A good number of Denver restaurants these days claim to be “approachable.” To wit: I received more than 10 press releases in the month of January alone that included the word. Many of these places, I think, are trying to convey that despite other indicators—high prices, esoteric ingredients, unfamiliar dishes, fanciful drinks—they still want to appeal to a wide variety of people.
Barely a week old, LoDo’s Brass Tacks seems as if it will actually be able to walk its approachable talk. Located in the former Blake Street Vault, the comfortable “dine bar” is the work of Katsumi Yuso Ruiz, Stephen Julia, Stuart Jensen, and chef Zach Spott. Ruiz and Julia previously co-founded Green Seed and Curio inside Denver Central Market, bringing on Spott and Jensen as partners at those respective endeavors after opening.
At Brass Tacks, the group kept the exposed-brick and wood beam bones of the old (reportedly haunted) Blake Street Vault building, reupholstering the booths with mustard-colored fabric, adding a custom, backlit menu board above the bar, and decorating a forest-green wall with everything from chirpy sayings to taxidermy to vintage figurines and bottles.
Belly up to the bar and you’ll find that there’s no cocktail list. That omission is a big part of the approachability factor: Guests can simply name what they like or want to drink and the bar team will take care of the rest. If you favor Coors Banquet and Miller Lite, they’ve got it for you. More of a craft suds drinker? You’ll find everything from sours to Belgian dark ales sourced from Colorado breweries and beyond. If you’re a vodka soda purist, Brass Tack’s has Tito’s and soda on tap, as well as five other draft cocktails, some of which—including the peanut-infused bourbon and Coca Cola—have been nitrogenated for a thick, frothy texture. And if you identify as a cocktail nerd, you’ll be happy, too: The bar team can mix up just about any drink imaginable, or you can ask for one of the bottled, pre-mixed quaffs, which include classic cocktails like the Cobble Hill (tequila, Amaro Montenegro, vermouth, cucumber) and Pendergast (bourbon, Dubbonnet aperitif, Benedictine, bitters). For teetotalers, there’s also Vietnamese-style coffee, nitro cold brew, and kombucha.
Chef Spott (a veteran of Olive & Finch and the Four Seasons) has created a food menu that follows the approachable motto, heavy as it is on nachos, wings, super creamy mac and cheese, and other bar grub, as well as sandwiches—try the blackened shrimp BLT—and a few large-format “family meal” dishes; we can’t wait to return with a group to try Houston native Spott’s shareable Viet-Cajun shrimp boil. All food is ordered from the counter window near the back, yet another nod to Brass Tacks’ easy-breezy approach.
If you go: Brass Tacks is open from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily. 1526 Blake St.