If you haven’t seen it yet in passing, The Nickel is the new restaurant inside the beautiful Hotel Teatro in the Theatre District (where Restaurant Kevin Taylor used to be) — and it’s the perfect addition to the neighborhood. It’s not as intimidating as perhaps Restaurant Kevin Taylor was for many people. After all, Denver isn’t really a city of fine dining. Don’t get me wrong, we have fantastic chefs and spectacular food here — but this is still largely a town of non-pretentious midwesterners who don’t really want to wear a suit to a restaurant (and as a California transplant, I love that about this city).
What The Nickel does really well is straddle the line between a fine dining establishment worthy of the space in the Hotel Teatro — and an approachable local restaurant that’s perfect for a cocktail and some salami. I say salami, because Chef/Salumaio Christopher Thompson (who even knew “Salumaio” was a thing?) has put together an amazing charcuterie selection here. But more on that later.
The Nickel is a beautiful space, but you’ll notice it feels a lot more open and approachable than its predecessor. Dark tablecloths and classic, upholstered ivory chairs have been replaced with lots of wood, leather, fun patterns, and industrial lamps.
The 4-6pm daily happy hour here is very reasonable. For just $5, you can get a pretty good glass of wine, one of the select cocktails, or a draft beer.
If you’re willing to splurge, the Seven-Nickel ($12) isn’t on the happy hour menu, but it’s one of my favorite cocktails anywhere: Leopold’s small batch gin, lemon juice, prosecco, citrus twist.
And my boyfriend was a big fan of the Blood & Stone (also $12): Monkey Shoulder scotch, blood orange juice, lillet, sage peppercorn simple syrup.
So back to the charcuterie selection. Christopher Thompson is the executive chef and salumaio at San Francisco’s award-winning A16 restaurant — so I had pretty high expectations. The meat and cheese list does not disappoint. I’m just sad that the headcheese I fell in love with at The Nickel’s Cochon 555 station isn’t on the menu anymore (and that’s what I was most excited about).
We had the Jamon Iberico ($11) and Chicken Liver Mousse ($9), both of which were not only delicious, but also definitely did not skimp on the portions.
As for some small plates off the regular menu, the Spicy Giardinera (carrots, cauliflower, jalapeno, celery) goes very well with meat, cheese, and wine.
This is the Shaved Asparagus “salad” — which has plenty of bresaola on the side to make the carnivore inside me very happy.
I also recommend the Braised Pork Meatballs ($13), which are very filling for a “small plate.” I mean who doesn’t love them some meatballs?
I’m not sure this was my favorite preparation of Veal Sweetbreads, but if you like fried things, then maybe you’ll be a fan of this. The maitake mushrooms, asparagus puree, and asparagus tips help brighten up the dish, though.