Major Tom

2845 Larimer St., Denver
The Draw: A creative, farm-driven menu; one of Denver’s best patios
The Drawback: Fine-dining quality means the bill edges up quickly
Noise Level: Low
Don’t Miss: Champagne and sparkling wine, oysters, tartines

There are times when a restaurant persists despite having closed its doors. It becomes a ghost of sorts. Or, in the case of eight-month-old Major Tom, you could say Call’s lingering spirit is more like a long shadow. Located in the space that now houses Major Tom, Call was such a lunch revelation that its bright daytime menu earned it a spot on Bon Appétit’s 10 Best New Restaurants list in 2018. But then, in late 2019, it closed for renovations and never reopened. So when the same hospitality team—Craig Lieberman of 34 Degrees Crisps, executive chef Duncan Holmes, and director of experience Allison Anderson—opened this cosmic-themed bar and restaurant in its place in February 2023, many hoped it would be Call 2.0.

Call was definitely a hit, and for those still lamenting the loss, there are lasting vestiges to be found at Major Tom. Continued are the rustic, open-faced sandwiches called tartines, the warm and informed service, the attention to detail, and the lunar mural on the patio wall, part of the inspiration for the space-y theme. But Major Tom isn’t the second coming of Call. It’s its own thing—and that’s more than good enough.

You’ll notice the changes immediately: The entrance has been reconfigured, so you now come in from the back of the bungalow-turned-restaurant, and the fence surrounding the patio is higher. There are 26 seats inside instead of 10, and the decor, once sunny and bright, is now moody and in keeping with the David Bowie–inspired name. This squares with shifting the focus from Call’s day-to-night model to Major Tom’s evening-service-specific setup.

The idea for Major Tom stemmed from a pre-pandemic trip to Scandinavia, where Holmes and Anderson (both formerly of Frasca Food and Wine) were traveling for fun and encountered many restaurants with impressive Champagne and sparkling programs. “It’s something that piggybacks on [sister restaurant] Beckon but also stands on its own,” Holmes says.

Five-year-old Beckon, which sits a few feet away and won a Michelin star in September for its first-in-Denver chef’s counter, is the showpiece of the pair. Major Tom spins its dishes from the same carefully procured ingredients with the same degree of attention, but with a more come-as-you-are approach.

Oysters and fries with Champagne
Oysters and fries with Champagne. Photo by Sarah Banks

In high demand are the oysters and the fries—best ordered together for high-low decadence. The ice-cold bivalves are adorned with Champagne gelée and a ring of pickled shallots. Savor the cool bite and then reach for the fries, which arrive piping hot and are close to the Platonic ideal (yes, hat-tip to McDonald’s).

A must-order is the Big Crunchy Green Salad. Ho-hum as it may sound, the tangle of greens is the masterwork of Esoterra Culinary Garden near Boulder. Major Tom’s kitchen staff just gives the rotating assortment of leaves a hearty toss with a heady, mustardy vinaigrette and lets the greenery do the rest. On the two occasions I had the salad, which is too big for two people, the dressing varied in potency. When you order it, hope for full strength.

Big ass salad
Big Crunch Green Salad. Photo by Sarah Banks

The tartines are thick-cut pieces of toast loaded with all manner of ingredients. The version with chanterelles, Burrata, and cherries remains a glorious reminder that sandwiches are better without lids. The Shooting Star, a caviar-topped stack of prawns and fried halibut on remoulade-smeared sourdough toast, is a Major Tom original influenced by a classic Danish open-face sandwich, and a luxurious one at that.

As the most expensive item on the menu ($56), the pork chop arrives surprisingly unadorned, outside of being sauced with brown butter and red wine vinegar. “This is representative of Duncan’s pared-down style,” Justin Mueller, wine director for Beckon and Major Tom, says. “It’s honest, it’s fresh. He lets whatever it is shine.” You’ll probably agree that the rich, well-marbled pork is flavorful on its own, but at that price, you’ll still likely wish for an accompaniment.

Mueller’s wine list, which includes 40-plus sparkling options, was curated with quality in mind. Instead of cheap glasses of bubbles, you’ll find wines from the premier producers of Champagne. “We have a few sparkling options that are not Champagne, but if you want to swing for the fences, you can get a $400 bottle, or a single diner can get a really special glass,” he says.

Mueller’s infectious enthusiasm and knowledge pushed me to order a $28 glass of Marc Hebart rosé—a pour from one of the roughly five magnum and double magnum bottles the eatery offers each week. I was glad I did, because one sip and the tiny bubbles burst forth with spring strawberries, unsweetened cream, and sea breeze.

This is the fizzy fun of Major Tom: At every turn, the restaurant draws you into its orbit. While there are glimpses of Call, it’s clear that Major Tom has its own gravitational pull, one that isn’t eclipsed by its predecessor.

Taste the Stars

Just about every restaurant in town offers a glass of something sparkling. But to really dive into the thrilling world of Champagne, prosecco, and cava, sip from these local menus. —AMF

Sunday Vinyl
Everything about Sunday Vinyl at Union Station feels upbeat, from the records spinning on the turntables to the bubbles selection. Sip a snappy Austrian rosé from Salomon Undhof or the slightly savory 2022 L’Escale Sauvignon Blanc from Vincent Roussely. Need some guidance? Enlist the help of sommelier Clara Klein’s astute palate. 1803 16th St.

Noble Riot
Intent on debunking the tired myth that wine is all highbrow, RiNo’s Noble Riot stocks its wine bar and shop with grapes that serve as conversation pieces. Like the rest of the list, the sparkling offerings are meant to raise eyebrows. From the Pét-Nat and Weirdo Bubbs Bottle list, look for the Strekov 1075 Créme #6 from Slovakia for notes of pear and marzipan. 1336 27th St.

Wine from Restaurant Olivia
Berlucci Franciacorta ’61 from Restaurant Olivia. Photo courtesy of Restaurant Olivia

Restaurant Olivia
We appreciate this Wash Park spot’s commitment to Italian sparkling wines. The single by-the-glass offering—the Berlucchi Franciacorta Brut ’61—goes with almost everything on the menu. Or scan the exciting bottle options, in particular the Lambrusco and Refosco sections. Known as food wines, these value-friendly picks are worth discovering. 290 S. Downing St.

This article was originally published in 5280 October 2023.
Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.