Where: 1600 15th Street
When: Open 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
For more info: Visit a5denver.com
A traditional, buttoned-up steakhouse this is not. Juan Padró's Culinary Creative, which also owns Señor Bear, Bar Dough, Tap & Burger and more, originally opened French eatery Morin in the space in October 2018. Before that, it had operated as the Wazee Supper Club — under four ownership groups stretching over sixty years. But Morin shuttered when the pandemic put the kibosh on indoor dining in March 2020.
After using the Morin kitchen for the rest of the year to help feed the community and prepare meals for pop-ups, a new concept began taking shape under Max MacKissock, chef and Culinary Creative partner. "This won't just be any steakhouse," MacKissock told Westword. “The restaurant is going to be kind of fun and funky and all over the place. It will be driven by seasonality and just fun ideas of ingredients. It's different from anything that's out there.”
Now he's made good on that promise with A5, which officially opens on November 18. While Denver was once known as a steakhouse town, that reputation gave way over a decade ago as the dining scene tried to shed its cowtown image. But A5 is no step backward. Instead, it offers just the right balance of retro-inspired design elements with a modern approach to sourcing. "The ethics of opening a steakhouse is something that we really wanted to wrap our head around," explains director of operations Kevin Burke. "How do we use our power and responsibility as the purchasers and curators of that selection to make sure we're funneling our guest economy to responsible producers and agricultural professionals?"
The question resulted in an ethos of traceability. "We really didn't want to work with any product that we couldn't tell the story of and really trace it," Burke notes. From the steaks, which have their sources listed on the menu, to the oysters from Ben Wolven of Oyster Wulff — which largely come from personal connections in his home state of Maine — the meat and seafood on the menu are meant to reflect what Burke calls an "ethical steakhouse."
Just oysters ($5 each or $49 for a dozen) and the wedge salad ($15) — a half "disc" of iceberg loaded with a crunchy mix of seeds, avocado, confit tomato, pickled red onion, thin strips of crispy guanciale and Roquefort dressing — would be enough for a satisfying dinner. The beef tartare katsu sandwich ($18) offers another way to enjoy red meat; served on soft bread with a quail egg strategically placed in the middle, it's still an indulgent choice. Or there's the ultra-saucy burger ($18) made with Waygu beef and topped with butterkasse cheese, griddled onions and pickles made from yellow squash; it would pair perfectly with Kennebec fries ($6) or macaroni and cheese croquettes ($10).
An appetizer and a couple of sides paired with a cocktail is another way to get to know A5. The drink list is split into three sections. There are classic cocktails ($14, or $50 for service for four): a martini, Manhattan, Negroni and old fashioned, each served with a small carafe on ice for extra pours without the watered-down results you get with a classic-style service where the cocktail shaker is left behind. The bar — it's still big and in the middle of the room rather than along the wall, as it was in the Wazee days — also offers seasonal drinks ($14) and a lineup of tropical-inspired libations ($14 to $16) that are in line with the greenery-heavy design.
A5 is primed for special occasions and go-all-out and blow-your-budget meals, but it would also work for a drink after work, so don't be intimidated by the "steakhouse" label. This new addition is something you're going to want to bite into, whether it's a porterhouse kind of night or you just need a properly made Manhattan.