Four metro restaurants have something new and different that you'll want to hit right now. This week, we're steering you toward a Cherry Creek happy hour with a not-so-posh surprise; a full-on lunch menu from a chicken sandwich specialist; an innovative twist on focaccia; and some small plates that will beguile you with a teasing familiarity.
10195 East 29th Avenue
Gretchen Kurtz reviewed Cattivella last week, sampling "dishes that were deep-throated and lusty, at times playful, always confident." One of those playful and confident creations is the focaccia di Recco, pie-like and stuffed with cheese, rather than fluffy and bready like the focaccia to which we're more accustomed. It's an example of the hyper-regional cuisine that chef/owner Elise Wiggins showcases, and it's also not an easy dish to track down in Denver. Another example of a rare and delightful specialty is the torta Caprese on the dessert menu, a flourless cake made with almonds and chocolate that's decadent without being overbearing.
1600 Pearl Street, Boulder
The words "charred" and "cucumber" seldom occur together in any form, much less on a restaurant menu. But that's exactly the kind of unexpected discovery awaiting at Emmerson, which opened in Boulder last week. On that plate, you'll also get pumpkin-seed yogurt, little mounds of pepita crumble, sweet grapes and fronds of dill. The whole dish comes together like bread-and-butter pickles that have been to finishing school. But that seems to be the kitchen's knack: taking seemingly incompatible ingredients and turning them into something vaguely familiar.
Royal Rooster (at Old Major)
3316 Tejon Street
Chicken sandwiches and burgers have kept lunchers pretty happy since chef/owner Justin Brunson opened his flagship restaurant, Old Major, for the noontime meal, dubbing it Royal Rooster for that stretch. But now there's something new to crow about: a full-fledged lunch menu to go along with the sandwiches. In addition to the current handheld favorites, steak frites, grilled fish and a charcuterie platter will be available, along with goodies like pork-fat French fries, fried pickles, Old Major bacon and Valrhona chocolate brownies. That's all happening on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., but if you're more of a weekend warrior, stop in at Old Major for brunch or dinner on Sunday for 50 percent off wines by the bottle.
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250 Columbine Street
Sol has settled in nicely since opening a year ago in Cherry Creek, offering a south-of-the-border option for the decidedly north-of-the-border neighborhood. But everyone loves a bargain, even spa-goers and shoppers, and Sol has a few new happy-hour specials to lure those caught with a craving between lunch and dinner. Individual tacos, a loaded cob of sweet corn that's not so messy once your server slices off the kernels, and a spicy cup of watermelon cubes doused with lime and chile are just a few of the offerings, but the showstopper is something rarely seen in Cherry Creek: a hot dog. This Sonoran-style perro caliente is wrapped in bacon and smothered in roasted-chile salsa, crema, jalapeños and other vibrant condiments to wake up the palate and put a little more "happy" into happy hour. Get it with a standard house margarita, or opt for the seasonal watermelon marg, made with just a hint of the pink melon so that the tequila shines through.