Rebel Restaurant: A Great Happy Hour and Creative Dishes in RiNo

I’d been wanting to try Rebel Restaurant since it first opened (on the corner of Wynkoop and 38th, right off Brighton). Zagat included it on its “Denver’s 10 Hottest New Restaurants,” and it was on Eater’s “The Hottest Restaurants in Denver Right Now.” The concept is fun and creative (although maybe not for everyone). I say just put your adventurous hat on and try it!

When you first drive up, you can definitely tell that Rebel occupies a former dive bar spot — but looks are deceiving. The inside is cozy and fun — with creative decor and large community-style tables.

Rebel Restaurant outside

I’ve read that it’s a Ukrainian-influenced restaurant, and having talked to one of the owners, I know they’re both from a the East Coast and of Ukrainian background — but as someone who was born and raised in Ukraine myself — I’d say the influence is very mild.

Rebel Restaurant inside


The Food

The food here is pretty awesome, and very much on creative side. I came here with a big group of people, so we got to try most things on the menu (sadly, there was no “pig part of the day” that day). The menu changes pretty often (about every month) — so don’t get too attached to trying anything I mention below. Trust me, there will always be delicious things on the menu.

During Happy Hour, beer/cocktails are discounted (unfortunately the wine is not), and all apps are $2 off. It’s the last part that makes eating here an AMAZING deal. Especially if you’re with a bigger group and can try a bunch of things. We came here with 8 people, and it was the perfect amount (we were completely full after spending only about $20 each on food). I couldn’t find the HH hours on the site, but if memory serves me right, it’s 5pm-6:30pm.

Even the popcorn here is weird. The “shrimp cocktail” — popcorn, powdered cocktail sauce, and dried shrimp — was pretty awesome in my opinion, but it’s definitely got a very fishy/shrimpy flavor, which wasn’t everyone’s favorite.

Rebel Restaurant shrimp cocktail popcorn

Boudin Balls are one of my favorite things in life. Big balls with braised pork belly, rice, cajun spices — what could be better?

Rebel Restaurant boudin balls

The “pierogi of the day” happened to be sweet potato & sage that day. Not something I’d ever expect to find in a dumpling, but it was a surprisingly good combination.

Rebel Restaurant pierogi

This is the foie gras parfait with pear puree. Because it’s a parfait, even the people at the table who don’t normally like foie gras liked this. However, I personally love foie gras, so I could have stood for something a little more adventurous. (Gotta love that pork skin though!)

Rebel Restaurant foie gras parfait

The Squid Noodles with kimchi peanut puree, grilled scallion, seaweed, and yuba — really good if you enjoy Korean/Japanese flavors.

Rebel Restaurant squid noodles

This is from the entree section: the Pork Pot Pie with durok pork, mushrooms, leeks, carrots, and parsnips. It’s basically a deconstructed pot pie, and it’s incredibly tender and juicy and delicious. I want to see more comfort food like this made into modern dishes.

Rebel Restaurant pork pot pie

Another entree: the Roasted Pork Belly with buffalo oysters, eggs, and farm greens. Who doesn’t love huge pieces of pork belly? (Get out if you don’t.) Also, if you’ve ever wanted to try “rocky mountain oysters” (bull balls), these are probably the best place to do it. Sure, they’re buffalo, but they’re probably the best treatment of balls I’ve tried. I’m going to stop talking about balls now.

Rebel Restaurant roasted pork belly

And this was probably my favorite entree: smoked rabbit and matza meatloaf with tart cherry ketchup, confit rabbit gravy, navy beans, and greens.

Rebel Restaurant rabbit meatloaf

Overall, this was a great place I’d definitely go back to during HH. I’m a little bitter about wine not being on the HH menu, though — as well as not getting to try the pig part of the day.

 

My New Favorite Ramen Restaurant: Osaka Ramen in RiNo

Osaka Ramen calls itself “Denver’s Best Ramen Shop” — and so far, I have to agree. You may have heard of chef-restaurateur Jeff Osaka from Twelve — an amazing restaurant that was once located on Larimer Street, between 22nd and Park Ave (and where Butcher’s Bistro is now). Personally, I was very sad when it closed, but I’m happy that Chef Osaka now has another restaurant.

Osaka Ramen is a really cute underground space in the middle of the quickly-growing RiNo neighborhood — with a casual atmosphere and fun, playful artwork (like the mural of Godzilla trudging through Tokyo). And it always smells like delicious ramen 🙂

Osaka Ramen inside

And if you sit at the counter, you might just see Chef Osaka overseeing the kitchen. Plus, you’re closer to the amazing smell coming from the huge ramen pots.

Osaka Ramen chef osaka


The Food

One of my favorite things about Osaka Ramen is that, unlike almost every other ramen place I’ve been to in Denver, the food isn’t ridiculously over-salted (except Bones — I love their Lobster Ramen).

I also loved the shishito peppers here (and I’ve had shishito peppers pretty much everywhere). They’re just lightly blistered, so they still taste light and fresh — and the bonito flakes are awesome.

