The story: Old Major is Chef/Owner Justin Brunson’s shrine to the swine, with a kitchen that produces its own charcuterie and butchers all its animals for the menu. But it’s not just meat, there’s seafood that’s locally sourced, just like the meats, to ensure a true farm-to-table approach to dining in Denver’s LoHi neighborhood. (The restaurant’s name comes from the name of the pig in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.”)
Why I went: When planning my trip to Denver for my niece’s college graduation, I asked her to help me make reservations at some of the popular restaurants and Old Major was one of her favorites. It wasn’t on my list but since it was her favorite I had to check it out, along with the rest of our family (about seven of us).
The vibe: The large space, with the ubiquitous brick walls (seen all over Denver), has a spacious dining room with a casual but polished feel. Right in the dining room is a meat locker with meats hanging, some being cured for the in-house charcuterie. The large, brightly lit kitchen looks like a large research lab or supermarket butcher house. The restaurant attracts a lot of locals who looked like they were ready for a creative but hearty meal, like a big family dinner.
The menu: An interesting mix of small and large plates with ingredients coming from the land and sea, from the hamachi crudo ($18) to the nose-to-tail plate ($29). The prices feel a bit on the high side, so it helps to share a few items. There are a couple of butcher’s specials that isn’t for the faint of heart. For example, our family dug into the 3-lb. pork chop ($65), a large platter of tender pork (dressed with maldon salt and pork demi-glace) that comes to the table with roasted seasonal vegetables with creamy potatoes. You can supplement the large platters with sides such as potato salads and pork fat French fries.
The booze: An iPad is used to showcase the large selection of craft beer and wine. It can be overwhelming which is why I went with my server’s recommendation when I asked that I wanted to try a Colorado beer. He recommended a hoppy Great Divide Titan IPA ($6) from Denver.
My favorite dish: Perfect for the season, I enjoyed the shaved asparagus flatbread ($12) that had mushroom duxelles, wood sorrel, chili, lemon vinaigrette. But I feel the key was the Taleggio cheese blending with the asparagus with a nicely done flatbread charred by the oven.
Insider tip: Happy hour is big in Denver, and Old Major has a large bar next to the dining room and an outdoor space where you can grab a nice glass of beer and munch on the Old Major charcuterie plate ($8 per person).
The last bite: While sometimes it might seem the kitchen had a heavy hand with the salt, there’s no question the meats are cooked with care in respect of the animal that sacrificed itself for diners. But the menu offers something for everyone, making it an enjoyable dining experience for a large group with varying tastes.
The rating: 3 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Old Major, 3316 Tejon St., Denver, Colo. PH: 720.420.0622. Open daily for dinner, 5 to 10 p.m.; weekend brunch, 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. oldmajordenver.com
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