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thirsty lion pork belly tacos

Thirsty Lion’s Summer Menu: Pork Belly Tacos, Heirloom Tomato Salad, and More

I’ve really liked Thirsty Lion ever since they opened at Union Station (they now also have a Cherry Creek location). It’s a fun, hip bar that’s always happening, has a great patio facing all the bustle of Union Station, offers awesome happy hour deals and an extensive menu — and is in my opinion the best “gastropub” we have in downtown Denver. I recently got a chance to try their summer menu with a friend of mine, and I cannot recommend it enough. Read on for some of the highlights — all available at Union Station or in Cherry Creek.

Before I get into the food, I do want to mention this amazing summer cocktail: The Raspberry Mint Mule-jito (fresh raspberries muddled with mint, lemon, lime, Bacardi rum, Malibu rum, simply syrup, and ginger beer). I love raspberries, so maybe I’m biased, but I always crave a refreshing raspberry cocktail in the summer. Panzano used to have a fantastic one (the R&R), but that’s long gone. This is definitely the perfect replacement to fill the hole in my drinking heart.

thirsty lion summer cocktail

As much of a meat-lover as I am, my 1st love in life is tomatoes. Anything that says “heirloom tomatoes” will get me through the door. So yes, yes, and yes. No summer menu is complete without some generous slices of heirloom tomato. Add some fresh mozarella and basil — and my life is complete.

thirsty lion heirloom tomato salad

If you know me, you know I love me some tacos. Especially pork belly tacos. These have a fantastic Asian twist with the hoisin glaze, daikon, carrot, jalapeno, gochujang sauce (red chili paste), and pickled radish. There are a lot of people doing pork belly tacos all over town, but it’s hard to get the right combination: you definitely need some spice, vinegar, and crunch to balance out the sweet fattiness of pork belly — and these do a great job, if I may say so myself.

thirsty lion pork belly tacos

If you’d told me there was a “summer” pasta dish before this day, I’d be very skeptical. In fact, I was very skeptical when I ordered this Seared Shrimp & Heirloom Tomato Linguini (with garlic, asparagus, olives, red peppers, grape and heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, spinach, feta, and a parmesan crisp). But in fact, this is the perfect summer pasta dish. No heavy creams or butters or super-meaty sauces here (which are delicious, but not quite suitable for summer). Just some juicy shrimp and a variety of veggie flavors and textures — all piled on top of a simple pasta. A great go-to summer Italian dish!

thirsty lion summer pasta and shrimp

I of course couldn’t leave without managing to make room for dessert in my already-full stomach. It’s a skill I work very hard for. (Some people go to cycling class… I eat and drink.) Introducing the Strawberry Rhubarb & White Chocolate Cheesecake. It’s not quite D Bar dessert quality (then again, what is?) — but still a very satisfying end to the meal and perfect for summer 🙂

thirsty lion summer cheesecake

And if you’re curious about the full summer menu (and happy hour menu, of course) — here they are! Some of my happy hour recommendations include the caesar salad, bacon-wrapped BBQ prawns, and spicy fried chicken sliders.

 

Bremen’s Wine & Tap Introduces New Seasonal Menu Under New Executive Chef

New Executive Chef Isabel Ranney has recently taken over from Matt Selby at Bremen’s Wine & Tap — which opened in the trendy LoHi neighborhood at 33rd & Tejon just this last June. I got a chance to try her new fall/winter menu, and it was one of the best meals I’ve had recently. Isabel Ranney has a background in herbalism, which gives her a unique perspective:

“I went to school for herbalism and I love to add herbs into my cooking that I know will help people at this time of year. For example, the lamb shank has elderberries and rosehips which are packed with antioxidants and are antiviral, so it helps people’s immune systems without them even realizing because it also tastes delicious.”

Set in a bright, vibrant atmosphere, Bremen’s Wine & Tap serves seasonal American fare made with local ingredients and some of the best-sourced meat in town. I thought the meat dishes were all absolutely amazing here. Bremen’s also has some delicious hand-crafted seasonal cocktails and a fantastic wine list that pairs perfectly with the food.

