Beast & Bottle
719 E. 17th Ave.
A warm, New England–style farmhouse dining room; a knowledgeable waitstaff; an adventuresome wine list; beautiful plating
Some risky dishes have mixed results; service delays
Porchetta di testa; house-made pastas; sustainable fish; vegetable soufflés; unexpected and little-known grape varietals such as Spätburgunder
Entrées at brunch, $8 to $16; small plates at dinner, $4 to $14; entrées at dinner, $19 to $28. Small parking lot behind the restaurant. Open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday beginning at 5 p.m. and for brunch Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Reservations accepted.
Paul and Aileen Reilly have lived on the Front Range for a combined total of 20 years, but they grew up in Yorktown Heights, a Westchester County suburb of New York City. Together with a middle sibling, Erin, the brother-and-sister team behind Beast & Bottle used empty milk cartons to set up make-believe grocery stores in their backyard. They helped their mom shop for Hudson Valley–grown produce at the farmers’ market and followed her into the craft markets she frequented to furnish their home with touches of New England charm. But no matter how many errands they ran, they’d always be back in time for a homemade dinner. “It was never anything elaborate,” Paul remembers of their mother’s London broil and macaroni casseroles, “but it was honest food; it was scratch food. My friends would come over and my mother would feed all of them.”
It’s no wonder that, decades later, these East Coast siblings opened a suitably welcoming restaurant in Uptown. The dining room at the nine-month-old Beast & Bottle greets customers with mismatched chairs, unified by a coat of ivory paint, that look as if they were scavenged from Mrs. Reilly’s favorite antique stores. Black-and-white family photos hang from the columns dividing the dining and bar areas. Opaque jars made of milk glass hold a few seasonal blooms. A mirror on the back wall credits some 18 farms the restaurant works with.
But Beast & Bottle isn’t as simple as the wholesome Nantucket farmhouse vibe might suggest. It’s a place where, true to the restaurant’s name, Paul and chefs Wade Kirwan and James Rugile (who hail from Vesta Dipping Grill and the late Venue, respectively) might butcher a hog, a goat, two lambs, and countless guinea hens, ducks, grouper, and wild striped bass in a single week. “We get everything in whole and use as much as we can,” says Paul, who was the chef-owner at the late Encore on Colfax Avenue before opening Beast & Bottle.
This level of labor and care is obvious in many of the kitchen’s dishes. During recent visits I’ve eaten porchetta di testa (pig’s head) that was so impressively thin it was nearly translucent. Folds of delicate, house-made agnolotti came with precious carrot balls that were laboriously scooped with an eighth-inch melon baller. Pan-roasted Skuna Bay salmon was beautifully plated with a foamy emulsion of crème fraîche and smoked applewood stock—a nod to the fish’s smokehouse cousin. A salad of lolla rossa lettuce, plump dried cherries, candied pepitas, Haystack Mountain chèvre, and a white balsamic vinaigrette was noteworthy for its restrained simplicity. Steelhead trout—marinated in citrus, coriander seeds, and pickled mustard seeds—came topped with a generous heap of trout caviar from France. An exceptionally airy corn soufflé arrived along with the tender shoots of a sprouting popcorn plant.
There is no shortage of nuanced beverage pairings to accompany such thoughtful food: Aileen, the restaurant’s general manager, oversees one of my favorite wine programs in all of Denver. On a list that prudently mentions grape varietals at the beginning of each descriptor, Aileen and her team unapologetically offer lesser-known wines made from such grapes as Lambrusco, Aglianico, Furmint, and Counoise. She allows diners to explore the wine list by the glass, pot (nearly three glasses), or litro (a little more than five glasses) and is quick to offer a taste of anything you’re considering. There are also some 50 bottles on the list, grouped first by price then by color (pink, white, and red).
Aileen’s servers, who are coached nightly and tested with a written exam weekly, concisely introduce the restaurant’s mission, including the namesake nose-to-tail butchery program (which is refreshingly downplayed on a cleverly designed menu). They are quick to whip out their pens and notebooks to get accurate answers to your menu questions. Fresh, order-appropriate flatware is set down before each course. Tables are wiped clean with a damp cloth.