“We’re opening tomorrow for drinks and on Monday for real; food will come later,” says Chad Michael George, co-owner of the Way Back in Highland. The much-anticipated opening comes almost a year after George (a Williams & Graham veteran and president of the Colorado Bartenders’ Guild), Kade Gianinetti, (of Method Coffee Roasters), and Jared Schwartz (of American Grind food truck) bought the building on 38th Avenue.

The first thing you’ll notice upon walking into the cocktail bar and restaurant is the backlit acrylic mural that spans the length of the bar. The bold images (which are mirrored on the menu) range from botanical close-ups to sun-showered farmland to swaying stalks of grain. The whole look has an Atlas Shrugged immediacy to it. “The inspiration for [the piece] reflected the idea of what the Way Back is all about, which is getting back to doing things the way they were before we starting taking shortcuts,” George says.

With a mission statement like that, it shouldn’t surprise you that the entire space has a solid, well made quality to it. Breton Lujan and Mike Blea of Raw Creative designed, fabricated, and installed everything from the stamped concrete panels on the bar to the wooden chairs and tables. (Lujan’s brother Loren designed the mural.) The entire feel is simple but confident and authentic—sentiments that carry over to the cocktails.

“Something I’m not into is complicated cocktails,” George says. “Ours have only a few ingredients but those ingredients are complex on the front end.” As an example, he points to a drink called the Forager, for which bartender Austin Carson made a roasted mushroom Fernet, an egg-washed Angostura bitters, and a lemon-poppy seed syrup to be shaken with lemon juice and an egg white. The menu keeps things simple too: “We don’t list all the ingredients because no one knows what Suze or Cardamaro are; we’re selling the experience—like you would a glass of wine—not the ingredients.”

When food service begins in April, expect what George calls peasant comfort food: utilitarian but modern (think snail stroganoff, bass crudo, roasted chicken) with meats from Western Daughters and produce from local farmers.

In the meantime, head over on Saturday and raise a glass to George, Gianinetti, Schwartz, and celebrate this long-awaited entity.

4132 W. 38th Ave., 720-728-8156, thewaybackdenver.com

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Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.