First Impressions: Green Russell

November 8 2010, 11:30 AM

As most barflies know, Green Russell—Frank Bonanno's classic cocktail bar that lies beneath Larimer Square—opens this Thursday at 6 p.m. But last night, I got a sneak peek.

What a contrast from two months ago, when I initially walked the location with Bonanno. Then, it looked more like a dilapidated drug den than a potential bar or restaurant space. Now, with long bars staffed with talented mixologists (not the least of which is partner Adam Hodak), loungey chairs and tables, and cool blue walls, Green Russell feels like it's been there all along.

The place, first and foremost, is a cocktail bar in the vein of a pre-Prohibition-style speakeasy. The drink list is well-edited—just six offerings—because the bartenders hope customers will give them freedom to work their magic (tell them your spirit of choice, and they'll create something just for you). If that's giving up too much control, opt for the Bitter End, a whiskey cocktail turned on its ear with a splash of Prosecco and a dash of herby Fernet Branca.

The menu is all about bar snacks—simple, accessible, and comforting. This isn't a place to go for, say, a multicourse meal, but it's perfect for a before-dinner drink and nibble or cocktails and late-night eats. One must-try is the silky, potted smoked trout, which comes topped with zesty pesto waiting to be swirled into the mix. The combo of mild fish and crème fraîche spread on crusty baguette slices is something I could eat every day.

The sandwiches and French-bread pizzas are more entrée-esque in size and heft. The meatloaf sammy with melted Swiss, caramelized onions, and house-made Thousand Island dressing is barely contained between the slices of baguette—and it's comfort food at its absolute best. The same crusty bread makes up the pizzas, which are lighter than the sandwiches and easier to share. I tried the lusty combination of wild mushrooms with goat cheese and slices of sausage (from Luca D'Italia's curing room).

For dessert, there's pie from Wednesday's Pie, which is the gateway for Green Russell.

Bonus: The pie shop officially opens at 11 a.m. this Wednesday with three offerings: apple, pumpkin, and banana cream. Buy a slice or the whole thing. Open until sell-out.

Open Thursday through Sunday 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., 1422 Larimer St., 303-893-6505