Monday, March 28, 2011

Highland Tap & Burger, Denver (Highland)

Much like the wobbles when learning to ride without training wheels, or lack of waves crashing and cannons exploding at first virginal poke, it can take a little time for a restaurant to find its groove. Highland Tap & Burger is dancing the white guys overbite when it comes to its new(ish) Sunday brunch. Little awkward and not much soul.

The patio was packed given the sunny, bunny day (at night it burns with two long rectangular fire pits, super welcoming). The outdoor scene one of Highlandish big sunglasses, babies in sunhats and dogs on leashes; inside the crowd more Emo-meets-Real-World-Season-7-Seattle, mopey boys and girls that like to stay out of the sun (but look damn while good doing it.) Although the restaurant was mostly empty when we arrived until well after we ordered, our food took twice as long as you'd expect and even then arrived incomplete; the frites to my mussels came only after a little prompting, but a tasty highlight from the paper cone presentation to garlic aoli. The “Soup on Tap” was a disappointing white bean and chicken chili that tasted like it’s taupey color. Took a half-a-dozen drops of Cholula to spice it up to medium.

The “Bloody Mary Bar” intrigued but was nothing more than a sad ledge holding up a pitcher of tomato juice and usual condiments (green olives, celery salt, pepperoncini). Sadder yet knowing just a short stroll down 32nd Avenue is the far superior “Beanie Bloody” served at The Squeaky Bean and jumbo-spicy-schooner for $6 at LoHi Steakbar. The Greyhound was a little shy on the vodka and blushing on the mix. I take my Greyhound classic, the way my Lithuanian Dad drank them, white grapefruit juice and never, ever pink. Pink’s not a greyhound, that's a poodle.

Ba-dum-bump! Thank you, I’ll be here all here week!

The beer list is impressive, 18 Colorado brews on tap, and the bar pours local favorites like Stranahan’s whiskey, which is also incorporated into the Stranahan’s Barrel Smoked Chicken Wings*. Juicy and melt in your mouth, smoking the bird is a cooking method that results in tender as a hot roasted chicken out of the oven bites. The sauce smoky and a little sweet and ready for a dredge through homemade bleu cheese almost as good as mine. Almost.

The Tap Burger, the signature of the house, is an all-natural and locally sourced Angus beef patty stacked with root beer pulled pork, a “Mama’s Pilsner” onion ring, American AND cheddar cheese. Add a fried egg for a $1 more. I said, “Eh.”

Winning is the “Modus Hoperandi Mac N’ Cheese” (fontina, aged white cheddar, parmesan and toasted homemade rustic breadcrumbs, add bacon for a buck). Like the fries, comforting comfort food done well. By the looks of foot traffic both times I’ve been, the joint is destined to become a neighborhood gathering spot. Which is good, great really.

Leaves more seats open at The Squeaky Bean. 

*sadly, you won't find these on the limited Sunday brunch menu.


AmyB said...

Comfort food and fire pits rock, but they'll only get you so far during the dog days of summer. Be sure to let us know what happens in the long run. Sounds like you have your finger on the pulse!

Jodie Kash said...

I am nothing if not accommodating and second-chancey ;) Will do because, girl, those smoked wings are worthy of another go.