Range, says Paul Nagan, "is a name I came up with because of its significant ties to cooking and Colorado: mountain range, free range, open range and cooking range." Nagan, the former executive chef of Zink Kitchen + Bar, recently left his post there to take on a new restaurant project in the historic Colorado Bank building, which, come April, will reopen as the Denver Downtown City Center Hotel -- and Range will be its signature restaurant.
Although it's been vacant since 2007, the six-story building, built in 1915 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of Denver's most celebrated architectural marvels, its white-marbled exterior, elegant marble colonnades and behemoth bank vaults a homage to Denver's fabled past, and Range, too, will honor the city's storied traditions. Range, says Nagan, will "focus on the ranch-style cooking of the American West, and t'll be my own modern interpretation of Colorado cuisine built around live wood-fired cooking, a charcoal grill and smoker."
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The space, which boasts 115 seats, and is being billed as a "modern whiskey saloon," will feature a twelve-seat bar area, reclaimed barn wood and metallic accents, planked hardwood floors, leather and pony hide furnishings, textured fabrics, a communal table, a small lounge area and a street entrance separate from the hotel. In addition, the original metal iron beams that were erected in 1915, along with the original travertine walls, will remain in place.
"It'll have a high-end modern feel, but the space will definitely pay homage to the building's history," says Nagan, whose menu, which includes everything from Aztecan tortilla soup and barbecued oysters to rabbit croquettes and cast-iron sugar steak with shaved asparagus and marrow bone, celebrates foodstuffs from the garden, the sea and stream and the land. "I'm using a lot of Native American ingredients and traditions blended with with Spanish flavors and all the great ingredients that Colorado has to offer," he explains.
The bar program, while favoring whiskey, will also trumpet other local spirits, keg wines, six beer taps, all of which are local craft brews, as well as an extensive bottle selection, and a second bar -- the Teller Bar -- will serve as a lobby extension of the bar inside Range, the two of which are connected by a huge entryway. And the goal of the restaurant and both bars, says Nagan, is to generate a following of locals. "We're giving the restaurant its own identity and treating it as though it was an independent, and our hope and goal is that we'll get mostly locals," he notes.
Range will serve breakfast, lunch and diner daily, and Sunday brunch is on the horizon, too. I stopped in to take a tour of the space, still under heavy construction, last week. Here's a first look at the construction scene.