Before the Lowry neighborhood became a mini-suburb within Denver, it was an Air Force base for 57 years. The American flag that flew over the base was lowered for the last time in 1994, but before that, it held all the military amenities, including an officers' club. Thanks to a new joint venture between City Street Investors, Larimer Associates and chef/proprietor Sterling Robinson, a small piece of the neighborhood's history will be honored with a new eatery and cocktail bar called Officers Club, which will open on Wednesday, June 13, at 84 Rampart Way.
Robinson currently operates North County in the Hangar 2 development at Lowry (as well as Billy's Inn across town); Officers Club will open next door to North County in the former home of Masterpiece Kitchen, which closed a year ago because of a fire and never reopened. Robinson says the place has been completely gutted and renovated to give it a warm, neighborhood feel.
Robinson describes Officers Club as "a tribute to, or paying homage to, the food of the United States since its beginnings." The menu will be "American comfort food — elevated in style."
Robinson and Joe Vostrejs of City Street had similar ideas for the space, the chef explains: building on the community-oriented themes of the officers' club and of Wisconsin supper clubs, where neighbors in rural areas would get together on Friday nights for entertainment, dining and socializing. "They were a cornerstone of social interaction for family and friends," he notes. And officers' clubs served a similar role, providing a place to keep morale high, where servicemen could enjoy time with family and colleagues before being sent overseas.
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Before opening North County, Robinson spent time in the fine-dining world as a chef, general manager and sommelier, so he plans to capture a little of the spirit of a destination restaurant, but without the high prices or formality. "You'll be able to get a nice dinner in your neighborhood without going downtown," he says.
The Officers Club menu reads like a compendium of regional American cuisine, with New England cheddar biscuits, a homestyle chicken noodle soup, Maryland-style crab cakes and house-smoked St. Louis ribs. There will be brunch on weekends and a strong bar program, focusing on wine, multiple variations on the Manhattan, and other classic cocktails. "I'm doing a steakhouse wine list without the steakhouse prices," Robinson adds. To go with that steakhouse wine list, there will also be a big steakhouse-style burger.
Robinson points out that North County has been very successful in the Lowry neighborhood, but that not everyone wants a boisterous taco joint. He also recognizes that drawing customers is about attention to customers' needs as well as good food. "I'm not in the taco or margarita business; I'm in the hospitality business," he states.
Among the opening-week highlights for Officers Club will be a private dinner to benefit Freedom Service Dogs, an organization that provides service dogs for military veterans.