Now that official COVID-19 dining restrictions are a thing of the past in Colorado, bar and restaurant openings are making a big comeback. Also making a comeback is our First Look series, which offers an inside assessment of the latest additions to Denver's culinary scene. Next up: Stoney's Cantina, which opened May 24.
What: Stoney's Cantina
Where: 30 South Broadway
When: Open Monday through Wednesday 3 to 10 p.m., Thursday 3 to 11 p.m., Friday 3 p.m. to midnight, and Saturday noon to midnight
For more info: Visit stoneyscantina.com
What we saw: The space itself hasn't changed much from its iteration as Gozo, which originally opened in 2014 in the former home of Deluxe/Delite and in 2017 was purchased by new owners Curt Sims and Pam Savage Sims, who remodeled the space. Last year, when restaurants were closed in the first wave of the pandemic, they planned to transform it into another location of Lime: An American Cantina — the concept that debuted in Larimer Square in 2002 (that closed in 2013) and later expanded to the DTC, Sixth Avenue and the Denver Pavilions as well as Winter Park, the only spot currently open.
But after adding a wall mural and green lighting around the bar, the Lime on Broadway proved a short-lived idea. Stoney Jesseph, owner of Stoney's Bar & Grill and Stoney's Uptown, took over the space and reopened it as Stoney's Cantina last month.
The wood-burning stove is still there (though it was not being used on a recent visit), as is the Lime mural, which has been slightly reworked (the background color has been changed from lime green to bright blue). The glowing green bar lighting remains, though, and the space feels very open, ideal for skittish post-pandemic diners who are not yet ready to be packed into tight spaces.
What surprised us: The fac t that the server recommended the quesadilla when there are way more interesting things on the menu. And the chips and salsa we were charged for but didn't order and didn't receive. But hey, they're still training, and with so many restaurants struggling to hire, we're happy they have the staff to be open.
The chips and salsa were removed from the bill, no problem, and that quesadilla stuffed with cheese and carnitas was pretty solid, if a bit boring. But another dish has us ready to go back for round two: the choripán.
This popular Argentinian street food is traditionally composed of chorizo on a crusty roll. The Stoney's Cantina version has total hot dog vibes, though. (Is a hot dog a sandwich? That's a debate for another day.) A chorizo link made by local sausage purveyor Polidori is served on a soft split bun with diced tomatoes, pickled red onions and bright-green chimichurri.
Is it sort of confounding to have an Argentinian specialty on the menu at a place that seems to be branded as Mexican? Sure. Was it tasty? Yes.
The menu has some other intriguing dishes alongside wings, nachos and tacos, including two items featuring birria, the traditional Mexican slow-cooked meat that's been having a real moment since trending on social media. At Stoney's Cantina, you can try it as birria ramen or queso birria tacos. There's also a Sonoran dog with bacon aioli and pickled cactus chow chow, as well as an entire section of tlayudas, a Oaxacan specialty that the menu describes as "Stoney's style wood-oven 12" tortilla pizzas" (so that wood-burning oven does get some use!) topped with ingredients like grilled chicken, chorizo, carnitas and even huitlacoche, the fungus that sometimes grows on corn and is often referred to as Mexican truffle.
Also worth noting are the two happy hours, because now that people are returning to work, the need for late-afternoon refreshments is also returning. Grande Hour is Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m., with grande (and yes, they are very, very big) margaritas and beers for $6. The late-night crowd can enjoy Borracho Hour Monday through Friday from 9 p.m. until close, with $4 tequila and beer.
As at the other Stoney's locations, sports, drink specials and dependable food will be on tap. So this is an addition to South Broadway that we'll toast, no lime needed.
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