Chef/restaurateur Kevin Morrison is a believer in understated simplicity, at least when it comes to naming his eateries. His first Denver success was the Spicy Pickle, which he founded and ran until the chain went public and he sold out of the business. Next came Tacos Tequila Whiskey (better known to regulars as Pinche Tacos, although Morrison dropped that designation in 2014), with two always-packed locations in the City Park and West Highland neighborhoods. And now Morrison, along with chef/partner Aniedra Nichols, is ready to open Fish N Beer at 3510 Larimer Street.
Nichols comes off a nine-year gig at Elway's Cherry Creek, half of that as executive chef. She also did time at fondly remembered Cherry Creek restaurants Mel's and the Fourth Story, and spent nearly a decade at the late Andre's Confiserie Suise. She and Morrison have been working on recipes for the past several months; together they've concocted a roster of seafood dishes and other bites that belies the simplicity of Fish N Beer's name.
While an oak-burning grill is the centerpiece of the open kitchen, and simply prepared whole fish — arctic char, Colorado hybrid bass and Greek stone bass, for example — are the stars of the menu (each with its own compound butter or light sauce), Morrison notes that much of the menu is driven by value and sustainability, so less common fish will also be a big part of the program. You might find rock shrimp, whole smelt or Atlantic Coast blowfish (a different species than the dangerous Japanese fugu) on the menu at any given time, or other fish typically shunned by flashy, showroom seafood houses.
Grilled oysters, prawns and octopus, along with crab cakes, smoked scallops and steamed mussels, round out the menu. Other specialties range from fried seafood-shack baskets to lobster rolls — and there's even a New York strip.
The interior of Fish N Beer is bare-bones and industrial, with a concrete bar top, cinderblock walls and lots of welded steel. Black-and-white tile on the back wall of the kitchen and stark white seating (the benches will be padded with white vinyl cushions for a nautical feel) add a touch of drama. There's room for fifty guests at the chef's counter, bar and dining room, plus another thirty or so on the back patio, which could soon sport an outdoor oyster bar made from a salvaged shipping container (look for that next spring).
Although the seating and tabletops hadn't arrived by mid-day, barring any unforeseen delay, management expects to open Fish N Beer at 4 p.m. on Monday, November 7, with regular dinner hours nightly. Keep reading for photos of some of the menu items.
Morrison is also working on expanding his taco empire, with new Tacos Tequila Whiskey locations slated for the Governors Park neighborhood (at 704 Sherman Street) and Phoenix, Arizona in 2017.