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Even the most celebrated Broadway shows eventually take their final bows to make room for new performances. So ended the 15-year run of Hotel Teatro’s special-occasion destination Restaurant Kevin Taylor and its accompanying bar, Prima (both steps from the Denver Theatre District), in May. In reinventing the iconic hotel’s entire first floor, Catherine Frank, founder of Telluride-based Studio Frank, transformed the space’s new restaurant, the Nickel (and its fireside lounge counterpart, the Study), into a more casual, contemporary scene in line with current dining trends: sustainable and local sourcing, shareable plates, barrel-aged cocktails. Frank calls her aesthetic interpretation “rough luxe,” a classic Colorado riff on places like the Mercer in New York City or the hip Ace Hotel chain. Plush settees and low tables in the Study (which serves breakfast and appetizers) encourage hotel guests to linger over Method Roasters’ small-batch coffee; an expanded patio outside and comfortable banquettes within invite downtown office-dwellers to make the Nickel, which opened in July, a lunch go-to; and unobscured windows create a see-and-be-seen vibe for theatergoers grabbing drinks at the restaurant’s central Barrel Bar. Sequels aren’t often sellouts—but in this case, act two may be even better than the original.
Selections from the Nickel’s charcuterie program—think house-cured meats, cheeses, pickled veggies, and Marcona almonds—are displayed on glass cheese cloche–inspired platters, which do double-duty as decor throughout the space. To find out where your dinner comes from, check the back of your menu, where maps of Denver and Colorado call out ingredient provenances, such as Jumpin’ Good Goat Dairy cheese from Buena Vista. pictured, above
In the kitchen, executive chef Chris Thompson—formerly of San Francisco’s celebrated A16—commands a custom-built wood-burning rotisserie tiled with the restaurant’s moniker, an homage to the venue’s former life as a tramway building in 1911 (when five cents bought a streetcar ride). pictured, right
To increase natural light and make passersby, in addition to hotel guests, feel welcome to dine in both the Study and the Nickel, Frank banished Restaurant Kevin Taylor’s heavy drapes and sun-blocking awnings. “People might actually think we changed or added windows,” Frank says, “but we just exposed them.” pictured, main image
Take A Seat
The Nickel’s banquettes invite diners to get cozy and stay a while. Frank chose a cotton velvet and Belgian linen fabric with an antler-esque design (“the Stag” was a finalist for the name of the restaurant). pictured, main image
The tabletops are made from reclaimed bleacher wood, and the bases are repurposed punch presses once used to shape metal. pictured, main image
Frank chose zinc for the bartop to contrast all the painted and natural wood nearby. Lights made from vintage glass insulators—the bell-shaped fixtures once widely used to secure wires atop telegraph, telephone, and electric poles—illuminate classic cocktails that have been barrel-aged for several weeks before being put on tap (don’t miss the Manhattan with Leopold Bros. whiskey). pictured, right