Restaurateur Christopher Sargent, who opened Brazen on West 38th Avenue a year ago, is bringing his second eatery, Telegraph, to the former home of Cafe|Bar and the Grey Cactus. Telegraph opens to the public tonight night at 5 p.m., featuring what Sargent describes as "flavorful and approachable" food from executive chef Brian Wilson.
Sargent took over the property in June with hopes for a quick turnaround, but the usual delays in permitting and inspections pushed the project into October. Customers familiar with the space will notice that the bar has been moved to the front room and that the kitchen has been opened up in the back to allow for the same style of chef's counter that's the focal point of Brazen's dining room. Other similarities between the two restaurants are the emphasis on seafood (Telegraph will offer a seafood tower in addition to raw oysters), the spacious outdoor seating area (with room for fifty), and desserts from pastry chef Maggie Restivo.
Wilson concurs with Sargent that the menu will be approachable and adds that it will be "food that you can relate to — with a little more intricate plating, since we have a bigger kitchen and more room to play."
Wilson also points out that vegetables are a focus and that several dishes will be designed with vegetarians in mind. For plant-based diners, he notes, "it's hard to go out and make a meal for yourself without having to ask a lot of questions or make special requests." So he's making sure that vegetarian options will constitute full meals rather than just a handful of side dishes.
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The chef and owner are also in agreement that the goal is to serve their new neighborhood northwest of Washington Park, rather than trying to force something that doesn't fit. "It's really easy to forget who you're serving," says Wilson. Recalling family meals where dishes were passed around and shared, Sargent adds: "We want it to be like was around my mom's table. You can come in and relax like your in my living room."
House-made pastas and meatballs with cheesy polenta add Italian touches to the menu, but there's also a half of a roasted chicken, a whole red snapper and a cauliflower steak with red pepper-tomato coulis that round out modern American options with hints of international flavor — glazed miatake mushrooms and tobiko vinaigrette here and liver pate there.
With extra room in the kitchen, Restivo will create most of the desserts for both restaurants at Telegraph, but other than build-your-own s'mores, the two dessert menus will be distinct. Telegraph will also have a short list of house cocktails and wines by the glass — enough to offer interesting choices without creating a bottleneck at the bar during dinner service.
Sargent explains that he and his wife chose the name Telegraph as a reference to a simpler means of communication — a metaphor for friends and family setting aside technology and communicating with each other over a meal. The restaurant will be open from 5 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. Sargent also plans to add lunch and brunch hours in the next week or two.