One of the first things that Denverites will tell any newcomer who's landed in the Mile High City is just how firmly devoted you'll become to your neighborhood restaurant -- and if you live in Uptown, that restaurant may very well become Beast +Bottle, the new snout-to-stump spot from former Encore on Colfax chef-owner Paul Reilly and his sister Aileen, the two of whom will open Beast + Bottle on Saturday night.
See also: - Paul Reilly will open Beast + Bottle in the former Olivea space - Olivea, one of Denver's top restaurants, is closing in mid-January - Paul Reilly opening Beast + Bottle in the Cherokee on 12th Avenue space
"It's really amazing," says Aileen. "I get goose bumps just talking about the space, the wine, Paul's food and our vision" -- a vision that was solidified when the siblings walked into the former Olivea space several months ago, took a look around and nodded in unison. This, they agreed, was it. And once they concluded that the quarters were exactly what they wanted in a restaurant, they began crystallizing the concept: an intimate and neighborly country farmhouse-meets-schoolhouse that personifies New England charm, bolstered by a dedication to utilize the entirety of butchered beasts -- fowl, pigs and lambs -- and seafood and fish that's been "responsibly harvested."
And to assist Paul in his cooking endeavors, he netted Wade Kirwan, the previous executive chef at Adrift, and James Rugile, who spent the last several years cooking at Bones and Mizuna. And the threesome, who share a small kitchen workspace, are having a blast judging from the shouts of glee and singing that boomed from the partially open kitchen earlier today during a friends and family lunch.
Their enthusiasm extends to the whimsy space, a bright, light and infinitely charming dining room and bar that flaunts mismatched wooden chairs, their seats plumped with various fabrics; an elegant community table that peers over the patio and onto the Seventeenth Avenue streetscape; deep chocolate-hued booths; white subway tile that surrounds the bar; a restored hardware chest, whose see-through drawers are filled with everything from paintbrushes to ticket stubs; a large antique mirror penned with the restaurant's sourcing partners -- and is bordered above by maps from Rand McNally -- and flourishes like yard sticks that wrap around the top of the vertical columns and black-and-white photographs that showcase everything from portraits of Paul and Aileens' parents to the family dog, who's now chasing squirrels in canine heaven. There's a lot to look at...sort of like wandering through a museum that once belonged to a person with a historied past.
And Paul's food -- storied, earthy and steeped in consciousness -- is the ideal foil for the surroundings. His menu, divided into small plates, flatbreads (yes, the "fig+pig" makes an appearance), vegetables and large plates, is focused and direct -- there are no fancy superlatives, no eye-rolling names. It's pure, succinct and typed on one single piece of paper that disposes of fanfare, save for simple animal, fish and vegetable ink blots that reside above the seven main dishes.
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All of which can be paired with cocktails, wines and beers. Aileen spearheads the wine program, of which the eighteen pours by the glass are also available by the "pot" -- a European term that translates into the equivalent of nearly three glasses -- or by the carafe. "Rather than do a one-size-fits-all-wine-by-the-glass program, we want to make it so that people can pick their style and size," explains Aileen, whose full list is comprised of more than sixty bottles. "I'm really excited about everything that we're doing here, but I think I'm most excited about the carafe program -- it's unique," she adds.
In a few weeks, likely the first week in April, you'll be able to sip wines during brunch, which will be offered daily, except on Monday, when Beast + Bottle is closed. Paul and his cohorts are still toying with the menu, but he and Aileen have what they call sixty free-range "ladies" laying eggs at a local farm in Merino, Colorado -- and those eggs will be front and center on the brunch menu. The hens -- all Rhode Island Reds -- are laying eggs exclusively for Beast + Bottle. "It's a fantastic partnership, and those partnerships with local farmers and purveyors are the hallmark for us," says Aileen.
Today, when I was there for lunch, I bypassed the one dish that had an egg, but I traversed my way through a hefty portion of the menu (the crispy head cheese with charred onion chutney, along with the fluke and English pea souffle were among my favorite dishes), and made my way around the dining room, snapping photos along the way. To get a mouthful of what you can expect when Beast + Bottle opens on Saturday, take a tour through the photos on the following pages.
Beast + Bottle, located at 719 East 17th Avenue, is open for dinner Tuesday though Sunday, beginning at 4:30 p.m. For more info, call 303-623-3223.