THE &MPERS&ND IS TRENDING IN THE RESTAURANT WORLD
& That little is a trend in metro Denver restaurant names
It’s a sexy little symbol, curvy and exotic, throwing itself at us from above the No. 7 key on a keyboard. It’s the ampersand (&), and, if you listen carefully, you can almost make out the sound of hipster restaurant name-generators across the land firing up and spitting them out, branding new(ish) eateries like Hearth & Dram, Milk & Honey and Stoic & Genuine with the trending foodie typography of choice.
There it is, dropped smack-dab in the middle — the fastener, the ligament, the glue — unifying two often-unrelated words. The ampersand is to restaurant names as the community table is to restaurant design, or the woodburning stove is to restaurant food: a popular device indicative of what’s going on in modern-day food culture meant to take us back to our origins.
The symbol calls to mind a time when handmade, bespoken goods were a necessity, not a trend — a.k.a. the so-called golden age of artisanal production with which today’s restaurants long to associate.
Wikipedia tells me that the ampersand symbol can be traced back to the first century. It all started in old Roman cursive, where the letters e and t (“et” is Latin for “and”) were occasionally smushed together to form a single symbol. Over the centuries, the e-t combo became increasingly stylized and eventually turned into the modern-day & symbol that restaurants know and love.
The latest restaurant to employ the & in its moniker is Broomfield’s Hickory & Ash. The newest spot from the
Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group features Kevin’s son, Ryan Taylor, as executive chef and partner. So why the &?
“My take on our name has a few different symbolisms,” Ryan Taylor said in an email. “My original thought was sort of the ‘before and after,’ i.e. hickory wood burning and turning into ash, which symbolizes the company (Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group) being born again. We’re moving from our fine-dining roots into something more playful, unique, casual and approachable. The two-part name also symbolizes the partnership between me and my dad, i.e. two different culinary perspectives coming together to create one great product.”
With so many restaurants abusing the seductive little &, it can get confusing. Is it Fork & Spoon, Hutch & Spoon or Rise & Shine that does the great biscuits? Which Union Station ampersand restaurant does seafood: Stoic & Genuine or Hearth & Dram?
In what will probably become our greatest contribution to humankind, we put together a guide to metro Denver’s & restaurants* so you will never again feel the befuddlement of not knowing your Colt & Gray from your Beatrice & Woodsley. Because, like that come-hither little symbol, we’re all about bringing things together. Metro Denver Area’s “&” Restaurants Translation: Nonhuman Animal & Container for Holding Liquids Food: Seasonal fine dining that covers all the food groups (and taste buds). “Beasts” are typically pigs, cows and sheep, while “Bottles” are, well, anything you can pour down your throat.
Vibe: It may be fine dining, but this is the restaurant that hosts George Michael-themed dinners, so it’s not exactly fussy fine dining.
719 E. 17th Ave., Denver, 303-623-3223; beastandbottle.com Translation: Girl’s Name & Boy’s Name
Food: A little French (menu items include Escargot and Chicken Liver Paté), a little Italian (think Eggplant Risotto and Pistachio Raviolo) and a whole lot of clever (The Tortoise and the Hare small plate coats turtle dumplings with rabbit ragu).
Vibe: The restaurant is named after a fictitious love story between a winemaker’s daughter and the handsome, hired hand. So yeah, it’s eccentric and whimsical, and it also has one of the coolest bathrooms in town. (Look up, and pull the chains.) Translation: Counter on Which to Cut & Pantry in Which to Store What You Cut
Food: There’s a big emphasis on in-house butchery and, as a result, meat. Pork, lamb and beef reign supreme; whiskey washes it down. Vibe: If a butcher shop and steakhouse got together, this would be their spawn.
4000 Tennyson St., Denver, 303-4334063; blockandlarder.com Translation: Prickly Shrub & Rabbit Food: Considering the restaurant exists solely to utilize the fresh produce and heritage breed animals raised on Black Cat Farm, the menu is fresh and always changing. Vibe: Ag-fab! Very American Pastoral, but in a modern, authentic way. 1970 13th St., Boulder, 303-444-9110; brambleandhare.com Translation: Young Male Horse & Color Between Black and White Food: If there’s a theme to these ampersand restaurants, it just might be meat. C&G is carping the diem out of its own butchery and curing facility, serving must-order coppa, speck, guanciale and duck prosciutto. Vibe: You know how Colorado is both really cosmopolitan at times but still a little country? It’s kind of like that.
1553 Platte St., Denver, 303-477-1447; coltandgray.com Translation: Zygote-Bearing Organism From Which a Multitude of Species Are Derived & Me
Food: Fairly traditional breakfast menu. You’ve got your Benedicts, your scrambles, your omelets, your waffles — you know the drill.
Vibe: This is a breakfast chain. They’re not exactly challenging our notions of design over here. Various locations; theeggandirestaurants.com Translation: Pronged Flatware & Curved Flatware
Food: Good breakfast, complete with the Denver brunch staple of bottomless mimosas. (Seriously, is this a city ordinance or something?) Vibe: This would be considered a fairly no-frills café in the trendier parts of town, but since this is Colfax, it’s downright classy.
341 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, 303-8470345; forkandspoondenver.com (OK, so it’s an “and” and not a “&”; we’re including it anyway because we can.)
Translation: Chef Troy & Chef Troy’s Daughter
Food: An over-the-top steakhouse. Just how over-the-top, you ask? There’s a $71 Filet Mignon Flight. Vibe: If Guard and Grace was a Spice Girl, it’d be Posh all the way. Upscale, chic and full of expensive wine -just like Victoria Beckham herself. 1801 California St., Denver, 303-2938500; guardandgrace.com Translation: Fireplace & Booze Measurement
Food: Inventive, quirky menu that includes the standout Crab Beignet appetizer, Hen of the Woods (a type of mushroom) side and something called the Whole Beast Feast.
