Elevated. Fun. Weird. Those are the words that chef Bo Porytko uses to describe the bar menu he began serving yesterday from a 200-or-so-square-foot kitchen inside Middleman on East Colfax. Denverites who had the pleasure of dining at Porytko’s last culinary endeavor, the now-shuttered Rebel Restaurant, would expect nothing less.
Known for his unique, imaginative twists on familiar fare (think: kimchi pierogi, pig ear biscuits, tripe poutine with foie gras gravy), Porytko is back at it at Misfit Snackbar, transforming typical bar food such as popcorn, jerky, corn dogs, and sandwiches into unexpected treats.
Consider Porytko’s initial popcorn offerings, which range from a pepperoni pizza version seasoned with rendered pepperoni oil and pepperoni “croutons” to curried popcorn with fenugreek leaves and fried chickpeas. Forthcoming: A crazy-cool Caesar salad popcorn drizzled with garlic oil and topped with crunchy fried white anchovies and grated egg.
Heartier bites include tangy kimchi croquettes bound together with risotto rice and tofu (instead of cheese), served over sambal aioli and under a dusting of furikake and finely shaved Spam, of all things; it sounds like a strange combo, perhaps, but it works. There’s also buckwheat corn dogs stuffed with kielbasa, sauerkraut, and muenster, and, certainly not one to serve a boring burger, Porytko is instead satisfying big appetites with a spectacular, three-napkin-required chicken-fried short rib sandwich with dilly slaw and house-made pimento cheese.
Middleman owner Jareb Parker is thrilled with the new partnership. After his brother, Justin, moved to Texas leaving Middleman’s tiny kitchen without a chef, Jareb interviewed seven others for the position. “[Porytko] is the right personality fit,” he says, “and he’s just like Middleman: chill, but with an edge. I’m really excited to have him here to do some weird shit.” The bar staff is looking forward to pairing Misfit’s unique snacks with their craft cocktails, and eventually, there will be food-and-drink specials and pop-up events, too.
As Porytko settles into his new digs, he’ll expand Misfit’s menu to include dishes like a gyro terrine flatbread, carrot enchiladas with beet mole, and a sweet soy-braised tofu sandwich on milk bread. Even more exciting is the fact that all of Misfit’s dishes are recipe tests, so to speak, for Porytko’s planned Eastern European market and cafe in RiNo, which he hopes to open in late summer 2020. There, the chef intends to sell kielbasa and other meats, pierogi, and the like, all made with care and creativity.
Misfit Snackbar at Middleman (3401 E. Colfax) is open whenever the bar is, namely Sunday and Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 4–12 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m.–2 a.m.