The West Highland neighborhood and Highland Square complex have experienced ups and downs as gentrification continues and tastes change. Frasca duo Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson recently opened Pizzeria Locale on West 32nd Avenue not far from Frank Bonanno's Salt & Grinder, bringing new energy to the street. But there's also action at established eateries, too. The Coral Room, Highland Pacific Restaurant and Oyster Bar, and the double Victorian mansions that once housed Highland Garden Cafe are all seeing change.
Let's get the bad news out of the way first. Highland Pacific stated on its Facebook page earlier this month that the oyster house was temporarily closing for a remodel. As it turns out, the property has been seized by the City and County of Denver for failure to pay taxes. Although the Office of the Manager of Finance could not comment officially, it did indicate that the owners of the restaurant are planning on paying the amount due of $14,209.75. So maybe that remodel will happen after all. Just across the street, Solitaire is making progress toward an expected late-2014 opening. While construction on the exterior and chain-link fences around the property give the impression of a lot more work to be done, Solitaire's Facebook page indicates that chef Mark Ferguson (whose career began under Wolfgang Puck and took him to Spago in Beaver Creek and a gig as the executive chef of the Ritz-Carlton there) is already accepting event bookings. Denver history buffs should enjoy the vintage atmosphere of the address as well as the history of Solitaire's name, which began over a century ago with Ferguson's great-great grandfather, Chester Stephen Morey, and his Solitaire food brand.
The Coral Room is evolving, too. Closed for twelve days as new owners Grant Williams and Raymond Childs took over, the neighborhood bistro reopened on Sunday with a completely new menu. For those who haven't ventured into Coral Room for a few years, the Asian theme is long-gone. Chef Justin Anderson says that he and fellow Twelve alum Patrick Baker are working with executive chef Greg Lyons to present a seasonal menu featuring organic ingredients and grass-fed beef of the highest quality they can source. "We're selling pride here," says Williams. "I want everyone to feel comfortable here -- it's a community bistro."
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Anderson mentions a charcoal-dusted hanger steak and a slow-roasted and pressed pork-shoulder dish with braised red cabbage as dishes that they're having fun with right now. The dining room has been spruced up and the kitchen received an overhaul to bring it up to date.