When a friend was passing through Colorado with time for only one meal out, I took him to Work & Class. While my research meals to pen the review that appears in our November issue were already complete, I felt the Ballpark hotspot offered an important expression of the industry energy in Denver right now. But there was more to my choice than that. Selfishly, I was craving the restaurant’s Massive Attack salad. The salad—made with spinach dressed in a preserved lemon vinaigrette; large chunks of warm tempura broccoli; nuggets of al dente asparagus, soft avocado, fresh cucumbers; and wide shavings of Pecorino—is as storied as it is delicious.
About 10 years ago, Work & Class co-owner Tony Maciag was working at Jennifer Jasinski’s Rioja. One slow weeknight, just before the restaurant closed at 10 p.m., a group of guys walked through the door and saddled up to the bar. “Servers, bartenders, everyone was gone,” Maciag remembers. “I was the last one there and I was about to lock the front door.” The men settled onto all 10 bar stools and began cracking jokes in thick British accents. As they quipped, Maciag pieced together enough of their conversation to realize that it was Massive Attack, the British trip-hop band, and members of their entourage. The group proceeded to order a bunch of food, and one requested a “mixed green salad.” When it arrived, Maciag says, the Brit looked at it, perplexed, and blurted out “this looks like leaves!” Apparently, he wasn’t expecting a plate of mixed greens, but a dish of mixed green things, like “peas and beans and broccoli and asparagus,” he told Maciag.
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From then on, anytime Maciag ordered a salad he greeted its arrival with “this looks like leaves,” in his thickest British accent. Hearing the inside joke countless times, fellow Work & Class co-owners Delores Tronco and Dana Rodriguez (also Jasinski disciples) agreed their new restaurant should offer a salad that resembled what Maciag’s mate from Massive Attack was expecting in a salad. Thus was born the craveable spinach salad served on North Larimer today.
Although Maciag says that members of the British band have not yet been to Work & Class, I’m pretty sure this ode to them would meet their approval. It has certainly met mine and, seemingly, all of Denver’s. Maciag counts the salad as one of the restaurant’s best-selling items—so much so that he says, “That salad might not ever get to leave the menu.”