The restaurant row at Lowry's Hangar 2 development met with mixed success in its first few years of existence. Cafe Mercato and North County have been around since late 2014, but Lucky Cat and Bubu, both in the same location, and Masterpiece Kitchen all came and went. With two vacancies to be filled, Woodgrain Bagels set up shop earlier this year, and now Officers Club is ready to launch on Monday, June 18.
Officers Club is the joint project of chef/restaurateur Sterling Robinson and Joe Vostrejs of City Street Investors, who also operate North County next door. Before settling on a theme for their new venture, the team held focus groups with neighbors to find out what was missing in the Lowry dining scene. What they discovered was that residents were looking for an eatery with downtown style but without downtown prices or trendiness.
"It's thoughtful, but it's not pretentious," Robinson explains. "You're going to see some oversized American portions."
So in addition to a complete overhaul of the interior, resulting in a classy, clubby space with a baby grand piano in the entryway, plantation shutters on the windows and comfortable booths clad in leather (or at least a close approximation), the menu feels classic, too, but with just enough modern touches to keep things interesting for the younger set.
Vostrejs explains that the ambience is modeled after the original officers' clubs on military bases, where officers and their families could come to socialize and dine. Robinson adds that he took inspiration from one of his previous employers, Jimmy's in Aspen, because of its comfortable elegance and appeal to Aspen locals.
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Like the dining room, the menu captures an air of posh comfort, with Maryland-style crab cakes (which Robinson points out are all crab), prime rib and New England cheddar biscuits. If you don't feel like springing for the prime rib (the most expensive item on the menu), you can get it as a French dip sandwich at a lower price point. Other sandwiches include a towering grouper stack dripping with mustard-seed tartar sauce, and a double cheeseburger inspired by Azar's Big Boy. "Back in the ’50s, it was the original badass burger," Robinson notes. "It was the first smashburger in the city."
Other dishes get a dose of modernization, especially on the appetizer slate. A platter of crudités comes not as the standard pile of broccoli, celery and baby carrots, but rather as a bowl of crushed ice decorated with a forest of radicchio, endive and thin-sliced watermelon radishes and purple carrots, centered with a bowl of herbed hummus and a shaker of seasoning. And what modern menu would be complete without avocado toast?
The drinks menu starts with a list labeled "Call Me Old Fashioned" — the classic Old Fashioned cocktail plus seven variations — and encompasses a range of other mixed drinks, wines by the bottle and glass, and a beer list that stays in a narrow $5 to $7 range.
Officers Club is located at 84 Rampart Way and will initially be open for dinner only. Robinson says lunch will be added after the first two weeks, with brunch planned for another two weeks after that.