A little more than eight years ago, two chefs who met while working at an upscale Italian eatery took a chance on a sandwich business. Justin Brunson and Steve Allee were working at Luca d'Italia (now just Luca) when they concocted a scheme to sell deli sandwiches out of a notorious dive bar, the Lancer Lounge, just around the corner. It didn't take long before their truffled egg salad and mouthwatering pastrami caught the attention of aficionados, who then followed them to Masterpiece Deli when they opened the tiny space in LoHi in 2008.
Since then, the two have added a second Masterpiece Deli and Brunson has earned high praise for his hog heaven, Old Major, which debuted three years ago. But the two wanted to open a restaurant together that they visualized as what Masterpiece Deli could have been if they'd had more money and space back in the beginning. Now those obstacles have been lifted and the result is Masterpiece Kitchen, a full-service American grill opening today in Lowry hat borrows from the best of Brunson's other concepts in a glossy new setting while grounding the menu with roadhouse roots.
So those egg salad and pastrami sandwiches are back, but the silky pastrami is now made in-house and other sandwiches — crunchy fried-chicken (straight from Brunson's Royal Rooster lunch menu served at Old Major) and Iowa pork tenderloin (an homage to his Midwestern youth) — join simple burgers on cushy potato buns with lots of American cheese; sticky pork ribs imbued with peachwood smoke; and gnocchi mac and cheese as a vision of how Kraft would have evolved had it been founded in Tuscany.
This isn't straight-up Americana, though: charry Brussels sprouts are hit with Red Boat Vietnamese fish sauce; a battery of immersion circulators in the kitchen ensure juicy meats delivered to diners in short order; and a spicy vegetable dip finds middle ground between caponata and hummus.
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The bar, too, strays from beer-and-a-shot expectations, with Prosecco on tap used in a handful of spritzy cocktails and an oak-aged Old Fashioned offering something for mixology fans. A short list of "ten mile taps" promises beers for locavores in a rotating collection from nearby brew houses.
Allee has turned in his chef's whites to run day-to-day operations for this Masterpiece, along with the existing delis and Denver Bacon Co. And since Brunson's got his hands full with his growing stable of eateries, chef de cuisine Ben Shapiro is heading up the kitchen.
Brunson says that his newest eatery is built for expansion, so other Masterpiece Kitchens could soon follow. For now though, Lowry can welcome this new neighborhood grill beginning at 11 a.m. today. After that, weekday hours will be from Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Weekends will start with brunch from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. followed by the regular dinner menu until 10 p.m. Saturday and 9 p.m. Sunday. Scroll down for more photos or see our complete slideshow.