First look: Thirsty Lion opens April 29 near Denver Union Station

In early July, Denver Union Station will hold its grand opening, the tenants of which include a swell of restaurants, bars and cafes: Mercantile Dining & Provision, a restaurant and market from Fruition chef-owner Alex Seidel; Stoic & Genuine, Jennifer Jasinski's new restaurant, the kitchen of which will be commanded by Euclid Hall chef Jorel Pierce; The Kitchen Next Door; another outpost of Snooze; The Copper Lounge, a lofty cocktail bar; The Terminal Bar, which will emphasize beer; Milkbox Ice Creamery, a spot featuring Little Man Ice Cream (and adult libations); Eatmore Burgers & Brats, a concept that involves TAG chef-owner Troy Guard; Fresh Exchange, a salad-and-soup concept; and Pigtrain Coffee, where Denver-based Novo Coffee will pour java and serve pastries inside a space that mirrors a steampunk aesthetic.

And just adjacent to the revamped Denver Union Station, East West Partners, master developer of the Union Station Neighborhood Development, locked in three additional restaurants, including Protein Bar, a second outpost of Zoe Ma Ma, which got its start in Boulder, and the Thirsty Lion Gastropub & Grill, an Oregon-based concept that will unlock its doors on Tuesday, April 29, making it the first restaurant to open in the new development.

See also: Thirsty Lion Pub & Grill, Zoe Ma Ma and Protein Bar will open near Union Station

The Denver launch will mark the fifth location for the gastropub, which has three locations in Oregon and a solo store in Tempe, Arizona. "Denver is an up-and-coming market, which parallels Portland in terms of demographics, the culinary scene and beer knowledge, and we love the energy of this part of the city, so coming to Denver was an easy decision," says partner and corporate chef Keith Castro, who shares ownership with John Pleu, Russ Teising and Wes Cural.

The 400-seat, 8,000-square-foot space also lays claim to a 1,200-square-foot, wraparound patio, the south side of which overlooks what will soon be a Bellagio-style water display. Meanwhile, the interior is bedecked with dark woods, an open kitchen, a center-stage, beer-centic bar, TVS tuned to music videos, black-and-white photos depicting Denver's historical landscape, posters of famed rock-and-roll bands and dozens of community tables, flanked by a wall of booths.

The original Thirsty Lion opened in 2006 in Portland, and while that store was intended to be more of a British pub/soccer bar, Castro, who joined the company in 2009, says that the focus has since morphed into a gastropub experience, with a stronger focus on beer and food. "We've raised the food bar exponentially since our first store, and the draft beer program has grown by leaps and bounds, too," he notes, adding that the Denver location will pour 52 beers, thirty of which are local. The bar also offers beer flights: any six beers from the list for $10.

And the beer syllabus will change seasonally, reveals Castro. "We'll do seasonal rotators, extra handles for special releases and the tap lines will switch out every six months," he says.

So, too, will the menu, the core of which is a long board of appetizers, small salads, large salads, grilled items, sandwiches, pizzas, burgers and "specialties," including beer-battered fish and chips, beer-braised corned beef and cabbage, herb-crusted chicken, shrimp or cod soft tacos, stacked chicken enchiladas and kung pao chicken.

And if this sounds like a catchall menu, that's because Castro and his partners don't want to alienate anyone's palate. "There are female palates, male palates and kid palates and the whole point is to offer something for everyone," he explains, noting, too, that in addition to the regular menu, he'll also feature a separate board that trumpets eight-to-ten seasonally-inspired specials.

"We want this to be a great place for everyone, from lunch through dinner, and we want to create a sense of community," says Castro. "We're a public house -- your extended family -- and we're really excited to be a part of this project," he concludes.

Starting April 29, Thirsty Lion will be open daily at 11 a.m., closing at midnight Sunday through Thursday and at 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Here's a sneak peek at what you'll be seeing and eating.

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