Like all of chef-restaurateur Troy Guard's food temples, Guard and Grace, his new steakhouse, which opens tonight, is poised to be a powerful star performer. This is the third restaurant that Guard has opened in a short, five-month span, and its size, a whopping 9,000 square feet, positions it as the largest restaurant in his portfolio, an ever-growing empire that includes TAG, TAG Raw Bar, TAG Burger Bar, Sugarmill and Los Chingones.
And like his other restaurants, Guard and Grace, the name of which honors his daughter, is a departure from the conventional. A steak house, yes, but Guard, who's renowned for his playful and uncommon twists, tricks and turns, created what he calls a "progressive-modern steak house," a declaration that manifests itself in the space and on the menu.
Stretch windows, vertically soaring from floor to ceiling, surround, almost entirely, the L-shaped quarters, allowing an immense amount of natural sunlight to seep in and cast its spotlight on everything it streaks, and that light, says Guard, was inherent to his architectural plans. "We knew that we wanted to focus on having a ton of light, especially since so many people are stuck in windowless offices all day," says Guard, whose steak house resides on the street level of CenturyLink Tower, the second largest skyscraper in Denver. And unlike the clubby atmosphere that most steak houses subscribe to, Guard and Grace is the antithesis of that, exposing, instead, a wide open and airy space that's full of feminine curves and transparency. There's also a huge, seventy-seat sidewalk patio, as well as a 100-seat private dining area that can be split into three separate rooms.
An open kitchen sweeps across most of the space, and no matter where you sit -- in one of the elevated, crescent-shaped booths (tables 206, 207 and 208), at the bar, at one of the groovy swivel chairs in the dining room, at one of two community tables, or in the swanky lounge conducive, says Guard, to "socializing, mingling and celebrating," the kitchen is front and center, a focal point that's rarely revealed in a steak house. And that kitchen doubles as an activity hub and display area: a temperature-controlled charcuterie case exposes ropes of meats; a pasta station is in full view; and there's an iced raw bar, too, showboating oysters, shrimp, crab legs, lobsters, clams and caviar.
A "living" wall, flush with leafy, decorative foliage, greets guests when they walk inside, giving the space a sense of warmth, and a towering wine cave acts as a tasting room, insomuch that guests are allowed to come in, take a look around and sample tastes (within reason) from the 4,000-bottle selection, a collection that's curated by Todd Rocchio, the former sommelier at Elways' Cherry Creek. And if you want to store your favorite bottles, there are forty wine lockers to do so.
Another welcome surprise: While most steak houses display boardroom artwork, Guard and Grace, utilizing the little wall space it has, exhibits a pair of graphic-heavy cows diagrammed in the style of butcher charts. To see which part of the steer you're swallowing, just look at the cows.
And speaking of butchery, the menu, executed by Cory Treadway, formerly of the Wynkoop and Elway's Cherry Creek, is chock-full of cuts, although like everything else, it's a board that strays from the norm. Steaks -- strips, filets, ribeyes, hanger steak, salisbury steak and a porterhouse -- are priced differently depending upon whether you choose prime-grade beef or Angus beef, the latter being the less expensive of the two. "We want to give people options, and we want everyone who comes in to be comfortable with the prices," explains Guard. "It's like pancakes: You can get butter on your pancakes, or you can go the whole nine yards and get them with butter, maple syrup and powdered sugar -- there's something for everyone."
All of the steaks are dry-aged for 28 days and rubbed with a proprietary, fifteen-spice blend from the Savory Spice Shop, and all of the beef is locally sourced, notes Guard, adding, too, that he's also offering beef -- a filet, strip and ribeye -- that's 100 percent grass-fed. "I don't think a lot of steak houses offer grass-fed beef, but that's the way beef is going: healthier and with less fat," says Guard.
But the menu doesn't start and stop with beef: A large portion is devoted to seafood and fish, including Hawaiian tuna, Gulf red snapper, Skuna Bay salmon, Alaskan black cod, diver scallops, crab cakes, Rocky Mountain trout and seafood towers. Lamb, beef short ribs, a burger and pork also grace the menu, and the majority of the dishes, including the steaks, are oak-smoked in a wood-burning oven. "It's like having your own backyard barbecue," says Guard.
Colorado bison tartare, oak-grilled kangaroo, beef heart and octopus make an appearance on the menu, too, all of which are dishes that represent Guard's experimental side. "We want people to experience new things, and I like to challenge guests," says Guard. "When you come to one of my restaurants, there's always something on the menu that you probably haven't tried, and that's indicative of my personality," adds Guard.
Guard and Grace opens tonight at 5 p.m., and starting on Monday, Guard will introduce lunch. Hours are Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m.
Here's a first look at what you can expect.