Specials:

  • Happy Hour daily 4-6pm
  • Set the Mood Mondays (1/2 off all bottles of wine)
  • Uncorked Tuesdays 7-8pm (free wine, beer, spirits tastings)
  • Ladies Night Wednesdays ($5 on all tap wines)

The butcher’s board pictured at the start of the post is one of the top-selling appetizers on the menu (chef’s choice of meats and cheeses, house-made grain mustard, and pickled vegetables). My favorite board was the “Lamb Lollipops” though — which consists of the most tender, delicious lamb I’ve had in Denver, paired with mint creme fraiche, flatbread, and shaved onion & parsley salad:

My husband’s favorite dish was the Steak Tartar (with capers, white anchovies, and egg yolk). It’s made with steak from the Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe down the street, and the meat quality really shows. For all the vegetarians out there, they also have an Asparagus Pear Tartar with tangerine oil and avocado that even all us carnivores loved (sorry, I don’t have a photo).

If you’re a fan of salads, the ones here are some of my favorites. The Pickled Pear Salad (almonds, bacon, arugula, goat cheese, rosemary vinaigrette) is meant to help with digestion:

And the Kale & Beet Salad (rotisserie chicken, shaved fennel, candied walnuts, manchego, charred lemon vinaigrette) makes for a great meal just in itself:

Another great vegetarian option on the menu is the Farro Bowl with roasted root vegetables, Rebel Farm’s greens, and sunnyside eggs:For the seafood lovers, the Seared Sea Scallops with bacon & charred onion risotto and a wine vinegar reduction is divine. Three huge, perfectly seared scallops with just that perfect amount of sweetness. Ask the staff to recommend an acidic wine pairing that helps with that decadent texture, trust me.

My personal favorite main dish was the Duck Breast with gnocchi and a leek and mushroom ragout.  This duck as absolutely perfect (especially with a good glass of Pinot Noir).Between the lamb, the tartar, and the duck — I’d say Bremen’s has truly perfected its meat dishes. I would eat of them again on any given day. I’m sure the Chef’s Cut Grilled Stead, the Lamb Shank, the Rotisserie Chicken, and the Bone-In Pork Chop must all also be fantastic.

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

 

D'Corazon front of restaurant

D’Corazon: the Best Mexican Restaurant in Denver (and Maybe Colorado)

I spent 12 years living in California (both NorCal and SoCal) — so I’ve had my share of good Mexican food. What’s funny is that it took moving to Colorado to find my favorite Mexican restaurant. Six years into living here, and it’s still my favorite.

There are very few places in Colorado I feel as strongly about as I do about D’Corazon. I like to try new places and switch up where I eat — but I still find myself at D’Corazon (1530 Blake Street) at least once a week, as do a lot of the people I know who work downtown. I can’t say that about any other restaurant in Denver. It just has the most flavorful Mexican food , exceptionally quick service, friendly management, a lively atmosphere, and cheap margaritas. What more can you ask for?


THE ATMOSPHERE & SERVICE

inside D'Corazon in DenverIt’s always packed at D’Corazon — but in that lively, upbeat way — not in the “I’m getting claustrophobic” way. It’s not rare to see a line out the door, but don’t let that scare you away. The service isn’t just friendly — it’s also lightning fast. So the wait should be 10 minutes at most. And what’s to follow is so worth it.


THE FOOD

Now for the good part! There are really great lunch combo specials here for under $10, but for a couple dollars more, I highly recommend the Carnitas or the Carne Adobada — which are definitely the 2 best things here. If you want tender, not-too-spicy chunks of meat that melt in your mouth, go for the Carnitas. And if you want a slab of pork that’s been marinated in a sauce that will punch you in the face with flavor, go for the Carne Adobada. They’re both amazing, but the latter is definitely my favorite. I’ve ordered it at every Mexican restaurant I’ve been to in Colorado, and I’ve yet to find a better one.

Carnitas:
Carnitas at D'Corazon Mexican Restaurant in Denver

 

 

 

 

Carne Adobada (I got distracted and started eating it before I remembered to take a photo — which is so like me — sorry!):
Carne Adobada at D'Corazon Mexican Restaurant in Denver


THE DRINKS

MARGARITAS: The house margaritas are $5 at lunch (and $3.57 after 4pm if you buy food)! I think the skinny is only another dollar more. If you go across the street to the Rio, they’re $7, and if you go to Machete a few blocks away (the overly hip new place that I really don’t understand people’s obsession with), they’re $10.

jose cuerve reserva de la familiaTEQUILA: And if you’re a tequila aficionado, the manager here has turned me onto what is absolutely the best tequila I’ve ever had (and I’ve tried a surprising amount of tequilas in my few years on this earth). It’s made by Jose Cuervo (and yes, I was skeptical at first, too) — but it’s not the Jose that you remember guzzling during your freshman year of college. It’s the Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia, which is the “world’s first extra-añejo tequila,” aged in French and American oak barrels for a minimum of 3 years (and it’ll run you about $100 a bottle at retail stores).



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