Bite of the Week: Maine Mussels at The Kitchen

Note: the last few times I’ve been here, this hasn’t been on the menu, so I would call to see if these are in season if you’re going to The Kitchen just for the mussels.


As someone who used to work in LoDo (and still frequents it for all my client meetings), I have visited pretty much every restaurant in the area for lunch. And one of my favorite lunch options in downtown/LoDo is the mussels dish at The Kitchen.

The Kitchen Mussels

The “Maine Mussels” (garlic, fresno chili, thyme, grilled bread) are listed as a “starter,” but I think they’re enough for a full meal — although they’re not as big as some of the mussels pots you may be used to. At $16, they’re a little pricy, but that’s The Kitchen for you. I’m pretty sure there might be an entire stick of butter in that broth, and I so don’t care. Plus these are some of the biggest, juiciest mussels I’ve found in Denver. Unfortunately, they’re only available when they’re in season.

I think the only other dish that comes close is the Panang curry mussels at Jax — but unfortunately Jax isn’t open for lunch. The mussels are on the happy hour menu there, though, so come 4pm — pop on over there!

And if you’re looking for a good white wine, my personal favorite at The Kitchen is the Rebholtz Pinot Blanc (Pfalz, Germany), although the $50 price tag isn’t small.

The Kitchen wine

Humboldt: A Fantastic Sunday HH on a Patio in Uptown

Humboldt Farm, Fish & Wine is one of my top 2 or 3 favorite places to go on a Sunday for happy hour. They have a perfect patio for lounging about — and also $1 oysters ALL SUNDAY. Happy hour starts at 3pm — so if you get here early, just gorge yourself on some oysters first, and then order more food off the HH menu once 3 rolls around. I’m sure the brunch is also delicious, but I just love the HH menu here too much.


$1 Oyster Sundays

Yes, you heard that right. They’re $1! That’s cheaper than anywhere else in the area (even Jax does them for $1.50 for happy hour, and they don’t even open until dinner). And these aren’t just their happy hour oysters. ALL the oysters must go. So premium oysters are all $1. That’s pretty much my definition of the best deal ever.

Humboldt oyster Sunday

Just note: it’s only while they last, so if you show up after me on a Sunday, sorry! 😉

Humboldt oysters


The Happy Hour: 3pm-6pm every day

You always need to know a few spots that have HH every day, not just weekdays. And this is one of them. Wines and beer run just $4-$6 for some fantastic options, and cocktails are $6.

I’m also pretty much in love with the HH menu here. So far, I’ve tried everything on it but the mussels (but I hear Mondays are now Bottomless Mussels day, so I’m sure to remedy that shortly).

Humboldt HH menu

I’ve tried a lot of different chicken liver patés around Denver, and this is one of my favorites (and only $5 during HH). The trout one is also good, but I prefer the chicken. Unfortunately, I think they only have the trout one now.

Humboldt pates

The Humboldt Burger won Westord’s best burger a few years ago, and you’ll see why when you try it. There’s a $4 mini slider version of it on HH, too!

Humboldt HH burger

The veggies here are surprisingly good too (I only say surprisingly because I’m mostly a carnivore). We got the brussel sprouts and crispy broccoli — and holy crap, that crispy broccoli is one of my favorite veggie dishes ever.

Humboldt veggies


The Wine

I can’t not mention the wine. As a California transplant, I love wine. I drink a lot of it, and I know my way around it pretty well. So trust me when I say Humboldt has a fantastic selection of affordable, unique wines. I’ve had probably half of the white wines here — and I have yet to be disappointed. They’re also currently doing a Summer of Rosé, so ask your server about that!

Humboldt wine menu

Stoic & Genuine: The Perfect Spot for Some Sunshine & Seafood at Union Station

I have to be honest. It took me a little while to warm up to the new Stoic & Genuine seafood restaurant at Union Station downtown. At first glance, it seemed a little too expensive and fancy for Denver. And who hasn’t made fun of this new hipster trend of naming restaurants “____ & ____”? There’s even a Hipster Business Name Generator where you can get your own (like Parsley & Sea, for example). Let’s be honest: 99% of the population probably can’t even tell you what “stoic” means.

But then I found myself repeatedly ending up at S&G on the weekends. They have this great little patio with a perfect view of all the hustle and bustle outside Union Station — and on a hot day, what sounds better than a cold bottle of white wine and some oysters under one of those umbrellas? So that’s how I found myself at Stoic & Genuine over and over, until I realized that I kind of love this place. The location is perfect, the seafood is fantastic, the wine is cold, and the people are pretty friendly and genuine (see what I did there?).

