2012 Denver Restaurant Week- Meal One
Denver Restaurant Week is always a great time for lovers of great dining experiences. The event is the perfect way to find new spots, and to enjoy something a little different from your usual eateries.
We usually split our (several) Restaurant Week meals evenly between places we have never been before, and our usual haunts. We enjoy finding new talent. And at a price point of just over 50 bucks, its a low risk proposition to try out the newest chef or restaurateur.
We also enjoy the fun and inventive pre fixe menus that most of our usual places put together for the event. Whether its a kind of sushi you have never had before, or a tongue sandwich from your favorite bistro, most chefs like to push the envelope and bring you something in the spirit of, but distinctly different from their standard fare.
The newest offering from Frank Bonanno’s Bonanno Restaurant Concepts, Russell’s Smokehouse is the full-kitchen partner to last years star bar concept, The Greene Russell.
The Smokehouse focuses on smoked meats and classic homestyle comfort food. Most of the meats are dry rubbed, not drenched in sauce. Although the three sauce offering at you table provides that traditional barbecue flavor, its not the central focus of the food. The even, round smoke does a great job complimenting the meats, and the sauce does the same (Be careful with the spicy version!).
The place is small, with around twenty tables. We were seated in the middle of the floor with about 5 other two to six- tops. Three servers a bar-back and the hostess was all it took to hold down the fort.
Dressed in jeans and pearl snap plaids, the aforementioned servers were competent, quick, polite and helpful. Their attire is a clue to the vibe of the place. Decidedly more casual than the other Bonanno spots, the smokehouse makes you feel more at home. While a chic, clean and decidedly ‘Denver’ feel, it’s in no way pretentious and not the kind of place where its more important to be seen than to have a great meal.
The clientele were obviously not the rank and file amateur restaurant goers. Most of the tables were there for more than an hour and a half. While not exactly hipsters, there were more tattoos and beards than cocktail dresses and skinny ties.
The bar did a great job and was distinct from its partner just across the hall. While I understand the difference in concepts, it would be nice to be able to order something from the speakeasy style lounge where the Smokehouse gets its name. I was surprised at the sweet and fruity style of most of the house bar offerings. An obvious attempt to offset the uber-savory and spice forward flavors of the food, the sweet drinks work on the palate, but just don’t seem to play well with the feel of the place or the style of the menu.
I had the Restaurant Week pre fixe offering of a wedge salad with a chipotle caesar dressing, and baby back ribs. Both were excellent. The dressing held its own with the bold flavors elsewhere on the menu and the ribs were one to perfection. My one qualm with the ribs was that they were somewhat on the small side and could have had a little more meat on them.
All in all, Russell’s Smokehouse is a moderately priced and well prepared meal served by competent and friendly staff, and a great place to stop in for a bite before walking the couple of steps across the hall to the speakeasy-styled bar that bears the same namesake.