Citizen Rail Will Add Another Wood-Fired Restaurant to Union Station Neighborhood

A sampling of what to expect when Citizen Rail opens.
A sampling of what to expect when Citizen Rail opens.
Courtesy of Citizen Rail
Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Chefs often find new ways to play with food, to escape the tedium of doing the same thing one too many times. Cooking over gas burners, for example, must become absolutely mind-numbing after the first several thousand times you baste a steak in butter or arc a panful of sizzling mushrooms into the air. And so another trend is born. Not so long ago, sous-vide cooking was the rage, taking the sexy out of the kitchen in favor of precise control. These days, cooking over wood is where it's at  — and that's where Citizen Rail will be when it opens in late summer at 16th and Wewatta streets.

The restaurant, which takes its name from the nearby train lines and the notion of bringing food to the community, will be part of the new Kimpton Hotel Born behind Union Station (where it will join the upcoming Frasca project, Tavernetta). Heading the kitchen will be chef Christian Graves, a Kimpton veteran who just moved to Colorado from San Diego, where he was executive chef at the Kimpton-owned JSix.

Graves notes that he and his family had already decided to move to Boulder and were in transit when Kimpton reached out regarding the Citizen Rail project. The concept appealed to him, because he had thought about opening his own wood-fired eatery while in San Diego, and returning to his former employer meant that he could enjoy the fruits of their longstanding relationship. "What I appreciate about Kimpton is that they hire the best restaurant people to run the restaurant and the best hotel people to run that side," the chef explains.

Ingredients chef Christian Graves will use on his new menu at Citizen Rail.EXPAND
Ingredients chef Christian Graves will use on his new menu at Citizen Rail.
Courtesy of Citizen Rail

That means that, like Panzano in the Hotel Monaco (another Kimpton property), Citizen Rail isn't your typical hotel restaurant. "We're here primarily to serve Denver," Graves notes, and having hotel guests as an additional source of customers is just a bonus.

The menu will be protein-heavy, Graves says, with a house butchering program and a dry-aging room, though Citizen Rail will not be a steakhouse. Instead, he'll utilize as much of the animal as possible, getting creative with cuts for grilling and roasting while also making charcuterie and cured meats. "I like to produce as much myself as possible," he explains, and that includes fresh cheeses and vinegars. "And I like listening to what the farmer has, going out and walking the fields."

Graves says that there will also be a "connection between chef and bartender," and that Citizen Rail's bar manager will also use the wood-burning oven to create ingredients for cocktails. The kitchen will use oak, mesquite and fruit woods to bring out the best in various proteins and vegetables.

There's still plenty of construction left to be done inside the restaurant, but when it's finished, the place will seat more than 150 guests, with nearly half of the indoor seating dedicated to high-tops and bar stools. Don't expect a train theme for decor; Graves says the ambience will be sophisticated but welcoming. Citizen Rail will initially open for dinner and breakfast, with lunch and brunch to be added later in the year.

The restaurant joins nearby Hearth & Dram in the neighborhood's wood-fired fray, along with a host of other new eateries behind Union Station, including Public School 303, Stella's on 16th and the upcoming Tupelo Honey.

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.