The down side is that it is a little expensive. If you split the whole fish (see below), you can save a lot on food, but their wines seem to have gone up in price (there used to be a couple of great options such as an Albariño for under $30, but now they seem to be $50+).

outside Stoic & Genuine


The Happy Hour

This is the best time to come here, although the happy hour is a bit strangely time if you work an 8-5 job. It runs from 2pm to 4:30pm on Monday through Friday. The good news is that it runs almost all day Sunday, from 11am to 4:30pm! Or when you work as a freelancer like me, who cares?

If you know me, you know I love me some oysters — and this place has them! You can choose from a variety of $2 oysters during happy hour (although they’re $1.50 at Jax, but you don’t get a choice of oysters there and they don’t open until 4pm). And the house wines, daily granita cocktails, and select beers are only $3!

stoic and genuine happy hour oysters and wine


The Food

The reason I first thought S&G was so expensive is because the appetizers are a little pricey — so if you decide to get an appetizer and an entree and drinks, you’re spending a pretty penny. For example, the Big Eye Tuna Tartare with smoked jalapeño, radish, tempura avocado, aioli — while delicious — costs about $16. I got it during Restaurant Week, but not I’m sure I’d get it otherwise.

tuna tartare at Stoic & Genuine

Even some of the main dishes, like the crab cakes, aren’t very sizable — albeit very good. They’re packed with real crab and mixed with a good amount of spice and seasoning to add just enough flavor. I think they’re a great “main” if you’re not too hungry, but maybe not as good as the ones at Jax (sorry to compare the 2 again). And the heirloom tomato succotash on the summer 2017 menu? Where is the heirloom tomato…?

If you get anything here, get the Crispy Whole Haddock (with lemongrass butter, lime, ponzu, and fresno chiles). The Haddock is seriously where it’s at. At market price, it’s usually about $30, but it’s definitely a full meal for 2 people. It’s the house specialty, and it does not disappoint. As you can tell, we loved it. The poor thing didn’t stand a chance…

Haddock at Stoic & Genuine, before and after

If you’re looking for an individual entree, the Squid Mac (with Point Judith RI squid, cream cheese hollandaise, grilled Maine lobster tail, and watercress) is pretty amazing, too. Although it’s almost the same price as the Haddock. This option is a lot creamier, but I wouldn’t say it’s sharable.

Lobster at Stoic & Genuine

Lobster at Stoic & Genuine, before and after

Another great option is the Steamed Clams (with Bilbao chorizo, tomato fondue, fennel, and ciabatta). I’m usually a bit hesitant about ordering mussels or clams with chorizo, because it tends to get too salty and greasy — but this one is done right. The chorizo comes as larger pieces of the spicy little sausage, and it doesn’t completely overpower the clams.

clams at Stoic & Genuine

I’ve also come here for a special occasion, so I was prepared to splurge — and I got the whole lobster. Holy crap this thing was good. But definitely not cheap. #WorthIt

whole lobster at stoic and genuine

A special mention to the bread pudding:

I didn’t take a photo, because I almost never eat desserts. Sweets just aren’t my thing. So why bother taking a photo? I was wrong. Restaurant Week comes with a dessert, so we ordered the Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding (with hot buttered rum sauce and creme fraiche ice cream). And this thing is amazing. And that comes from someone who rarely says that about dessert.

Chowder and BBQ Shrimp to Warm Your Heart at Chowder Room

So I finally made it out to Chowder Room (560 S. Broadway) — one of the first Denver restaurants to open in 2015, and one I’d been meaning to visit ever since I heard about it. And it was awesome!

When I first walked into Chowder Room, it reminded me of a cozy seafood shack. The first word that comes to mind is “quaint” — but in the best sense of the word. It’s friendly and unpretentious. If you meet Chef-Owner Matt Stein, you’ll realize that it’s the perfect embodiment of who he is: a humble but extremely talented chef who’ll ask you about all your favorite restaurants rather than talking about his accolades at some of the best seafood restaurants in LA.
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Denver’s Best Crab & Crawfish Boil: Crawling Crab on South Federal

I face an internal dilemma, because Crawling Crab (781 South Federal Boulevard) is one of my favorite restaurants ever that I go to all the time, and I would really like for it to stay the secret gem it is — but I feel like I must share my discovery. Hopefully, by the time that thousands of you regularly read this blog, this post will be long buried 😉

Crawling Crab has some of the most amazing crab and crawfish I’ve ever tasted — at inexplicably cheap prices. I don’t know how they do it, but I’m glad they do. If it was a little closer to me, I’d be here every day.

Crawling Crab isn’t a fancy place. It’s tucked into a little alcove off South Federal next door to Pho 79, and inside it looks like what you’d expect a restaurant in a strip mall to look like: a few simple tables and booths, some themed decorations, and flat-screen TVs everywhere (the photo below was taken from their Facebook). So I didn’t really expect much when a friend of mine first recommended it to me. In fact, I was a little skeptical. Man am I glad I came though.

