Have you walked through the area behind Union Station lately? The zone near the train is finally beginning to take shape after years of construction: The Local(ish) Market hums with commuters and office workers picking up grab-and-go fare, Tavernetta by Frasca is quickly nearing completion, and Citizen Rail, the weeks-old restaurant in the newly completed Kimpton Hotel Born, is already attracting a steady stream of diners eager to sample San Diego chef Christian Graves’ meaty fare.

Citizen Rail’s menu is structured just like a steak house menu should be, with plenty of space devoted to showcasing the results of the in-house dry-aging program—bone-in rib-eyes, pork porterhouses, a massive 36-ounce tomahawk steak for two.

Citizen Rail’s dry-aged rib-eye topped with grilled onion and rosemary.

But the true inspiration behind the concept is the grill, which features a rotating cast of woods such as mesquite and white oak. Grab a seat at the exhibition kitchen for a front-row view of the magic. The grill’s smoky flavor permeates most menu items, from divine cilantro-butter-topped grilled oysters to charred eggplant “caviar” (part of a vegetarian “chef’s board” appetizer spread) to grilled pineapple with A.D. Laws’ rye whiskey in the Catch the Westbound cocktail.

Citizen Rail
At Citizen Rail, escarole takes a spin on the wood-fired grill.

Surprisingly, our very favorite dish was, in fact, a grilled salad. A cross-section of slightly bitter, caramelized escarole is served warm with toasted hazelnuts and hemp seeds, black currants, sunny yellow slices of roasted beet, and aged sheep’s milk cheese. The precise balance of textures and flavors is convincing proof of chef Graves’ grill mastery.

Bonus: Head to Citizen Rail’s hopping bar area for great happy hour deals, including $7 “shot-and-a-beer”-style combos such as saison plus amaro or a glass of rosé plus mezcal.

1899 16th St., 303-323-0017

Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin is a writer living in Westminster, and has been covering food and sustainability in the Centennial State for more than five years.