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First Look: Classes Start Monday at Public School 303

On Monday, October 17, Thomas Kachani and Phil Kastel will open the latest addition to their gastropub chain: Public School 303, or PS303. This is the seventh restaurant in the pair's repertoire, but the first they have opened in Denver. Located downtown at 1959 16th Street, in a shiny new building with no markings on it, this place can be tough to find. But as you peer through the windows, you'll spot the tall PS303 sign on the wall behind the hostess stand. Give yourself an A. 
The grown-up grade-school theme quickly becomes evident. Beyond the entrance you'll find a large, polished, wood-lined bar along with high-top tables, darts, a giant Jenga set and an enormous Connect Four board. In back of the bar area are numerous dark-blue booths and banquettes, plus a substantial, partially open kitchen off to one side. No matter where you sit, expect to get schooled by something scientific, whether it's the huge solar system painted on one wall, the various microscope diagrams on another, or the stacks of books, globes and other classroom-appropriate decorations. You'll even find echoes of grade school on the cocktail napkins, ruler-lined menus and the clever takeout box that's marked "homework."
As at the other Public School restaurants, PS303's menu offers an array of comfort-food items that pay homage to what you might find in a school cafeteria — albeit with better-quality ingredients and innovative twists and turns. For example, the lineup of intriguing pizzas (cooked on a large stone in the oven) includes the Verdure, a vegetable-heavy pie with zucchini, caramelized onion, lemon gremolata, truffle oil, basil, goat cheese and spicy chili sauce; and eggs Benedict, with prosciutto, grana padano, Hollandaise and fried eggs. Each pie is big enough to serve two adults.
While the menu emphasizes American cuisine, the dishes reflect more worldly influences. The swordfish banh mi is laden with the standard shredded cabbage, carrots, mint, cilantro and sweet chili vinaigrette — but unlike the traditional Vietnamese sandwich, which arrives on a long roll,  this one comes on grilled flat bread. The Thai noodle salad contains soba noodles, pulled chicken, shrimp, mango, mint, Marcona almonds and cilantro; the roasted poblano with quinoa, cilantro rice, adobo sauce and lime crema has a bit of Latin American inspiration. 

Other options include at least four types of burgers, chorizo macaroni and cheese, edamame hummus, ahi tuna poke, crispy buffalo cauliflower, bacon-cheddar tater tots, bangers and mash, kale Caesar salad, fish and chips, and pan-seared salmon with vegetables and a harissa vinaigrette. You can pair your meal with one of 24 craft brews, wine or a cocktail from the list. A good bet is the Crushed Velvet, with vodka, muddled blackberries and blueberries, lavender and ginger beer; or the cranberry sour with rye, cranberry, lemon and bitters.

From the get-go, PS303 will open at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. on weekends (closing time is still to be determined). Happy hour, which has been dubbed "recess," will run from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to close seven days a week, with discounts on select cocktails, beer and appetizers. For more information, call 303-446-8671 or go to psontap.com.

Keep reading for more photos of PS303.

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