"Where should I start?" responds Chris Cina, when I ask him about his new restaurant, Hideaway Steakhouse, that opens today in Westminster.
Cina, whose name is synonymous with the Fourth Story, a long-gone restaurant that resided on the top floor of the former Tattered Cover in Cherry Creek, and, more recently, with the Timberline Grill at the Ameristar Casino in Black Hawk, where he was the executive chef, has spent the last several months putting together what he calls an "American steakhouse reinvented," along with owners Steve and Terrie Woodward, who have long wanted a restaurant of their own. "This is their first restaurant, but Steve is a really, really great home cook, and this has been a dream of his for more than than 25 years," says Cina, who admits that, at least initially, he wasn't particularly interested in the project.
"When I first met Steve and Terrie, and we talked about a concept, I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do after leaving Timberline, and I wasn't sure that a steakhouse was it," explains Cina. Nonetheless, he continued to keep in touch with the couple, even though he eventually landed on the line at Jax Fish House-Denver, a move, says Cina, that simply didn't work out. "I loved the concept of Jax, and I love what they do there, but things there weren't as I had hoped," he admits.
When he exited the kitchen at Jax (on good terms), Cina got Steve Woodward on the horn, assuming that he'd already hired a chef to run the kitchen at Hideaway. As it turned out, Woodward hadn't, and after Cina met with him and Terrie once again, they hammered out the concept -- a concept that jived with Cina, who started on the project last September. "We had seven months to think about what we wanted to do, and who we wanted to be, and while we originally were focused on being a steakhouse known for its charcoaled steaks, we realized that we really didn't have to be just a steakhouse after all," says Cina. And with that revelation surfaced the idea of offering two menus: one that's devoted to American steakhouse classics -- slabs of beef, crab cakes, salads and the requisite side dishes -- and a second one that's an "upscale American menu."
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"Have you ever heard of the term chef-driven steakhouse?" asks Cina. "No -- and that's what I'm doing here," he says. "We're using a lot of local and sustainable ingredients, and we're reinventing the typical American steakhouse experience by putting a chef-driven spin on the food." And to that end, he's hustling everything from a penne pasta with pancetta, onions, tomatoes and chile oil to New Zealand Chinook salmon done two ways and slow-roasted, garlic- and thyme-rubbed pork belly plated with cheddar grits.
As for the beef, Cina is working with a co-op of Angus farmers in Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska to procure his cow flesh, which is aged for seven days. "We want to keep our prices in line, so we're not using prime beef, but the Angus beef we are using is some of the best I've had," says Cina, adding that unlike high-end temples of steer that only pimp à la carte cuts of cow, the steaks here are all served with a house salad, and either a side and a sauce, or two sides. "You're getting a whole meal here, and while it's not cheap, it's neighborly and affordable."
Hideaway opens today at 3 p.m. Beginning tomorrow, it will be open Sunday through Thursday, from 5 to 9:30 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday, from 5 to 10:30 p.m. There's live piano music in the bar on the weekends, along with a bar menu, and Cina will roll out a Sunday brunch board within the next few weeks. For more info, call 303-404-9939.