If you grew up in the South, or even if you were just a goofy kid, you probably put peanuts in your Coke. The salty-sweet combo and the tongue-tickling fizz make for a giggle-inducing treat and would surely never occur to straitlaced adults. But the folks at Brass Tacks, which just opened this week at 1526 Blake Street, are not your average grownups.
Among the boozy slushies, bottled shots in rainbow hues, colorful Bingo lights above the kitchen and carbonated cocktails on tap, there's a tap handle that dispenses nitro peanut-infused bourbon and cola. The creamy, nutty, decidedly boozy tipple is just one of the ways that Brass Tacks is turning the notion of craft cocktails from something serious and fussy into a delightful and casual experience.
The bar and eatery is the work of Katsumi Yuso Ruiz and Stephen Julia of Curio Bar (inside Denver Central Market), Stuart Jensen and chef Zach Spott. Jensen says he previously worked at Mercantile Dining & Provisions and came together with his three partners at Denver Central Market, where Spott runs Green Seed, a produce shop that also sells salads, bowls and smoothies.
"One of our goals from the beginning was for people to just think of us as a bar," Jensen explains. "We want people to be comfortable and have fun."
So you may not recognize the vintage Hotel Nacional cocktail that Brass Tacks has turned into a frozen drink, but you don't need to be a historian to enjoy the sweet and sour notes of pineapple, apricot, lime and rum. And if you're hanging out with a group, you can put in an order for a bucket of six house-bottled cocktails for $40 (a happy-hour bargain).
Spott's food menu is equally entertaining. "Bar food should be food that you eat with your hands," the chef notes. "We want you to get down and dirty."
You'll find nachos so slathered in cheese and other toppings that Spott says there's "no chip left behind." There are also wings, fried veggies tossed in Korean sauce, and mac and cheese "the way God intended." On the "Family Meal" menu, large platters with accoutrements are plated for sharing, whether its the Viet-Cajun boil, complete with shrimp, corn on the cob and sausage; the brick chicken, served with tortillas, hot sauce, chicken jus and other sides; or char siu pork belly accompanied by scallion pancakes, veggies and sauces.
The happy-hour menu, available from 3 to 6 p.m. and again from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., offers both food and drink specials, including a "ham-dog" (grilled slices of Hebrew National beef dogs served on a hamburger bun), a New York-style chopped cheese sandwich (one of those hyper-regional specialties that only makes sense to natives of the Big Apple), and the Chi Chi Chip Duo, which combines chicharrones with chimichurri.
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The menu evolves with the day, allowing guests to customize to their particular needs. "People don't all live on the same dinner schedule anymore," Julia adds. That's why Brass tacks opens at 10 a.m. (when you can get a breakfast sandwich or an early lunch) and keeps the kitchen going until 1 a.m. Approachable items like a classic Cobb salad or a roast turkey sandwich make the bar an enticing stop for lunch or dinner even if you're not drinking. Food is ordered and served at the counter at the back of the bar; a Bingo board above the counter will display your number when your food is ready.
Lauren O'Neill of Scout Interiors helped the Brass Tacks team bring their vision to life, with a dining area and bar stripped back to bare brick and wood (even more so than previous tenant the Blake Street Vault), plush booths, trapeze lights hanging above the tables and high-backed bar stools at the bar. Above the kitchen, a cozy loft space with a second bar will host guest bartenders, pop-ups and other special events.
Brass Tacks doesn't intend to compete with the LoDo club scene, so last call will be a little earlier than the standard 1:45 a.m. The bar and kitchen will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.; see the Brass Tacks website or Facebook page for more information.