Troy Guard is busy working on Grange Hall, his massive project scheduled to open in August in the southeast suburbs, but he's also saying farewell to his flagship restaurant, TAG. The Larimer Square eatery he opened back in 2009 introduced Denver to Guard's international style of high-end cuisine, with influences from Hawaii, Japan, California, Italy and France, will close after dinner service on May 15.
TAG has been one of the anchors of the independent Larimer Square dining scene, along with Rioja, Bistro Vendôme, Osteria Marco and Russell's Smokehouse. But the block has been in flux over the past couple of years, in part because of the pandemic but also because of changing demographics downtown and new ownership of the entire Larimer Square portfolio of properties. Since last March, the Market and Euclid Hall have closed, as have multiple retail shops. Trendy newcomers have moved in, including Bao Brewhouse, which took over Euclid Hall's building; Larimer Records Cafe, which moved into the Market's cafe and deli space; Hidden Gems, a soft-serve ice cream shop; and Garage Sale, a bar and vintage shop specializing in ’70s and ’80s clothing, records and knickknacks.
"I'm excited for them because they're new and fresh and have great ideas," Guard says of Asana Partners, the new Larimer Square owners.
The chef says he'd been considering what to do with TAG since well before Asana took over the Square last December. "We wanted to do a complete remodel a couple of months before the pandemic," he explains. "And for the past, six, eight, ten months, we've been weighing closing. It's only partially because of COVID. We've had time to think about it, and I feel that we're going out on top, because we've been able to do exactly what we want at a high level."
Guard and his wife, Nikki, posted this note on TAG's social media to announce the closing:
Well, they say all good things come to an end, though it’s more difficult to say when it applies on a personal level. With a heavy heart we announce the closure of our flagship, TAG Restaurant on Larimer Square.
Over the past 12 years TAG has rolled through a lot of changes. There were many ups and downs — as well as countless good times – I was proud to call it my own and be at the helm of that beast!
In retrospect, TAG is really where it all began for me. Everything I had done in my life up to that point was really just preparation for my own place. And that place brought so much more than expected to my life. Without TAG, I might not have gone on to open any of our other great restaurants, without TAG I may not have met my wife and had my boys, without TAG I wouldn’t have met all of the wonderful people that I now call friends.
It’s been a wild ride and though it’s over, TAG will remain number one in our hearts for years to come.
A HUGE thanks to our investors — Jeff, Scott & Andrew — who believed in us and made it happen, the staff who represented and kicked butt through the years, and to our vendors and community for their continued support.
You all contributed to the magic that made TAG so special.
Mahalo! Troy & Nikki
Members of the small TAG team will have the opportunity to move to positions at his other restaurants after the final dinner service, Guard notes.
One of TAG's signature dishes, hamachi sashimi with a surprising sprinkle of Pop Rocks, was an early indicator of Guard's fondness for folding his own childhood memories in with premium ingredients and Pacific Rim flavors. And while those playful touches can still be sampled at FNG, TAG Burger Bar, Los Chingones and Guard's other restaurants, TAG has been doing it with a high level of sophistication for more than a decade — and that's a difficult thing to maintain, Guard explains, since it requires highly specialized and trained chefs, a constant search for new and unique ingredients.
"Everything's so 'craft' at this level," he says. "The ones that really stand the test of time, I take my hat off to them — Barolo, Mizuna, Rioja, Fruition."
TAG is located at 1441 Larimer Street and is currently open from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 4:30 to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Call 303-996-9985 or visit the restaurant's website for details and reservations.
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