Denver - The Plimoth
A Taste of Denver, CO
By Abbra Sharp
Published Jul 2014
Denver is in the midst of hitting its stride. The secret is out, and whether it’s the mountain views, copious amounts of sunshine, healthy lifestyle options, robust startup economy, or—ahem—new green law drawing people in droves, Denver is a place of growth, vitality, and creative experimentation. Ingrained with a heritage of the American Wild West, Denver’s food culture is similarly driven by the pursuit of independence and exploration. Specifically, this pioneering spirit is showing up as what Andra Zeppelin, editor of Eater Denver, calls “the revival of the neighborhood bistro.” In neighborhoods where there are not many other businesses, let alone restaurants, restaurateurs are taking risks and blazing new trails in an effort to provide patrons with high-service, low-fuss dining experiences. While the cuisine served in these restaurants is diverse, commonalities include well-trained chefs, small dining rooms, open kitchens, quaint details, neighborhood locale, and quite frequently European influences in both cuisine and experience. While many of the new neighborhood eateries popping up punctuate the excitement of Denver’s food scene, it is impossible to talk about today’s front-runners without paying homage to some of those who came before. In the historical neighborhood of Capitol Hill, Potager was one of the first to arise in an uncommon area for dining and later helped pave the way for more restaurants to move in. Since its start in 1997, Potager has concentrated on using local organic ingredients (especially from their garden in the seasonal months) as well as a select network of suppliers who are concerned with sustainable food practices. Duo Restaurant, nestled in the bustling Lower Highlands neighborhood, was once a lone ranger when it first opened nearly 10 years ago on a quiet commercial strip. Today Duo is surrounded by thriving businesses and serves to an established community of regulars and those seeking a dedicated seasonal, farm-to-table dining experience. Around the same time, Z Cuisine & À Côté opened focusing on French cuisine and an atmosphere that transports one to the feeling of dining in a small bistro on a street corner in France. As Denver continues to grow at a rapid pace, a new generation of adventurous restaurateurs is seeking to establish new frontiers. The Populist, located in Denver’s RiNo District, was one of the first to mark this latest renaissance, where much of the seating is community oriented and where small plates rule the day. To the Wind, which opened in the early spring, has already started carving a name for itself along the East Colfax corridor. While this part of town is already established with businesses and commerce, To the Wind fills a distinct niche for those seeking an intimate, casual, yet service- and cuisine-focused experience. Most recently, Bistro Barbès opened in Park Hill (named after the district in Paris where chef John Robbins used to live). Here, Chef Robbins sources many of his ingredients from nearby neighborhood gardens and is highly technique-driven. Perhaps the quintessential example of the rise of the neighborhood eatery once again in Denver is The Plimoth, which opened last November in North City Park. Owner and executive chef Pete Ryan, formerly of Z Cuisine, brought together a team of people he had worked with over the years, including executive chef Charles MacDonald and chef de cuisine Javier Cruz, as well as sommelier Adam Knickerbocker. Ryan says they are motivated to provide an approachable dining experience, while taking food and service very seriously. Many of their ingredients are sourced hyperlocally—growing herbs and vegetables on site, using year-round produce from aquaponic grower Flourish Farms, Tenderbelly pork, bread from Beet Box, and beer from craft brewer Black Shirt Brewery, all of which are located within a few blocks of The Plimoth and one another. Chef MacDonald says the ingredients that are available dictate what is prepared and that they try to let the ingredients speak for themselves. While Ryan and MacDonald take creative liberties with the cuisine that is served, it remains within the classic European traditions of technique and flavor. More than anything, The Plimoth and others like it are filling a need. The mostly residential neighborhoods they decide to make home are in turn embracing them as a welcome addition. Ryan says, “People don’t always want to have to go downtown to eat; they like staying nearby. For now, we are their only option.” If the only option is a happy neighborhood eatery with exquisite cuisine, a sophisticated bar program, friendly service, and great atmosphere, then The Plimoth has a bright future, no matter who decides to follow in its path. As for neighborhood outsiders, these restaurants are becoming new destinations to explore in the adventure of Denver dining. Experience Denver Dining at THE PLIMOTH 2335 E. 28th Ave Denver, Colorado TNE NEW AMERICAN CUISINE - foreword by Jeremy Joven America’s Cuisine is known to the rest of the world as fatty, sauce dribbling, pre-packaged foods. We’re famous for hamburgers and hotdogs and just about anything that is entirely unhealthy, riddled with sodium and food you would never serve royalty. This gross idea of American Cuisine is not exactly a misconception, but a reflection of our Corporate Food Culture. The type of food we are famous for around the globe are the foods served at global chains like McDonalds and KFC. There’s nothing wrong with that image, although - after centuries of evolution, a new American cuisine is taking hold - the Locavore movement. It is not a novel idea, or even a publicly accepted one. Though now more than ever, the locavore movement is wildly popular from coast to coast. It’s roots have been growing in top restaurants for decades and it is now reaching a tipping point as it penetrates even the lowest of the food chain; fast foods. The New Asterisk explored 6 American Cities, showcasing this trend in “New American Cuisine” (not to be confused with New American restaurants - this is an exploration of the "New" ways of how Americans eat) with the help of local writers in each city, from our home city, San Francisco, all the way to Denver, Kansas City, Atlanta, Charleston and of course, New York - we dove in to find out what every city’s food culture is like and where it is leading with a sampling of each area’s most popular restaurants and chefs. In regards to exploring the ‘New American Cuisine’ by means of its ingredients - we asked 6 chefs featured to tell us their most used ingredient in their kitchens - many are things you most likely do not have in yours, something you can aspire to create and use in home cooking. read our exploration of other foodie towns - SAN FRANCISCO | NEW YORK CITY | CHARLESTON | ATLANTA | DENVER | KANSAS CITY