Ambitious downtown eatery Stout Street Social opened today, with an intentionally eclectic menu for an area that's thick with businesspeople, tourists, conventioneers and theater-goers but isn't necessarily known as a destination dining zone (unless you think Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. is a great destination). Concept Restaurants, which operates a handful of other restaurants around town -- Humboldt and Ignite Burgers two of the more recent -- hopes to win over a wide audience with a small but diverse food lineup, a deep beer list and a range of specials, from happy hours with discount oysters to daily dinner deals to a theater supper package. And while out-of-towners may be a big part of the clientele, Stout Street Social is looking to appeal to Denverites with an ambiance grounded in rustic details and a big space that flows around a central bar to give diners and drinkers "build-your-own-adventure" choices, according to Sean Huggard, director of operations for Concept Restaurants.
Handmade wine-crate table tops, a host station built from wine-barrel staves and plenty of grainy woods and shiny tiles add eye-catching textures and colors. "This is a space that typically would have gone to a national chain," Huggard points out. "So it's fun to be local." Rather than coming up with a concept first and then shoehorning it into the ground floor of the Embassy Suites hotel, Huggard explains that the group tried to think about what would work in the space and what the neighborhood needed.
The result is a highly interactive eatery with big screens tapped into social media where guests can post messages that show up larger than life almost instantly, and rotating beer menus with choices from beer ambassador Vanessa Combs. There are forty beers on tap, several more from firkins and a list of bottled and canned brews that includes more than a few cellar specials for the aficionados. Boulder Beer is also making two beers just for the restaurant: a seasonal (right now it's Social Winter IPA) and a year-round Social Gold. Combs's goal is to have staff earn level-one cicerone certification (that's the beer-service equivalent of sommelier certification) within ninety days of employment.
The menu comes from chef de cuisine William Tuggle, a Culinary Institute of America graduate who just moved to Denver from New York City. While the dinner menu mercifully fits on one placemat-sized page, it spans a wide range of options, with Blue Island oysters ( $1.95 during happy hour and $1 Wednesday night) and other raw bar treats, entrees that lean toward steak and seafood, small plates and snacks like kimchi fries and crispy mushrooms, and a sushi list from sushi chef Yani Wuryame.
Stout Street Social's specials may be the biggest draw. The prime rib happy hour (3 to 6 p.m. weekdays) offers $1.95 prime rib sliders, a $10 smoked prime rib plate and $4 martinis (and a few other cocktails), in addition to those $1.95 oysters. "Where else can you spend $14 for an eight-ounce cut and a martini?" asks Huggard. A separate theater menu offers three courses for $28.95 with $7 valet parking on performance nights.
Stout Street Social is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with dinner beginning at 5 p.m. daily. Brunch service should start in January.
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Keep reading for more photos from Stout Street Social.