Denver foodniks have a lot to look forward to in 2013, including the arrival of several new restaurants: Beast + Bottle from Paul Reilly; Old Major from Justin Brunson; new outposts of Root Down, Elway's and Udi's at DIA; a mystery concept on South Pearl Street from the Wynkoop/Breckenridge owners; Bonanno Brothers Pizzeria, a piehole palace from Frank Bonanno, which will open in Park Meadows; Acorn, slated to open in RiNo in the spring, courtesy of the owners of Oak at Fourteenth, in Boulder; a Denver location of Pizzeria Locale; and, as a prelude to all of those, the Corner House, a 54-seat restaurant that trumpets the mad culinary skills of Matt Selby, who recently left a fifteen-year chef stint with the Vesta Dipping Grill group to spread his wings as a partner, general manager and executive chef of an intimate gathering place in Jefferson Park.
The Corner House, which is also co-owned by Scott Kinsey and James Iacino, the president of Seattle Fish Company, will unveil its intimate quarters on Friday, January 11, at 6 a.m., but yesterday, I was privy to a first look at the space, a former bath and body shop.
"Our vision was to make this a very Colorado-centric and comfy restaurant," says Kinsey, who enlisted Dave Schaich, founder of Shike Design, to conceptualize the 1,250-square-foot space. And Schaich, who also designed the interior at Root Down, didn't stray from Kinsey's ingenuity. Framed by floor-to-ceiling windows, the bar and dining room, glinted with sunlight, is constructed from reclaimed woods -- saw-cut hickory, beetle kill pine and cedar, all of it procured from Colorado. And the bar stools, while resurfaced in distressed, brown leather, are the original stools from Gaetano's, their bases left untouched. There's a garage door, too, that opens behind the restaurant, which was initially part of the gas station that's now Root Down.
It's a warm, rough-hewn space, bereft of pomp and circumstance and clearly designed to be an oasis of conversation and neighborhood comradery; the bar, spearheaded by Gerard Collier (formerly of TAG Raw Bar), is wholly communal, furbished with stools, two community tables -- one a harvest table, the other a round that seats eight -- and a drink rail that inches along the windowed perimeter. And the dining room, walled with wood and wallpaper depicting a postcard-perfect grove of Aspen trees, is arranged with only nine tables, which can be configured as deuces, four-tops or six-tops. "We really want this to be a community-driven space that responds to the needs of the neighborhood," says Iacino, who just happens to live in one of the lofts above his restaurant.
The bar, paved with soapstone, overlooks metal peek-through liquor locker storage units, and behind those, resides Selby's compact kitchen, outfitted with two induction burners, a convection oven and a panini press; there is no hood. And that's the way Selby wants it. "This is the way I want to cook," he tells me.
And his tidy, focused, seasonally-driven menu, which he describes as a "cross between the things that I like to cook and eat and things that I think the neighborhood wants," will be an all-day affair, beginning with coffee service at 6 a.m., breakfast and lunch beginning at 7 a.m., and dinner. "The most important thing," he adds, "is what the guests want -- that will dictate the menu, and we'll also offer specials every night." And his hope, he stresses, is that his food -- think truffle salt-cured foie gras, yuzu kampachi brûlée and roasted winter squash soup crowned with lobster -- will lure guests in time and time again. "I want my food to be craveable -- I want people to come here for that one dish that they really, really love."
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Later today, Selby is doing a private tasting, and tomorrow, I'll have photographs of those dishes, but in the meantime, here's an exclusive first look of the space.