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Dining review: The District in Denver zones in on fun, first-rate fare

Denver’s Uptown neighborhood has enjoyed a surge of restaurants in a few short years, as ambitious new rooms have joined old standbys such as The Avenue Grill, which for too long was pretty much the only player on East 17th Avenue.

The grilled flat-iron steak with rosemary potatoes, sautéed zucchini and Brussels sprouts, with chipotle aioli.
The grilled flat-iron steak with rosemary potatoes, sautéed zucchini and Brussels sprouts, with chipotle aioli.
To the roster of these arrivals — Ace, Steuben’s, Beast + Bottle, Humboldt, P17 and Olive & Finch among them — comes The District.

Since its midsummer opening, this restaurant, co-owned by Kerry Condon and Jason Sorrell, has built a steady following. While it does a brisk bar business, it has a growing reputation for its creative food. Open daily for lunch and dinner, it also serves tasty breakfasts on Saturdays and Sundays.

The District sits at 1320 E. 17th Ave., where Uptown starts rubbing shoulders with the City Park West neighborhood.

Longtime residents might remember the building’s days as Dougal’s Catering Services. Its most recent history was as a storage area for Strings, the late Noel Cunningham restaurant that was succeeded by Humboldt.

The space has been refurbished: bare brick walls, artful tile floors and exposed ductwork. On warm days, glass garage doors open up to the sidewalk. Funky decorative touches abound, such as a vintage National Cash Register. A large door from a safe leans against a wall.

There is an accessible, laid-back vibe, bolstered by the staff. Waiters are friendly and well-trained. On one visit we needed a to-go box. The waiter prepped it, then wrote the date and the contents on the lid. It was a thoughtful touch that translates into easier rummaging on future refrigerator raids.

The kitchen has a commitment to seasonal food, and that means weekly or even daily menu changes.

The fare mixes convention with creativity.

The Cuban smoked spaghetti squash over black beans and rice topped with sofrito and served with plantains.
The Cuban smoked spaghetti squash over black beans and rice topped with sofrito and served with plantains.
We liked a charcuterie plate of house-cured duck bacon, thin-sliced, lightly smoked ham and a coarse-ground Italian sweet sausage. It came with two cheeses, including a Maytag blue, plus pickled onions and rye bread. A fine mix of tastes and textures — though a dollop of mustard would have served it well.

An entrée billed as Cuban smoked squash should satisfy vegetarians — or for that matter, any diner.

Tangled tendrils of smoked spaghetti squash were piled on a mix of black beans and rice, then topped with a garlicky sofrito, a sauce with many variants used in Spanish and Latin American cooking. Slices of fried plantains were the grace notes.

The dish went well with a glass of La Yunta, a crisp Spanish white nicely priced at $7.

From left, Stephanie Fleckenstein, Daniela Weise and Kelly Schuller enjoy happy hour on the patio at The District.
From left, Stephanie Fleckenstein, Daniela Weise and Kelly Schuller enjoy happy hour on the patio at The District. (Photos by Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)
Roasted pork tenderloin came with a creamy parmesan polenta and caramelized onions and bell peppers. Moist and tender, it was a study in simplicity, perfect for a cool night.

The lone disappointing dish was the pulled-pork sandwich. Billed as “cooked low and slow,” the meat came on a brioche bun and was unaccountably dry, despite being topped with a smoked pepper barbecue sauce and a rather skimpy dollop of cole slaw.

Nor was it true pulled pork, which by tradition — and definition — is hand-shredded and chopped. This came in big chunks and thick slices. It didn’t deliver the “mouthfeel” of the real deal. Sorry, but this version won’t leave leaving any Southern ‘cue masters quaking at their hickory pits.

The District is also being discovered as a place for weekend breakfast and brunch.

Their breakfasts go way beyond bacon and eggs, though if you get the latter make sure to spring $8 for the “tri-bacon”: house-cured pork, lamb and duck bacons. Rich and with just the right amount of fat, the slices come with a small glass jar of smoke-infused maple syrup that has been spiked with cayenne.

That same bacon trio is available in a hash of tender home fries topped with two eggs any style.

A fried-chicken benedict featured a crispy slice of peppery chicken topped with scrambled eggs and country gravy on a toasted, buttery biscuit. A veggie omelet with spinach, roasted red peppers and goat cheese also satisfied.

I liked the fact that at breakfast, seven hot sauces arrive at the table in case diners need a shot of Vulcan’s forge to start the day.