Osaka Ramen shishito peppers

The ramen bowls here run $12-$14, and there are 5 options to choose from. I had the Spicy Miso ramen below (pork and chicken broth, aka miso, sesame, bean sprouts, garlic, spicy pork, soft egg). I would say this actually wasn’t very spicy, but there’s also Sriracha at every table, so that was easily remedied. Otherwise, it was incredibly flavorful and perfectly balanced between all the ingredients.

Osaka Ramen spicy ramen

I would normally never think to order vegetarian anything (because what’s the point, right?). However, the vegetable ramen here is actually really good. It’s probably the thai green coconut curry — which is good enough to make me forgive the tofu.

Osaka Ramen vegetable ramen

Leave some room, because the desserts here are fantastic. The $7 “My Wife’s Donuts” (mochi donuts, kinako sugar, salted butter) was one of those things dreams are made of. They’re definitely some of the best donuts you’ll ever eat.

Osaka Ramen donuts

Work & Class: High-Quality Food and Drink, Meat by the 1/4 Pound, and a Fantastic Happy Hour

Ever since it opened on the corner of Larimer & 25th, Work & Class has been one of my favorite restaurants in Denver. I just love their commitment to “high-quality product at a fair price, served in a fun atmosphere” — as well as the choose-your-own-adventure type of menu that mixes the best of American and Latin flavors. The chef, Dana Rodriguez, was a James Beard semi-finalist (and you’ll often see her working hard right alongside everyone and running around making sure all the guests are happy). Work & Class has gotten tons of accolades since it first opened and is considered one of the top Denver restaurants. I have to agree.

The only down side is that it doesn’t open until 4pm, is closed on Mondays, and doesn’t take reservations. Take note of that last part and get here early if you want to get a seat.


HAPPY HOUR

Happy hour runs 4-6pm Tue-Fri, and 4-5pm Sat/Sun. I love places that do happy hour on weekends, too! If that wasn’t enough, they’ve now added a “Happiest Hour” 4-5pm Tue-Fri, with an additional 20% off all happy hour food and drink. That’s the first time I’ve heard of the concept, and I’m so down!

Happy hour includes fancy barrel-aged cocktails for $9, house cocktails for $6, wine for $4 (or $7 for the fancy stuff), and draft beer for $4. The food menu is always changing, but you can currently get decadent, flavorful little dishes like green chili cheese fries with braised pork, tamarind pork ribs, bacon-wrapped asparagus and grits, chipotle chicken pot pie, vegetarian chile relleno, etc. These run you about $6-$10 on happy hour.


The Atmosphere

Work & Class has become somewhat of a cornerstone in the quickly growing RiNo district. It’s a cute little space right across the street from Los Chingones, Sugarmill, Americatus Italian, and Billy’s Gourmet Hot Dogs — and right next door to Cart-Driver. And it’s my favorite of all the options.

Work & Class outside

The inside is bright and cheerful, and it fills up very fast (this photo was probably taken around 4:10pm right when Work & Class opened). Personally, I like sitting inside instead of outside. It tends to get really hot on the covered outdoor patio.

Work & Class inside

I think it’s a really nice touch that they bring you a little starter bite as soon as you sit down (this is the chickpea croquette, for example).

Work & Class small bite


The Drinks

The cocktails here are pretty fantastic: tart pomegranate-cucumber (pictured below), spicy-basil sour, yucatan orange-clove, fresh watermelon-lime, etc. And true to the choose-your-own-adventure menu style, you pick the flavors you like — and can get any type of alcohol mixed in.

Work & Class cocktail


The Food

One of the cool things about the food here is you get to pick and choose what you want, how much of it, and paired with what. You pick your meat (or two) and decide whether you want 1/4 lb, 1/2 lb, or 1 lb. And then you pick any of the sides (in a regular or large size). So if you’re with other people, you can just order a bunch of stuff and mix and match:

Work & Class food

Of the appetizers here, my favorite is the Peppers Five Ways (fresno poppers, bacon-wrapped jalapeños, grilled shishitos, mixed pickled peppers, and pepper jam). They span the range of spiciness and give you a little variety. Personally though, I love spicy food and could just eat the fresno poppers all day (crunchy on the outside, cheesy on the inside, just spicy enough — mmmmm).

Work & Class peppers

If it’s your first time here, you have to try the roasted goat (cabrito). Even if it’s just to say you did. It’s tender and juicy — and if I had to compare it to another meat, I’d say it’s closest in flavor to lamb. My husband comes here just for the goat, and sometimes get extra just to make with eggs the next morning.

Work & Class goat

My personal meat favorite here is  braised short rib. It’s so tender it just falls apart as soon as you touch it with your fork. (The braising style usually varies, and I believe currently these are stout-braised.)

Work & Class short rib

When it comes to sides, I absolutely love the twice baked potatoes (these may be seasonal). Mashed potatoes are one of my favorite things in the world, and if they have bacon and other toppings on top of them, even better.

Work & Class potatoes

Another great side is the fried sweet plantains, which are a constant here. This place and Cuba Cuba are the two perfect places to try these if you haven’t before.

Work & Class plantains