Crawling Crab has some of the most delicious crab and crawfish ever — smothered in a house sauce that’s exploding with spices and huge pieces of garlic — all for about $8-$9/pound (that’s cheaper than most grocery stores!). I would even venture to say it’s better than some of the crawfish boils I’ve had in New Orleans, just because the sauce is so good. I’ve come here with 4 people and stuffed our faces until we couldn’t eat another bite, and left with a $100 tab (beer included).

Note: they only serve a few basic kinds of beer when it comes to alcohol, but that’s honestly what goes best with the food.


What To Get

The menu is pretty simple. I don’t even need to look at it to order. Having tried everything, here’s what I suggest getting (just trust me and go with it).

  • 1-2 orders of the dungeness crab clusters, in the all-in sauce (I recommend the mild version even if you like spicy food, because it will still be garlicy and spicy, but without beating out the flavor of the crab)
  • 1-2 orders of the crawfish, also in the all-in sauce, and throw in a side of sausage and enough baked potatoes and corn-on-the-cob to go around
  • 1 order of the clams, in the garlic butter sauce
  • Beer (duh)
  • NOTE: Don’t get the king crab. At about $24/pound, it’s 3x as expensive as the dungeness, but not 3x more delicious.

How It Works

Everything comes in clear plastic bags, filled with whatever you ordered and smothered with your choice of sauce. No fancy plates here, and that’s how I like it. Just make sure to put on your bib and tie your hair back — it’s about to get ugly.

You take all those bags and just dump them out on your table (now all that wax paper “tablecloth” makes sense). If you don’t eat fast, you may want to only dump 1/2 a bag out at a time to keep it hot (but I wouldn’t know anything about that).

And this is what your table should look like when you’re done: a shellfish wasteland.

Enough said.

 

The Best Spot for Happy Hour Oysters & Seafood in Downtown Denver: Jax Fish House

Having spent most of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m a sucker for raw oysters. They’re pretty much one of my essential food groups. I have to admit, I was a bit concerned when I first moved to Denver, because being landlocked in the middle of the country doesn’t exactly scream “fresh seafood.” However, you’d be amazed how much great seafood there is in Denver, with many restaurants flying it in every morning. And one of my personal favorites is Jax Fish House in LoDo (1539 17th Street). Not the least because they have:

$1.50 Oyster Happy Hour

HAPPY HOUR is 4-6pm every day (and all day Monday!), and now there’s a late happy hour too (which they surprisingly don’t mention on their website). It goes for the last hour that they’re open (9-10pm M-Th, 10pm-11pm F-Sat, 8-9pm Sun… I think.

When you eat as many oysters as I do, happy hour oysters are a big deal. I don’t think there’s a deal like this anywhere even close to here.

Two suggestions when it comes to the oysters:

  1. Ask for the mignonette sauce. It comes with the oysters at a lot of places, but you have to request it here. I’m not sure why.
  2. If you decide to not order off the happy hour menu, I highly recommend the Kumamotos from the West Coast (my personal favorite in flavor, but they are slightly smaller).

Jax oyster menu board


OTHER FOOD

Another must-try on the happy hour menu is the panang curry mussels. It’s one of my favorite preparations of mussels I’ve ever tried, and I usually get these every time I’m here.

If you’re ok ordering off the regular menu, one of my favorite things to get here in the winter is the clam chowder. It’s made to order, uses fresh clams, and has tons of bacon — and everything is better with bacon.

Jax clam chowder

Another one of my winter favorites is the gumbo (it’s almost as good as the étouffée at Sassafras, which is saying a lot). And it even comes in a $4 happy hour version (shown below).

Jax gumbo

One of my year-round favorites is the peel-and-eat shrimp ($6 on happy hour), which comes with a spicy mayo and what I think is chili powder. Whatever it is, it makes the shrimp much more flavorful than most places’. Just be ready to get a little messy.

Jax peel and eat shrimp

And if you’re more of a raw fish fan, there’s always some sort of poke concoction on the menu. Lately it’s been a spicy ahi tuna poke that I absolutely love.

And of course there’s a full seafood bar, so you can always get a chilled seafood platter or market-price crab (I’m a big fan of the snow crab).

Jax seafood bar.


THE DRINKS

Jax cucumber lemon press
The Cucumber Lemon Press ($4 during happy hour) is one of my favorite cocktails I’ve ever had. I could drink these forever. They’re light and refreshing and go with everything. I think the only thing I would rather drink with oysters is a white wine that’s specially made to go with oysters, but the only place I’ve seen do that is Rodney’s Oyster House in Toronto. Of course they have delicious wine here, too, but I recommend trying the Press first.