The building at 321 East 45th Avenue in Globeville has been home to many businesses over the years: the Portulaca Cafe, the White Owl, Crash 45. In the 1930s, it served as a meeting hall for Slovenian residents of the neighborhood. But tomorrow it begins a new life as Fort Greene, a bar and grill conceived and executed by owner and chef Bretton Scott, whose brother Aaron purchased the building in 2008.
Bretton Scott, a Wisconsin native, had been living in Brooklyn for the past several years, visiting his brother regularly in Denver and getting to know the neighborhood where he lived. When Crash 45 closed, Aaron told Bretton that he needed someone to take over the bar; Bretton saw it as an opportunity to bring something new to the north Denver neighborhood that was once thriving and residential before Interstates 25 and 70 cut Globeville into quarters and ushered in industrial encroachment. Scott has transformed the space from its previous steampunk-ish, industrial motif to a cozy neighborhood bar and grill that will serve Wisconsin-style bar food along with "specials and surprises" from the kitchen.
"The underlying theme is Wisconsin," Scott explains, "but not a sports bar — more like Wisconsin before the '60s and '70s." Scott's roots are Polish, German and Italian, but he explains that Wisconsin was originally settled by the French, so subtle French influences can still be found in the food. Along with a Sheboygan-style burger served on a semmel roll — "with plenty of butter," Scott notes — bar snacks could include "everything" fried cheese curds (in a nod to the everything bagels of Brooklyn), pickled-onion rings and housemade pate.
Scott is still tinkering with ideas for the menu and for weekly specials, which could include fish fries on Fridays, beer and housemade-bratwurst specials, and prime-rib Saturdays. "I call it continental comfort cuisine," he adds, noting that modern diners aren't confused by eclectic menus that might include Southeast Asian dumplings on the same list as those butter burgers.
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Four draft beers, a small but carefully selected list of wines and a short list of house cocktails — like the Joan Collins, made with gin, sweet vermouth, mint and lemon — round out the bar.
Scott also wants Fort Greene (named for a neighborhood in Brooklyn) to be a cafe, since there aren't any nearby places to get good coffee and pastries (which he'll also be making) in the morning. For now, he'll open the bar from 4:45 p.m. to midnight Tuesday through Thursday and 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, but he hopes to extend the morning hours in the coming weeks.
Fun historical note: In a subtle nod to the building's history, the bar is listed as Fort Greene Slovenian Hall on Google Maps.