Cafe Society

Exclusive first look: Humboldt Farm. Fish. Wine. opens tomorrow in Uptown

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"We considered several concepts -- everything from burgers-and-beer to a clam shack -- but what best describes us is relaxed American dining," says Sean Huggard, an East Coast transplant and former chef who's now the director of operations for Concept Restaurants.

The brainstorming sessions, he adds, also focused on "doing right by the space" -- a space that carries years of sentimental memories and history. "It was intimidating and challenging," admits Huggard. "Strings was a neighborhood Cheers, and we knew that we'd need to honor that with top-notch food and great service, but we were fortunate, because we had Tammy's support the whole way -- she was here every day through construction to help us get through the quirks -- and having her confidence made things a lot easier," he says. "She told us that she knew she'd picked the right people to take over Strings, and that means everything."

Still, Huggard, Day and partners Gina Day and Kevin Brown smartly opened a 180-seat restaurant that while preserving the architectural integrity of the quarters, is very different from Strings, starting with the elimination of the former staircase and isolating mezzanine, a move that significantly opened up the lofty, high-ceilinged space. "We really want people to walk through the door and have the kind of feeling you get when you escape from reality for a little while and leave the world behind you," explains Huggard.

To that end, the square footage struts several distinctive spaces, all of which have their own individual attributes. "We kept the original bar -- and left it in its original location -- but we knocked down the wall that separated the bar area from the dining room and added a community table, and it feels so much bigger and open," says Huggard. "It's an area where people can drink and dine in a great, high-energy environment," he adds. And there's a touch of whimsy, too: a hand-painted, black-and-white mural of a tipsy fish pouring a bottle of Silver Oak down its gullet graces a wall next to the bar. "It's a conversation piece, it's fun, and I think it tells people that while we definitely take what we do seriously, we don't take ourselves to seriously," Huggard says.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson