Fans of LoHi SteakBar will need to find an alternative this week; the restaurant is closed until Friday because of an ownership change. Veteran chef and restaurateur Sean Kelly has left the steakhouse and bar; Joe Pettenger and Taylor Drew, no rookies themselves, are taking over in partnership with Larimer Associates' Joe Vostrejs, Rod Wagner and Jeff Hermanson. The two new owners expect to have the doors open for 5 p.m. dinner service on Friday, October 10, after a few minor changes to the decor and updates to the food and cocktail menus.
Pettenger comes most recently from Osteria Marco, where he was the general mananger as recently as two weeks ago; he's worked for Frank Bonanno for seven years. Drew is also a Bonanno Group alum, having headed the kitchens at Osteria Marco, Russell's Smokehouse and Mizuna over the past five years. They had been working with Larimer Associates on a potential new restaurant when the company came to them with the LoHi SteakBar offer.
While the concept of an affordable steakhouse will stay, Drew's menu will include a focus on what he describes as "composed plates and complete meals," including a harissa-rubbed lamb porterhouse with tabbouleh and a vegeterian roasted cauliflower with Grana Padano and bread crumbs, beluga lentils, onion soubise and crispy shallots.
Pettenger's focus is on service;he and his team will be working on giving guests the same quality Pettinger expects when he goes out. "The restaurant is still casual, but the service will not be, " he states. "When I go out, I want the big shebang." A new bar program will reflect his love for sparkling wine but will also have an emphasis on brown spirits, classic cocktails -- Sazeracs and barrel-aged Manhattans, for example -- and esoteric but affordable wines.
Drew and Pettenger's friendship predated their time together at Osteria Marco. In fact, they're Arvada natives who have been friends since first grade and have seen the Lower Highland neighborhood evolve from a place they were told to stay away from as kids, to a vibrant working-class neighborhood, to its current incarnation as a restaurant and nightlife destination with more upscale residents -- many of whom walk to dinner on a regular basis.
The two agree that they want to evolve LoHi SteakBar to the point where the neighborhood is now, including capturing some of the local energy with daily happy hours from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close. The happy-hour menu will feature bargain gems like dollar oysters and chicken-sausage poutine. Weekend brunch, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, will include a house Bloody Mary, bottomless mimosas, a variety of Benedicts and pancake specials and, of course, steak and eggs.
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Sean Kelly has been a pioneer of Denver restaurant locations -- not to mention great food -- over the years: His Aubergine in Governer's Park is now Mizuna, while the space that held Claire de Lune (and then Somethin' Else) is now home to Fruition. He's also influenced the casual-dining scene in Denver, having a hand in menu improvement for the Little Pub Company and ownership in Ernie's Bar & Pizza, as well as LoHi.