In recent years there has been a proliferation of restaurants and bars appearing in downtown Denver, particularly since the refurbishment and re-opening of Union Station. Before these recent changes, this once bustling part of the city had passed its prime. Surrounded by early 20th century warehouses, the main rail station was derelict, and the downtown had decayed as the city expanded far beyond the confines of the early settlement.
But now, this part of Denver has been refurbished and become the city’s trendy hub. To sum up, Denver is celebrating its roots while also modernising in a sympathetic way. Having become a Western mecca, it draws tourists from far and wide to its outdoor, casual lifestyle. It also attracts entrepreneurs, families, and students seeking fresh, interesting food to accompany the activities available here.
One of these restaurants is Citizen Rail – next door to Union Station and part of the quirky Kimpton Born Hotel. The restaurant is simple in design, has a predominantly dark wood décor and also has an attractive heated outdoor eating area on 16th Street. With 127 covers, it is small, even intimate. Citizen Rail’s USP is its Executive Chef Christian Graves who ensures, as much as possible, the use of local, fresh produce and meats. This is followed closely by Citizen Rail’s Butcher Shop where all the meat served in the restaurant is prepared and aged. The butcher shop is named the Dry Age Room and visitors can view (though not enter) which is also true of the cooking on the mesquite fired grill.
For those that are not vegetarian, it is worth trying the 18 oz. New York Strip, aged at least 28 days. If served medium rare, it is juicy, full of intense flavour and grilled to perfection. Other cuts include a Meyer Flat Iron, Bison NY Strip, Double-Cut Colorado Lamb Chops, Bone-In Rib Eye and Bone-In Short rib.
And for the pescatarians out there, the restaurant’s seafood is flown in overnight and guaranteed to be fresh. Currently, on the menu is Grilled Swordfish, Grilled Hamachi Collars and Oak-Grilled Spanish Octopus. There are also Wood-Grilled Oysters, Mesquite Fired Mussels as well as Alder Smoked Sturgeon with Potato Cake.
But it is sometimes the little extras that make a difference. For instance, the selection of sauces is sublime. But then, when do you ever see Bourbon Tellicherry Peppercorn or Chimichurri – with sherry vinegar, jalapeno and cilantro – on a grill house menu?
Breakfast is something unique with the Pork Belly Fritata taking my fancy thought the Hole in the Wall (think Toad in the Hole with a poached egg) looked appetising as well. The Chilaquiles – smoked chicken with scrambled egg in a tortilla splashed with chili and chipotle sauce – looks the business though I missed out on a chance to try it. The Bake Shop offers Muffins, Doughnut Holes, Croissants, Hot Coffee Cake and much more.
The restaurant’s bar is exceptional, with cocktails such as Redhead Loretta (Tullamore Dew, apricot, Palo Cortado Sherry and orange bitters) and Far From Yokohama (toasted coconut, washed Toki Japanese whisky, Benedictine, demerara and angostura) on offer.
Citizen Rail, 1899 16th Street, Denver, CO, 80202, USA
Tel: +1(303) 323-0017
The restaurant is located in the Kimpton Born Hotel next to Union Station in downtown Denver. It is open for BREAKFAST: Monday to Friday 6:30am – 10:00am; BRUNCH: Saturday to Sunday 8:00am – 2:30pm; LUNCH: Monday to Friday 11:00am – 2:30Ppm; DINNER: Sunday to Wednesday 5:00pm – 10:30Ppm; Thursday to Saturday 5:00pm – 11:00pm.
Type of Restaurant: Grill-Centric Restaurant
Price Band: Medium
Insider Tip: This grill has its own butchery and all the meat is aged on the premises.
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Lynn Houghton is a Travel Writer and Photographer based in London.
Photographs courtesy of Citizen Rail