Southern food is one of the country's hottest dining trends right now, as evidenced by the growing number of Denver eateries serving food from south of the Mason-Dixon line. The latest is Tupelo Honey, which brings its brand of New Southern cooking from Asheville, North Carolina, where the company was founded seventeen years ago. The latest in the Tupelo Honey family, the first west of the Mississippi, opens Tuesday, May 2.
Chef Chris Kobayashi, a past James Beard Awards semifinalist for Best Chef: Pacific, moved to Colorado from Paso Robles, California, to lead the new Tupelo Honey kitchen. The menu, which spans brunch, lunch, happy hour, dinner and Moonlight Brunch (served from 9 p.m. to last call Thursday through Sunday), takes off from the restaurant's original breakfast-for-dinner concept with a wide range of Southern classics and modern fare driven by the seasons.
From fun, munchable offerings like bacon pralines (bacon strips coated in pecan-caramel) and Colorado lamb hand pies made from biscuit dough, to elegant plates along the lines of short ribs with spring-pea purée and an impressive tomahawk ribeye for two, Tupelo Honey's menu is dizzying in its variety. Happy hour starts with the "Six Dolla Holla, Y'all" with Mason-jar dips (yes, that encompasses pimento cheese), and there's also Southern Surf & Turf, with oysters on the half-shell and American-made charcuterie.
Lunch and brunch skew a little more casual, with Shoo Mercy sweet-potato pancakes topped with fried chicken (sorry, no waffles here) and a Debutante sandwich fashioned after a croque madame, but with the addition of duck confit and country ham.
Beyond the food, an impressive bar program is anchored by a high-tech draft system with 54 tap handles, four different gas mixes and three different pouring temperatures. John Wilson, AGM of beverage and events, says the opening beer lineup will comprise only brews that have won a GABF gold medal or have maintained 100-point ratings on RateBeer. Those could include Southern specialties from Asheville, Colorado rarities and Belgian lambics seldom seen on tap. This is a setup for true beer geeks, so look for Vanberg & Dewulf's De Troch Lambickx Private Domaine and Crooked Stave's Ampersand Volume 3, Chapter 1. And even if you're not into beer, a nitro-poured sweet tea might soothe your Southern soul.
House cocktails are showy and complex, with stamped ice cubes and housemade bitters — try something with bitters made from real Cuban cigars, like the Mountain Smoke, served tableside from a bubbling, smoking shaker. And don't miss this: 75-cent martinis to go with lunch. They're full two-ounce pours of gin or Colorado vodka, but the catch is you only get three and you have to order food.
The dining room seats 180, with an additional 82 chairs on the patio, which merges with the light-rail plaza outside. Plan ahead if you want to reserve the circular twelve-top booth with a draft tap in the center. You and your pals can cozy up with a beverage — champagne, wine, batched cocktails or beer — of your choosing, or ask for a chef's dinner and let the restaurant surprise you with something paired with the food.
The restaurant opens on May 2 for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to close; closing hours haven't been set, but Wilson says he'll keep the bar open as long as he has customers, up until the legal last call. Weekend brunch begins at 9 a.m., and happy hour will run from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Scroll through for a video of the Mountain Smoke cocktail, and for more photos, see our complete Tupelo Honey slideshow.
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