If you’ve ever swooned over the David Chang-approved French dip at Hillstone—to taste it is to love it—you should know that you have Sheamus Feeley to thank. Feeley (who has worked for Wolfgang Puck, opened Mateo restaurant in Boulder, and cooked in Michelin-starred restaurants in France) played a big role in developing the famed sandwich while working for the Hillstone Restaurant Group. Now, Feeley and business partner Angela Neri (also a Hillstone vet) are bringing these fantastic sandwiches, and a whole lot more, to LoDo with their new endeavor: Pony Up.
The duo transformed the former 9th Door space on Blake Street into a comfortable, welcoming hangout. They refinished the long wood bar top, adding a custom-built steel back bar to display the 300-plus spirits they’ve already collected. (Local hooch is well represented with 3 Hundred Days of Shine moonshine, Laws Whiskey, and Distillery 291’s entire line of spirits.) There are also two shuffleboards, a fireplace, and a vintage Mobo riding horse toy, but local artist Patrick Kane McGregor’s portrait of Neri’s French bulldog, Louis (imagined as Louis the XIV), will surely dominate all conversation about Pony Up’s decor.
Feeley’s menu spans snacks such as addictive chicken kara age and crispy smashed potatoes, but Pony Up’s five French dip options are the real draw. Feeley offers the archetypal version in the Alameda Street Classic, then dabbles with non-traditional dip flavors in the Saigon (a play on a banh mi with pork, herbs, and spicy mayo with a side of pho broth) and the Torta Ahogada (a Guadalajara, Mexico–derived delight in which a sandwich of roasted pork, black been purée, and avocado is practically drowned in smooth guajillo salsa). All are built on Hinman’s Bakery’s fluffy ciabatta rolls.
Bar manager Suzanne Navarro describes her cocktail program as “fun and serious, like a ying yang sign.” Her approach combines tiki flair (a takeaway from her recent post at Chicago’s wonderful Three Dots and a Dash) with “proper technique” and “fun, funky ingredients.” Take the Grande Matcha Colada, for example: The creamy, refreshing sipper combines two kinds of rum, coconut cream, pineapple juice, and matcha green tea, served over crushed ice. It’s like the lightened up lovechild of a piña colada and a matcha latte in the best possible way. Navarro also offers classics, like a bubbly, cava-topped Negroni Sbagliato, and a Trinidad sour, which is a rye-and-bitters-based drink popular on the coasts that Navarro hopes to turn Denverites onto.
Best of all: Pony Up will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day of the week. How did Neri and Feeley manage to hire staff to run such long hours? In part, Feeley says, by designing his kitchen program to function without a dishwasher. By eliminating that position, Feeley says that they’re able to pay the kitchen crew 20 to 30 percent more without having to dip into front-of-house tips. “We hope to reduce attrition,” he says.
Killer snacks and drinks, late night hours, and the promise of half-off Champagne bottles on Sundays and Mondays through Thursdays after midnight are sure to be a formula for success at Pony Up.
1808 Blake St., 720-710-8144