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Shortly after relaunching with a spiffy new menu, a kitchen fire forced Lowry's Masterpiece Kitchen to temporarily shutter. Photo by Callie Sumlin

Masterpiece Kitchen 2.0

Justin Brunson transforms his American bar and grill into an upscale spot featuring shared small plates.

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When Justin Brunson unveiled Masterpiece Kitchen a year ago, I was lukewarm on the concept. Most of the dishes on the menu—burgers, fried chicken, sandwiches—could be had at Brunson’s other restaurants (Old Major, Royal Rooster, both locations of Masterpiece Delicatessen)—and all of those spots were a lot closer to me. I assumed that the restaurant was designed to bring his greatest hits to a new audience east of the city, and that Lowry residents would be delighted to find such items closer to home.

But a year in, Brunson is retooling the concept of Masterpiece Kitchen. As it turns out, Lowry didn’t want another American grill. The neighborhood was not just ready—but looking—for something different. After some focus group-led research, Brunson & Co. determined that that something was a polished, chef-driven, small-plates restaurant, which is exactly what they’ve done with the new MK.

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Brunson tapped chef Nohe Weir-Villatoro (formerly of Old Major and King James Public House in Asheville, North Carolina) to run the kitchen. The burgers and sandwiches that dominated the old menu have now been relegated to lunch; dinner features a variety of globally informed shared plates—hamachi crudo, beet mole, duck confit empanadas. While nothing on the dinner menu is more than $15, the portions have shrunk and the plating has become more elaborate.

Take the $8 seared potatoes. For each portion, Weir-Villatoro cooks just a few halved baby spuds in salt and whey (salvaged from the making of house farm cheese), before plating them in a shallow bowl with charred leeks, white soy aïoli, and savory chips of fried shiitake. A tangerine-hued carrot dashi is poured tableside. It’s a lovely dish—fragrant, light, and well balanced. The only downside might be for a family searching for the old cheeseburger-and-fries routine.

Brunson confirmed that there have been plenty of walkouts since launching the new menu. But over the next few weeks, the restaurant will undergo a full expansion and remodel, with new furniture and a larger space for dining. Brunson hopes that with the new look and the new food, Masterpiece Kitchen will finally find its groove—and that Lowry will approve.

Bonus: Brunson is also working on Rocky Mountain Charcuterie, a 6,000-square-foot meat processing plant that will open soon in Denver. RMC will specialize in deli meats, sausages, salumi, and more.

Editor’s Note: On April 1, Masterpiece Kitchen suffered structural damage due to a kitchen fire. The restaurant is temporarily closed for repairs. We will update this story when it reopens.

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Callie Sumlin, Associate Food Editor

Callie Sumlin creates stories for 5280's Eat & Drink section, manages the dining guide, and oversees 5280.com's digital food-related coverage and weekly e-newsletter, Table Talk.

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