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.

 

A Meat-Lover’s and Locavore’s Delight: Blackbelly

I don’t often make the drive out to Boulder just for dinner, but there’s one place that warrants the effort: Blackbelly Market — an amazing restaurant and butcher shop from award-winning Chef Hosea Rosenberg (if you’re a cooking competition show fanatic like me, you might remember him as the winner from season 5 of Top Chef).


The Concept

I’m extremely impressed by what Chef Hosea has done with Blackbelly: a restaurant that strives to “create food from the source to the plate,” using only the best local seasonal ingredients. To that end, Blackbelly has a farm where they raise their own livestock, as well as a greenhouse where they grow their own organic vegetables. And everything else comes from other local Colorado farms and ranches. So this means all the meat here is natural and hormone- and antibiotic-free. Woohoo!


HAPPY HOUR

HAPPY HOUR is 4-6pm every day and includes food and drinks. See the current menu.

One of my personal happy hour favorites was the $6 New Zealand Thyme cocktail (42 below Vodka, Cucumber, Thyme, Lime, Agave). It’s just so refreshing and easy-to-drink.

Blackbelly New Zealand Thyme

At $2 an oyster, the happy hour oysters aren’t as cheap as some other places in Denver, but still delicious. But I’m always a sucker for oysters, especially with good mignonette.

Blackbelly oysters


THE FOOD

Everything here was absolutely delicious. I think the only thing I wouldn’t get again is the meatball (happy hour appetizer), since it was a little too tough. The charcuterie, though, is a must-try assortment of house-made and local Colorado meats. I think the headcheese might actually be the best thing I had here all night. Just try it.

Blackbelly charcuterie board

Another great appetizer was the Colorado wagyu beef tartare with a quail egg and grilled bread. And it’s pretty filling for a “small plate.”

Blackbelly tartar

My personal favorite on the entree list was the seared duck breast (with root vegetables, brussels, sweet potato puree, and pomegranate). It was just one of the most tender pieces of duck I’ve ever had, and with the perfect sides (although I asked for mushrooms instead of sweet potato puree since I’m not a huge fan of sweet potatoes, and they were wonderfully accommodating).

Blackbelly duck entree

If you’re really hungry, go for the smoked lamb shank with heirloom beans, braised fennel, and preserved lemon gremolata. I mean look at that thing!

Blackbelly lamb entree

This is the steelhead trout with belgua lentils, cauliflower, pea shoots, and curry broth. I’m personally not usually a huge fan of trout, but even I loved how deliciously crispy the skin on this was.

Blackbelly Trout entree

 

I didn’t take a photo (sorry), but the burger was also really good here. I just couldn’t bring myself to order a burger when there are all these other options — but I did have a bite of a friend’s.


THE DRINKS

Like I mentioned before, the New Zealand Thyme was my favorite, but the cocktails here are all pretty awesome. Below is the “Pins & Needles” (42 below Vodka, Prickly Pear, Lime, Ginger) — which is really a work of art.

Blackbelly Pins & Needles