Openings and Closings

Blackbird Will Land in Former Handlebar Space Next Month

Table to Tavern partners Rob Lanphier, Brian Midtbo and Angie Midtbo opened Atticus early this year in a space claimed from the back of Boone's, their University of Denver sports bar. Now they're merging two former restaurant spaces -- the Handlebar & Grill and Abo's Pizza -- into one new concept called Blackbird. The group is set to open the Washington Park restaurant in late October, with artisan pizza, small plates and a bar program designed by Sean Kenyon of Williams & Graham.

See also: Review: Atticus Wants to Be a Grown-up Restaurant, But It's Suffered Growing Pains

Judging from the menu ideas shared by Tavern to Table so far -- like pork confit with crispy skin, apple jelly and tequila demi -- Blackbird is aiming to draw a more sophisticated crowd than the previous bicycle-themed sports hangout. The group is even looking to elevate simple pub grub with a bar menu that includes dry-rubbed, coq au vin-style wings.

Tavern to Table says that Blackbird also plans to host whiskey tastings, farm-to-table dinners and Sunday meals, while the Abo's space will be converted into a community-style room. A small parking lot comes with the building, which should defray some of the usual complaints about parking around the park.

Kenyon is in charge of the bar design, the drinks menu and the hiring of bar staff. On moonlighting from his full-time gig as co-owner of the LoHi speakeasy (with a second bar called the Occidental in the works), Kenyon says, "Maybe it's selfish, but I want cooler places to drink around Denver. I appreciate what Table to Tavern is looking to accomplish and plan to complement their efforts with drinks that match the tone of each restaurant."

Bittersweet and Cafe|Bar have both shown that residents northwest of the park are willing to pay a little extra to keep interesting menus close by, so the leap from a casual cargo shorts and flip-flops joint to something more upscale doesn't seem too big a risk for a stretch of Alameda where staying power seems almost a guarantee. After all, if mediocre Greek, Thai and Chinese restaurants can stick around for years, someplace in touch with the tastes and spending habits of modern diners should have neighbors streaming out of their Craftsman bungalows for a taste.

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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation

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