The end of summer is a time of change — and that means new menu items based on seasonal produce for Denver restaurants. That's the case at Spuntino, Zengo and Honor Society, but at the latter two, even bigger changes are afoot, including major remodels, a new chef and a new downtown brunch. Here's what's happening at all three.
2639 West 32nd Avenue
Every summer, Spuntino owners Cindhura Reddy and Elliot Strathmann close down the kitchen and head out on vacation. When they return, Reddy — the chef at this cozy Italian eatery — swaps out summer specials for a harvest menu featuring the deeper flavors and the bounty of the late-summer and autumn harvest. The new menu is now in place, and Reddy says it's "filled with a combination of the bright colors and fresh tastes of summer with hints of rich textures and warm spices from the approaching fall months."
That includes her ode to barbecue, an Italian manzo made with smoked Wagyu beef cheeks from 7X Ranch heaped on polenta with a shower of Napa cabbage slaw.
Heirloom tomatoes from Updig Farm brighten a creamy appetizer of DiStefano burrata, and Spuntino's seasonal arancini are dosed with arugula pesto and Parmesan bechamel on the inside and a saffron aioli to finish. Other new plates include bigoli with El Regalo Ranch goat sugo and cappellacci ("ugly hat" in Italian) pasta stuffed with goat-milk Taleggio swimming in roasted Olathe corn broth. It's the finest collision of Italy and Colorado.
1610 Little Raven Street
Richard Sandoval opened Zengo in 2003 in Riverfront Park, years before the area became a trendy destination. The restaurant's vibrant, swank decor made a splash back then and continues to feel fresh today. But Sandoval has always managed to be a trendsetter rather than being content to keep things at the status quo, so Zengo will close this Sunday, August 28, for a complete remodel — of both the decor and the menu. The overhaul is expected to take about six weeks, so Sandoval expects to reopen in late September or early October, and will throw a grand-reopening celebration to unveil the changes.
The menu will plunge deeper into Asian territory based on discoveries from Sandoval's recent travels, including a new Japanese robata grill as well as sashimi, dim sum, curries, wok-fried dishes and several new grilled entrees. The interior will feature a birdcage theme, with origami bird sculptures and plenty of sumptuous textures and colors, courtesy of the LW Design Group.
1900 16th Street
Honor Society opened at 16th and Wewatta streets a year ago, serving health-conscious, upscale fare in a quick-service setting. The restaurant is celebrating a year in business with a new chef and new dishes, including an all-new Saturday brunch. Josh Chesterton, most recently chef de cuisine at Blackbelly in Boulder, is joining the Honor Society team as executive chef. His farm-to-table restaurant experience, including a stint under celebrity chef Dan Barber at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York, fits in well with Honor Society's mission. He's already added personal touches to the dinner and happy-hour menus, and new breakfast and Saturday brunch menus have also been added. Head over on Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for breakfast pizza, veggie or bacon breakfast burritos, morning bowls, smoothies, and even a few a.m. cocktails.