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The corner of 17th and Wazee streets has been buzzing since Urban Farmer opened on Sunday. It’s not just because the new restaurant has brought a welcome, fresh energy to the formerly drab McCormick’s Fish House & Bar at the Oxford Hotel—but because there are actual hives of honeybees on the roof above. Those bees will eventually produce the restaurant’s own stocks of honey, comb, and pollen, which executive chef Chris Starkus will incorporate into his menus.
That sort of ingenuity abounds at Denver’s Urban Farmer, the fourth location of the concept from the Sage Restaurant Group (others are in Portland, Cleveland, and Philadelphia). Window shelves hold micro-greens from Mountain Man Micro Farms. Edible nasturtium and borage flowers thrive in patio pots. Whole cows—many of which are sourced locally—are butchered and dry-aged in house. Downstairs, Hazel Dell mushrooms grow in an impressive, museum-like glass terrarium.
Starkus, who spent eight years at the helm of Portland’s Urban Farmer, has undertaken these projects to help “explain where food comes from and connect [people] to farmers.” About half of his meaty menu is unique to the Denver location, including plates like the McFarland Springs rainbow trout with heirloom carrots. Other signature UF dishes, like the granola waffle, get Colorado touches via garnishes of Palisade peaches and local honey.
Denver’s Xan Creative has given the 125-year-old space an elegant, modern feel, with a plaid-paneled wall, red leather booths, a charcuterie and raw seafood counter, and a spacious bar area. UF is now serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch.
Bonus: Sage Restaurant Group has also given the Oxford’s Cruise Room bar an update. The glorious art deco façade remains relatively unchanged, but Sage’s beverage director, Brandon Wise, has reinvigorated the cocktail program.