Inside New RiNo Steakhouse Carne From Chef Dana Rodriguez | Westword

An Inside Look at Carne, the New RiNo Steakhouse From Chef Dana Rodriguez

After closing her first solo venture, Cantina Loca, the James Beard finalist is back.
Pair your proteins with a variety of sauces.
Pair your proteins with a variety of sauces. Joni Shrantz
Share this:
What: Carne

Where: 2601 Larimer Street

When: Open 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 4 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

For more info: Visit

What we saw: "I want people to walk through the door and feel sexy, because the place is that. I want people to feel the energy, and I want people to feel like, 'Oh, this isn't a normal steakhouse,'" says Dana Rodriguez of her latest venture, Carne, which opens July 3.

It's housed in the former Il Posto, which shuttered in late February and was completely transformed into a 1970s-inspired space in just two months. "I'm happy that Scott is my partner in this and in life, too, because I could not make this in two months," Rodiguez admits.

That would be Scott Shoemaker, who oversaw the renovation of Casa Bonita, where Rodriguez is the culinary director. At Carne, Shoemaker has created the sexy yet comfortable vibes that Rodriguez envisioned, getting rid of the signature Il Posto Bocci light fixtures and adding plenty of warm, brown tones with pops of orange. A faux living room setup complete with a record player and old television fills the space on one wall over a trio of tables.

The upstairs lounge includes a second bar and a semi-private area with a fireplace and shag carpet. Outside, the patio now extends along Larimer and around the corner to the front entrance. There are plans to sling grilled meats and cocktails from carts on Rockies game days and during other events.
click to enlarge a martini cart
A cart serves martinis for the table.
Molly Martin
Carne's menu is a globally inspired take on a steakhouse. "When I travel, I'm absorbing in every place that I go: How can I transform things when I go back home?" Rodriguez says. "It's Carne. It's meats from around the world."

That includes an Argentinian skirt steak with chorizo ($29); South American whole roasted bass ($45); Brazilian picanha ($31); and French duck confit ($31).

There's also a section called "the normies" with options like a six-ounce filet for $33 and the "baller moves" — a $50 sirloin wagyu and a $175 tomahawk.

The wide range of price points is intentional, Rodriguez says. Whether you want to visit several times a week and stick to simple dishes or go big in a one-night blowout, Carne is the place to do that. It also caters to all allergies and dietary restrictions.
click to enlarge a crab cake, beef tartare and octopus on plates
You can make a meal of starters at Carne.
Molly Martin
Rodriguez herself is diabetic. Shoemaker is gluten-free, and his daughters have a nut and coconut allergy, so being able to serve food to anyone is important to multiple James Beard finalist Rodriguez. "I want it to feel good and safe for every single person," she says.

As at her first restaurant, Work & Class, the food presentation at Carne is simple. Proteins come on boards with ramekins of various sauces such as red or green chimichurri, horseradish and Béarnaise. Sides like green chile cheese potatoes (Rodriguez's favorite dish to bring to dinner parties), creamed spinach and grilled Argentinian provolone cheese are ordered separately and cost $11 each.

Some of our favorite items came from the "party starters" section of the menu, including crab cakes ($15), grilled achiote octopus ($19) and beef tartare ($17) prepared tiradito style and served with jalapeño aioli, avocado sauce and tostadas.

The cocktail menu ($13-$16) includes plays on classics like the Thomas Collingswood, with Ford’s gin, green and pink peppercorn, lemon and bubbles; and the Carne Fashioned, made with amaretto and chocolate bitters. A standout is the smoky and only slightly sweet Panther's Milke, which includes Rodriguez's dairy-free horchata, honey, ginger, Madre mezcal and chocolate.

Martinis are available "for the table" and are served from a cart that's stocked with ice-cold gin and vodka. Diners pick their spirit and customize the drink with a tray of garnishes and additions, such as housemade pickle brine, olive juice, dill and olives.

The wine list includes several by-the-glass selections, but the real fun is at the wine wall, where patrons can pick a bottle based on quippy labels attached to each. Prices range from just $30 to over $100.

Carne is also serving weekend brunch, with plans to add an "afternoon delight" happy hour complete with fondue in the near future. Other ideas include offering upscale takes on TV dinners served on retro trays.
click to enlarge a blue cocktail
The cocktail lineup includes playful takes on classics.
Joni Shrantz
What surprised us: Rodriguez's vulnerability. Known to many as "Loca," the chef has a talent for cursing and is as fiery as she is friendly. But "when I closed Cantina, I was down," she admits.

Cantina Loca was her first solo venture, and it lasted just over two years in LoHi before shuttering in April. "I was walking, and I was so sad," she recalls. "I'm losing Cantina, [Il Posto] is closed. ... But I said, you know what? I'm not fucking done. I have a lot more to give to people. It's hard, but I still have a lot in me to show people."

She was walking in RiNo, a few blocks from Work & Class, where the Il Posto space was available. It seemed fated.

For Rodriguez, Carne is "something that came from a broken heart, to rebuild yourself and to share that with people. That's the best way to describe this baby. It gives you hope again; it gives you something else exciting to do."

And she is clearly embracing the excitement. The energy in Carne may be the most delicious part: Rodriguez is having fun again, and that extends to her team, too.

"It's a hard industry, but it's full of love and passion, and you provide for the community," she concludes. "I provide for my employees, and I provide for whoever I can. I'm ready to go get it and kill it again."
Can you help us continue to share our stories? Since the beginning, Westword has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver — and we'd like to keep it that way. Our members allow us to continue offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food, and culture with no paywalls.