Within months of the onset of the pandemic, chefs and restaurateurs began to realize and, at different paces, accept it: their fine food just hasn’t traveled well.
They were selling their fresh pasta, perfectly roasted fish, and plates drizzled with cuts, and then all of a sudden it made a lot more sense to offer, say, lasagna to go, crispy chicken fillets and lots of dips. .
These comfort foods have helped many restaurants weather the pandemic, and for some, are now changing the way they do business.
Look around Denver, and the menus are filled with nostalgic, creative, and also a little ironic items. The cocktails are reminiscent of the end of the 20th century with games of frozen daiquiris, espresso martinis and cosmopolitans. Happy hour specials come straight from fast food outlets and even convenience stores: âGordo Cheese Crunchies,â soft dough mixers, and Frito pie bags.
Turns out, it’s the great levelers, food and drink that unites customers, kitchen and bar staff. This is what everyone wants to eat or drink when they clock in.
For a Denver-based restaurant group, the change in taste led their owners to shut down a French concept of fine dining, shift that cuisine to making buckets of fried chicken (and feeding first responders) and finally to reopen later this month as a back steak. cut.
âAs a group, we’re really good at doing ‘polite-relaxed’,â said Juan PadrÃ³, co-owner of the A5, which will soon make its downtown debut at Morin’s former home (and Wazee Supper Club before that). “It’s about taking inspiration from something and making it better, using the best ingredients and having fun with it, and appealing to someone’s childhood or an experience that they associates. “
For PadrÃ³, these associations are a mixture of his Puerto Rican heritage and his childhood in Massachusetts. Traditional foods like rice and beans are the ultimate convenience, he said. But the same goes for Italian-American staples like meatballs and garlic bread or chicken parmesan. And you’ll find versions of it at Culinary Creative Group restaurants.
A staple in restaurants is an iced cocktail made in the type of countertop slush machine you might have come across at gas stations, snack bars, or movie theaters.
PadrÃ³ says that growing up, his father made him a version typical of Latin American countries with just a mixture of ice cream and pineapple. But most guests will think of the beach when they see a congelado del dÃa on the menus of SeÃ±or Bear and Mister Oso of Denver.
âIt’s so cheesyâ¦ but it works,â said PadrÃ³. The only thing you want when you go to the Caribbean is an iced daiquiri or a piÃ±a colada, not a big Napa cab (ernet). And I think people want to be transported, especially now. “
The combination of taking diners elsewhere in space and time is a great spot at the downtown Run For The Roses bar, which sends its patrons down an alley and into an elevator before arriving in the underground digs, where they can feel completely apart from 2021 and Denver.
For owner Steven Waters, classic drinks are a specialty, and any return, like espresso martinis and cosmopolitans, is absolutely welcome. He also imagines those unnecessarily elaborate ’90s cocktails (think Sex on the Beach, Alabama Slammer) coming back soon, even though “people have no idea what’s in them.”
And Waters takes the nostalgia to another level with appetizers that combine âhigh and low,â things like a bag of chips served with caviar, a platter of stuffed eggs, and a shrimp cocktail.
As patrons return to drink and dine inside, the bar is slowly reintroducing its menu and trying to create the atmosphere of a fancy dress dinner, Waters said. It’s an atmosphere that could strike a perfect balance for restaurateurs coming out of the pandemic.
This is also the scene PadrÃ³ envisions at A5, where he hopes to see large groups gathered around a table full of old-fashioned indulgences (think seafood tricks), and everyone is content to eat. lobster tails, or Denver steaks and (modern) salads.
âWhere we live is important to us; our community is important to us, âsaid PadrÃ³. âWe don’t want to force stuff on them. “
Here are some guilty pleasures we noticed on the menus, and where to find them.
Bologna sandwiches are best when fried and topped with mustard, mayo, iceberg lettuce and potato chips, all between two slices of toasted white bread Unsuitable snack bar.
cheesecake it may never go out of style, but we see it on dessert menus old and new, and with distinct interpretations. For a sample, try Barolo Grillthe fanciful version of Castelmagno and The Greenwichbasque New York indulgence.
Chicken tenders experienced a real resurgence during the pandemic, with a pop-up becoming permanent at the former Lola Coastal Mexican, soon The Post Chicken & Beer in LoHi. Also try them at Trendy burgers at Denver’s Avanti food hall.
Cosmopolitan have a moment for the first time since âSex and the Cityâ. Order one on Benzine on East Colfax.
Stuffed eggs are a holiday tradition, but try popping them like palate cleansers between sips of martinis at Running for roses.
Espresso martini are what kicked off the ’90s specific food trend this year. Go to Running for roses Where Restaurant Olivier.
French fries were once reserved for barbecues and sporting events in Texas and the Southwest. You can now move them to Denver, including to Vaca Gordo barbecue and Mr. Oso.
Frozen cocktails are sort of a dime a dozen these days in Denver. For Latin American versions, SeÃ±or Bear and Mr. Oso change theirs daily. For the wine slurries, Acovaare a must-see in the Highlands district.
Gorditas (Ã la Taco Bell) are perhaps our favorite of the fast food replicas. These crispy, cheesy aperitif snacks can be ordered at SeÃ±or Bear and Mr. Oso.
Seafood tours are back like inflation, and AT 5The version of seems really astronomical. Save the lobster tails and oyster platters for a sparkling holiday dinner.
Soft-service Ã Dang is enhanced with a side dish of fries (think summers at the poolside snack bar, only better). And Trendy burgers makes seasonal milkshakes and blenders that take inspiration from fast food classics like Dairy Queen, Sonic and Starbucks.
White bread sandwiches obtain a shine in the 2020s using Japanese shokupan or pain au lait. For a delicious selection of sandos prepared by the chef on local slices from an enchanted oven, try Open located inside the Goosetown Tavern.
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