Union Station, which unveiled its renovation in July 2014, is celebrating its second birthday by giving Denver a couple of presents. One is the Union Station 105th Meridian Buskerfest, a resurrected festival that developer Dana Crawford is bringing back this weekend. And the party won't end when buskerfest does.
The second gift will keep on giving: It's an upgrade of the Terminal Bar, which has been a big hit since the station opened two years ago. "It feels like it's been about two minutes, or 200 years," says John-Mark Larter, who joined the Union Station Alliance team four months in. "We're thrilled we've created a place where people want to spend their time."
That upgrade is in three phases, with the first set to be unveiled at 11 a.m. Monday, when the Plaza Beer Garden will debut on the Wynkoop Plaza in front of the Terminal Bar. It will feature a specially designed bar stocked with a variety of Colorado craft beers – including the Union Station Kölsch brewed by Denver Beer Co. – plus wine and cocktails, as well as a walk-up grill where guests can order from a limited menu: handrolled pretzels with spicy cheddar dip, a currywurst with spiced ketchup, a homemade bratwurst with German potato salad and warm sauerkraut, and a chicken-and-apple sausage from Continental Sausage. (Although the patio will be largely closed this weekend during buskerfest while the finishing touches are installed, the bar may be operating.)
Inside Union Station, the area outside the Terminal Bar is getting sixteen new beerhall tables imported from Germany that will mark the boundaries of the Terminal Beer Hall. And next month, one of the train- ticket windows on the outside of the bar will be turned into a food window, where you can order quick-service fare from a short menu from Acme Delicatessen that includes a variety of sausages, pretzels and crispy cheese curds; customers can wash their snacks down with one of the thirty Colorado craft beers on tap at the Terminal Bar. The final phase will come in September, when full-service dining will be offered to guests seated at tables inside the Terminal Bar. The menu there will be more ambitious but still German in flavor. Chef Lon Symensma, culinary director for internal operations for Union Station Alliance, has created the menus for all three Terminal spots while continuing to oversee the food at the Cooper Lounge, our Best Classic Cocktail Lounge in the Best of Denver 2016.
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That spot on the mezzanine is the most elegant in Union Station, with dishes that bring back the glory days of train travel: cherries jubilee flambeed tableside, steak tartar, steak Diane. "We're having a lot of fun reproducing these French dishes that were a big part of my early training in France," says Symensma. "I couldn't ask for a better venue."
And there are still more changes to come at Union Station, including a new tenant for the former Fresh eXchange space. The finalists have been narrowed down to two or three, and while Larter and Symensma say they've been kept in the dark on the choice, they promise that the new restaurant tenant will fill "an as yet unserved need."
And add to the reputation of a Denver space that they call "Disneyland for adults."