I gasped when I received a phone call in early August informing me that chefs Max Mackissock and Blake Edmunds had put in their notice at the Squeaky Bean. The news came within weeks of other departures: Notably front-of-the-house guru Stephen Gallic and barmen Sean Kenyon and Nick Touch. Together with Squeaky Bean owner Johnny Ballen, this team built what was easily one of my favorite restaurants in Colorado. So it was with great delight that I welcomed the more recent news that (most of) the gang was back together again at one of my favorite bars: Williams & Graham.
In September, chefs Mackissock and Edmunds (along with Gallic, who has since left to become director of operations at CapRock Farm Bar at the Source) joined Kenyon at his renowned LoHi speakeasy, pictured. Their mission was twofold: One, to create a food program on par with the celebrated cocktail program. And two, to make the new dishes approachable enough to be inherited by a more full-time chef in the coming months. Mackissock and Edmunds have replaced Williams & Graham’s meatloaf toast, shellfish salad, and citrus-marinated steak with tea sandwiches, sweetbreads, roasted bone marrow, Waldorf lettuce wraps, a steak haché (aka hamburger), and chicken liver mousse. (Yes, it’s the same childhood-inspired chicken liver mousse that Mackissock served at the original Squeaky Bean at 33rd and Tejon streets.)
During a recent nightcap, I made room for a few tastes and especially loved the buffalo frog legs. Far more tender than chicken wings, the meaty snack fell off the bone. Thanks to cornstarch, the exceedingly crisp outer layer stood up to a coating of tangy sauce. Mackissock is originally from upstate New York (the birthplace of the aptly named Buffalo wings) and this elevated take on the sports bar staple would make his home state proud.
Insider tip: Don’t delay. Although Mackissock and Edmunds plan to oversee this new program as continued partners with Kenyon, their daily presence in the kitchen is only a temporary gig until the trio announces their next project.