just the chicken that's bringing folks home to roost; it's the amiable staff, the great cocktails (not to mention the company's list of beers brewed at the Lafayette mothership) and the jumpin' atmosphere. The chicken and the restaurant are both proving to be one of the hottest draws in town this spring.
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RESTAURANTS/BARS CLOSING THIS WEEK:*
Conor O'Neill's (Saturday), 1922 13th Street, Boulder
New World Cheese, 2504 East Colfax Avenue
*Or earlier, and not reported in a previous Westword Watch List.