Vibe: Strangely, I saw no hearth. I did, however, see a wall of whiskey ... and an empty table because it can take awhile for food to get out of the kitchen.
1801 Wewatta St., Denver, 303-6230979; hearthanddram.com Translation: Type of Wood & Byproduct of Wood
Food: Dubbed a “modern American meatery,” this is where you go when you’ve got a hankering for short rib pastrami.
Vibe: Woodsy, yet industrial. Sort of like if Bambi’s forest was put in a warehouse and churned out widgets on the side. And there’s a cow skull. 8001 Arista Place, Broomfield, 720390-4400; hickoryandash.com Translation: Beer & Pizza
Food: Yes, it’s got one of the best beer selections going, but it also puts beer in the pizza. The crust is a 50/50 blend of water and IPA, which gives it a unique, robust flavor. Vibe: People tend to really like pizza and beer, and Hops & Pie reflects that. Happy people, and lots of them. 3920 Tennyson St., Denver, 303-4777000; hopsandpie.com Translation: Cabinet & Curved Eating Utensil
Food: Wholesome, comforting breakfasts, sandwiches and soups, plus a great selection of coffee drinks.
Vibe: Friendly neighborhood café that gets a little less friendly on busy weekends when locals battle it out for the last piece of banana walnut bread.
3090 Larimer St., Denver, 303-2962317; hutchandspoon.com Translation: Some Guy & Another Guy
Food: Steak, seafood and one of the best happy hours around. (Seriously, a cheeseburger and fries goes for $5 Monday-Friday 3-7 p.m. and weekends 4-7 p.m.)
Vibe: A little fancy. It screams “corporate expense account dinner for people too busy to look for similar local, independent restaurants.” 8100 E. Union Ave., Denver, 720-2009339; mccormickandschmicks.com Translation: Mammary Gland-Secreted Lactose & Sweet, Delightful Nectar
Food: It’s fancy. Not just bone marrow, but bone marrow brûlée. No mere calamari, but pretzel dusted calamari.
Vibe: Lounge-y and dark, because, come on, you’re not eating bone marrow brûlée under fluorescent lights from Ikea.
1414 Larimer St., Denver, 303-9977590; milkandhoneybarkitchen.com Translation: Small, Bitter Fruit & Common Pet Bird
Food: Of all the “chef-driven,” “farmto-table” eateries out there, this is one of the best. The casual café makes great breakfasts and lunches 1552 E. 17th Ave., Denver, 303-832-8663 and 3390 E. First Ave., Denver, 303955-0455; oliveandfincheatery.com Translation: Pork & Veggies
Food: Treat yourself — or not — with a menu split between indulgent, meat-centric fare (there’s something called “Bacon Candy” on the menu) and healthier vegetarian entrees (like Smoked Beet Carpaccio and Tofu Fried Riced Cauliflower). Vibe: Exactly what you’d expect from a new restaurant in the Union Station area: industrial and trendy, with a giant “Oink” sign thrown in for good measure.
1900 Chestnut Place, Denver, 720-5359719; pigandsprout.com Translation: Get Up & Glow
Food: Biscuits! Chicken biscuits, beer biscuits, biscuit sandwiches, biscuit cinnamon rolls, biscuits of the day worthy of exclamation points! Vibe: Simple neighborhood spot with a simple menu. If you want reinvented eggs Benedict, go wait two hours for Snooze.
5126 W. 29th Ave., Denver, 720-8550540; riseandshinedenver.com Translation: Sodium Chloride & Sandwich
Food: East Coast-style, bring-on-themeat sandwiches inspired by chef Frank Bonanno’s childhood in Jersey. Vibe: Library meets deli, because why not?
3609 W. 32nd Ave., Denver, 303-9454200; saltandgrinder.com Translation: Pasta & The Stuff You Put on Pasta
Food: Yes, there’s pasta (a lot of pasta), but there is also a good selection of non-pasta Italian staples like pizza, chicken parmigiana (OK, that one is served with pasta) and saltimbocas (alright, fine, that’s served with pasta, too -- like I said, there’s a lot of pasta).
Vibe: Simple, fairly old-school Italian bistro with a big bar and nice patio. There will be pasta.
2600 12th Ave., Denver, 303-377-2091; shellsandsauce.net Translation: Apathetic & Sincere Food: Super-fresh, innovative seafood dishes, plus caviar and oysters galore.
Vibe: The open kitchen — and Union Station setting — are hopping. Where else can you watch oysters being shucked, drink a lilikoi granita cocktail and hear people curse at their missed train connections all in the same spot?
1701 Wynkoop St., Denver; 303-6403474; stoicandgenuine.com Translation: Employment & Social Stratum Sharing Basic Economic Characteristics
Food: Cozy, Latin and American mash-up of meats (red-chile braised pork, rotisserie chicken, roasted goat) and apps (definitely get the Peppers Five Ways).
Vibe: Comfortable and unpretentious; the name is Work & Class, for goodness’ sake.
2500 Larimer St., Denver, 303-2920700; workandclassdenver.com
Patrons dine on Stoic & Genuine’s outdoor patio.
A lobster dish from Hickory & Ash in Broomfield.
Delores Tronco delivers a plate from the kitchen of Work & Class in Denver.
Crab cakes at Milk & Honey on 14th and Larimer streets.