First Look

First Look: Split Lip's Craveable Eats at Number Thirty Eight

The hot chicken trends gets even hotter as Split Lip serves up its take.
The hot chicken trends gets even hotter as Split Lip serves up its take. Molly Martin
What: Split Lip

Where: 3560 Chestnut Place

When: Open 4 to 10:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

For more info: Visit splitlipeatplace.com


What we saw: Number Thirty Eight is a massive space, both inside and out. When you check in, you're given a wristband that connects with your credit card, so you don't ever have to get out your wallet to order another round. The interior is lined with stalls that function as mini-taprooms for breweries, cideries, wineries and distilleries from all over the state. There's also an in-house cocktail program that crafts seasonal drinks with fun twists, such as the Bag Lunch, a PB&J-inspired concoction made with Old Elk PB Whiskey, Woody Creek Bourbon and Chambord with a mini-PB&J sandwich garnish.
click to enlarge Number Thirty Eight is a spacious place for drinks and live music. - MOLLY MARTIN
Number Thirty Eight is a spacious place for drinks and live music.
Molly Martin
Outside, there's plenty of room to spread out and hang with your four-legged friend (dogs are welcome outdoors), play a game of drop-in volleyball on weekends or settle in to watch live music — Number Thirty Eight has free entertainment every night the "social hall" is open, except when ticketed shows are on the calendar thanks to a partnership with AEG Presents Rocky Mountains.

All that drinking and dancing and spiking works up an appetite. Since the venue opened in October 2020, chef Merlin Verrier's Street Feud had served hungry guests. But in September, that concept moved out; it will open its first stand-alone location in the former home of Hank's Texas Barbecue (and Solera before that) at 5410 East Colfax Avenue.

Enter Split Lip.

Split Lip got its start as a pandemic pop-up from Ultreia managing partners Adam Branz and Jessica Richter along with David Wright, who previously did all the paella catering for the restaurant. On September 30, Split Lip took over the food program at Number Thirty Eight, bringing a menu of "hyper regional" cuisine inspired by dishes that originated around the country.
click to enlarge Split Lip does not mess around when it comes to pickles. - MOLLY MARTIN
Split Lip does not mess around when it comes to pickles.
Molly Martin
What surprised us: The caliber of the team at Split Lip is impressive; its members boast over eighty years of collective restaurant experience. The crew includes alumni of Kaos Pizzeria, Euclid Hall and Meadowlark. "It's wild. All these professional chefs that are just wanting to take a little bit of a break and cook some more casual stuff — craveable food," Branz says.

While at first glance the menu seems filled with dishes that are common in Denver these days  — hot chicken and burgers, for example — Split Lip steps up the execution. The Mississippi slug burger is described as being topped with "too many pickles," and it delivers. For $7, you get a thin patty made with beef and breadcrumbs that's covered with a layer of sliced pickles, all on a soft sesame seed bun with a generous amount of American cheese and special sauce.

The ultra-crispy hot chicken, currently available as a sandwich for $12, comes in five spice options including a version made with Hatch green chile; all are made with dried chiles for a more nutty, complex flavor than more traditional takes on hot chicken. Hatch chile shows up again in a Colorado twist on the pimento grilled cheese ($10), which oozes with melted goodness.

Split Lip also steps it up with snacks and sides. A Hawaiian mac salad ($6) is simple, but if you've ever had the pleasure of digging into a plate lunch in the islands after a long day of playing in the ocean, it will immediately transport you back to the beach. Corn ribs ($8), long strips cut lengthwise that still include the cob, may not be a much more efficient way to eat corn, but they're fun — and the version here is slathered in hot honey butter.
click to enlarge Corn ribs with hot honey butter. - MOLLY MARTIN
Corn ribs with hot honey butter.
Molly Martin
Soon there will be even more reasons to check out Split Lip: The team is planning to add more items the first week of November, including a shareable take on the green chile pimento cheese served with crackers, a sushi-styled version of a Memphis meat and cheese plate, and a Big Mac-inspired take on a thick-cut bologna sandwich. One more burger option will be added to the lineup, as well: the Montana Nut Sack. A mashup between a Montana nut burger, which is traditionally topped with a mix of party nuts and Miracle Whip, and an Iowa loose meat sandwich. Split Lip's version is made with a boiled-peanut mayo and served as sliders (four to a sack). "It's far and away the most unique burger I've ever tried," Branz notes. "It's salty, full of umami. It's really good."

The team will also tackle another food that's prime for pairing with drinks: pizza. The slice shop addition will serve up New York-style pizza — starting with the basics, then getting more creative down the line. "We've talked about doing Taylor ham, pastrami, heavy on the Northeast flavors," Branz explains.

Split Lip's playful take on cuisine from other parts of the country reflects Denver's growing transplant population. Whether you like the fact that people keep moving here from other places or not, there's no denying that this is the kind of food you'll indeed crave, and often. 
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Molly Martin is the Westword Food & Drink editor. She’s been writing about the dining scene in Denver since 2013, and was eating her way around the city long before that. She enjoys long walks to the nearest burrito joint and nights spent sipping cocktails on Colfax.
Contact: Molly Martin