We'll never forgive the handful of West Highland residents whose complaints led to the closing of the Bark Bar at 4132 West 32nd Avenue several years ago; it was a top-notch hangout for drinking with your pooch. But the intervening years have at least brought some delicious food, first from the Way Back, which occupied the space for a year and a half before relocating to Tennyson Street, and now from American Elm, which debuted in August.
After a couple of months of settling in and getting to know the neighbors, owner Bob Reiter and chef Brent Turnipseede have added Sunday brunch, with dishes as flavorful and full of surprises as the dinner slate. The chef has a knack for sneaking additional flavors and textures onto plates that go above and beyond the simple menu descriptions, which is evident during dinner service with carbonara that gets a boost from cured egg yolks, pork belly that balances hot and sweet with Colorado peaches and chiles, and deviled eggs that make a seat at the bar for happy hour a must.
Call him the deviled egg whisperer, because Turnipseede has translated his creamy, smoky egg yolk filling to brunch with a thick, rustic toast topped with deviled egg yolks (but no whites) and arugula, with sunflower and mustard seeds adding flavor and crunch. It's an ingenious way to push brunch-time eggs beyond clever Benedicts and standard omelets.
The chef's Southern roots show in his shrimp and grits, a creamy bowl of Grateful Bread stone-ground cornmeal with all kinds of additional perks. Grilled okra accompanies the shrimp, and Tabasco butter (in fact a silky beurre blanc with a little added heat) elevates the dish far above decadent.
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Of course, there are simpler preparations too, including a basic breakfast (two eggs, smashed tots in place of hash browns and a choice of meat), banana pancakes with candied pecans, and French toast, though even this most over-utilized brunch dish gets upgraded here with a filling of strawberry mascarpone. On the handheld side, a satisfying breakfast sandwich of braised pork belly, white American cheese, salsa verde, more smashed tots and a fried egg comes on a Grateful Bread brioche bun.
Bar manager Jesse Torres has created a number of a.m. cocktails, including a Bloody Mary made with aquavit (giving the drink a caraway note) and a spicy mix from his friends at Cutwater Spirits in San Diego. There's also a breakfast martini made with marmalade that Torres explains is based on a recipe from London's Library Bar.
Yes, the days of taking your dog out for a drink are long gone in West Highland, but thanks to American Elm, you can enjoy brunch outdoors under the towering tree that once shaded many a neighborhood mutt. American Elm serves brunch beginning at 11 a.m. every Sunday. Call 720-749-3186 or visit the restaurant's website for more details.