This room strikes a welcome balance between a neighborhood joint and someplace worth driving to. Four months after opening, The District is already in the zone.

William Porter: 303-954-1877, wporter@denverpost.com or twitter.com/williamporterdp

THE DISTRICT

Contemporary Pub/Diner

1320 E. 17th Ave. 303-813-6688 districtdenver.com

**½

Very Good/Great

Atmosphere: Bare brick walls, exposed ductwork, bit of an industrial vibe with hip décor touches. Moderate sound level.

Service: Friendly, well-trained.

Beverages: Wine, beer, cocktails

Plates: Salads and shared plates, $7-$9; sandwiches, $7-$10; entrées and specials, $9-$21.

Hours: Monday-Friday, 10:30 a.m.- 2 a.m. Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m.-2 a.m.

Details: Street parking

Two visits

Our star system:

**** : Exceptional

***: Great

**: Very Good

*: Good

Stars reflect the dining reviewer’s overall reaction to the restaurant’s food, service and atmosphere.

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November Cooking and Food Events 2014

November 2014 ~ Cooking and Food Events

Frasca Food and Wine

Nov. 10: Weekly four-course Monday dinner series continues with Wines of Brovia with Mike Joyce. $50, wine pairings additional $45-$50.

Reservations required.

1738 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-442-6966
frascafoodandwine.com

Classes

 

Almost Vegan Cooking

Nov. 8: Whole Grains, 10 a.m.-noon. $49

Reservations required.

16504 E. Dorado Ave., Centennial, 303-699-8661
almostvegancookingschool.com

 

The Art of Cheese

Nov. 5: Soft Cheeses: Chevre, Fromage Blanc, Cream & Cottage, 6:30 p.m. $39

Nov. 12: Intro to Hard Cheesemaking, 6:30 p.m. $39

Reservations required.

519 Fourth Ave., Longmont
theartofcheese.com
Ashley Famous Cooking

Classes include The Perfect Brunch, Desserts, Bread Making and other cooking-class parties in the school or your home.

Dates, fees vary.

Reservations required.

303-690-9434
ashleyfamouscooking.com

 

Cook Street

Nov. 5: Sushi, 6-9:30 p.m. $99
Nov. 7: Culinary Date Night, 6-9:30 p.m. $89 (per person)
Nov. 8: Holiday Pies, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. $89

Reservations required.

1937 Market St., 303-308-9300
cookstreet.com

 

Kitchen Table Cooking

Nov. 5: Indian Takeout at Home, 6-9 p.m. $95
Nov. 6: Regions of France: Bordeaux, 6-9 p.m. $95
Nov. 7: Couples Class: Venice, Under the Bridge of Sighs, 6-9:30 p.m. $240 (per couple)
Nov. 8: Amazing Holiday Appetizers, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. $80
Nov. 9: Pies for the Holidays, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. $80
Nov. 10: Italian Regional Cuisine: Campania’s Volcanic Bay, 6-9 p.m. $80
Nov. 11: Fresh Pasta, 6-9 p.m. $80

Reservations required.

6380 S. Fiddler’s Green Circle, #108A, Greenwood Village, 303-220-9769
kitchentablegv.com

 

The Seasoned Chef

Nov. 5: Culinary Technique Series: Mastering the Chef Knife, 6:30-9:30 p.m. $80
Nov. 6: Culinary Technique Series: Mastering Sauces, 6:30-9:30 p.m. $80
Nov. 8: Host a Gourmet Holiday Brunch, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. $75
Nov. 10: Holiday Candy Box, 6:30-9:30 p.m. $65
Nov. 11: Eastern Mediterranean Tapas, 6:30-9:30 p.m. $75
Nov. 12 and 19: Culinary Techniques Series: Basic Skills Every Cook Should Know, 6-9:30 p.m. $155

Reservations required.

999 Jasmine St., Suite 100, 303-377-3222
theseasonedchef.com

 

South Denver Heart Center

Nov. 5: Heart-healthy nutrition class/demonstration weekly series continues with What’s In Your Food, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Free, reservations requested.

1000 Southpark Drive, Littleton, 303-744-1065
southdenver.com

 

Ugly Goat Milk Co.

Classes include Soft Cheese, Gourmet Lunch and Hard Cheese. Dates, fees vary.

Reservations required.

1701 Hidden Acres Place, Parker, 303-690-2437, e-mail: godshowranch@gmail.com
godshowranch.com

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Justin Timberlake-backed restaurant to open in January in Denver

http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_22168937?source=pop_section_business

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