Bistro One has evolved into a better restaurant for its neighborhood

Another Denver monsoon was soaking the streets outside, and inside Bistro One, the dining room was almost empty. A few patrons were nursing drinks at the long bar that runs along one side of the room, basking in the blue glow of the lights, but most of the other diners had abandoned the booths that fill the narrow space to check on their no-doubt flooded basements.

But our server didn't slack off just because we were the only table left, and as soon as my friend and I had our glasses of wine, she obliged us by divulging her favorite menu items. One was the steak frites, a dish that's been offered at Bistro One since day one.

It's about the only dish that's been on the menu since day one.


Bistro One

1294 South Broadway



Olav Peterson manned the kitchen at Bistro One from the day it opened in 2008 until he left last year to open his own spot, Bittersweet. And in the beginning, Bistro One featured a French bistro menu, or a reasonable approximation, since Peterson was already giving a new-world twist to old-world cuisine. When Peterson moved on, owner Alex Waters reinterpreted the word "bistro" to mean a solid board filled with comfort food rather than French preparations. The steak frites and French onion soup remain, but Waters has replaced almost everything else with Southern dishes: fried chicken, baby back ribs and crawfish mac and cheese.

We started with the tomato pies, a smart recommendation by our server. Flaky little cups of phyllo held fresh tomatoes and a blend of smoked mozzarella and freshly grated parmesan cheese. It was like a little bite of pizza, only lighter, thanks to the feathery pastry. We'd also taken her advice and ordered the fried chicken. The bird looked amazing when it was set before us, a pile of caramel-colored breasts, thighs and legs accompanied by mashed potatoes in a paprika gravy and vinegary cabbage slaw. But while the chicken itself was succulent, the buttermilk crust had an acrid, burnt flavor. After a drumstick, I stuck with the sides...and the steak frites.

There's a reason this dish has been on the menu from the start. The tender, flatiron cut had been cooked a perfect medium rare and crusted lightly by the grill; it was well-seasoned around the edges, drooling juice from within and topped with tarragon butter. It came with a massive pile of frites — pencil-thin, golden-brown, light, crisp and both salty and sweet — that I couldn't stop eating. Good on their own, they were even better dragged through the juice left on the plate by the steak.

Bistro One isn't the same restaurant that opened three years ago, but in some ways, it's evolved into a better restaurant, serving comfort food that may not be French, but definitely speaks this neighborhood's language.

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