The dining side of Mercantile Dining & Provision offers a combination of contemporary sophistication and old-fashioned simplicity and warmth — Photo courtesy of Lucky Malone Photography / Mercantile Dining & Provision
In 2010, Food & Wine named Alex Seidel – whose Denver restaurant Fruition had opened in 2007 – one of the 10 best new chefs in America. With its menu of upscale comfort food, Fruition was an instant success.
As Seidel grew more passionate about the burgeoning farm-to-table movement, he did what few chefs have: he bought a 10-acre farm and became a hands-on farmer, producing fruits, vegetables and cheese and raising animals for his restaurant and for others.
Now, with Mercantile Dining & Provision, he has brought these two passions – cooking and farming – together in one venue.
Sophisticated dining and grab-and-go market sit side by side for a 360-degree food experience — Photo courtesy of Lucky Malone Photography / Mercantile Dining & Provision
Mercantile Dining & Provision is a sophisticated dinner restaurant and a European-style market, where train passengers and others ambling through Denver's Union Station can grab a quick breakfast or lunch or pick up a gift of preserves or pickles to take to a friend.
“For years, I’ve wanted to do a restaurant with a market to give us chefs unique opportunities to educate the community about sourcing and ingredients,” says Seidel. “We want our chefs and guests to have conversations about recipes, spices, food and cooking.”
The open kitchen invites customers and cooks into a dialogue about food, sourcing and recipes — Photo courtesy of Lucky Malone Photography / Mercantile Dining & Provision
In order to foster those conversations, Seidel and Mercantile' Chef de Cuisine Matthew Vawter deliberately designed the open kitchen so that patrons and cooks would engage in conversation. That makes it possible for everyone to get into the true heart of what this restaurant is about: great food that's approachable.
Spanish octopus, fingerling potato bravas, garlic aioli and saffron tomato broth is a dish that reflects the restaurant's sophisticated yet approachable aesthetic — Photo courtesy of Lucky Malone Photography / Mercantile Dining & Provision
The menu is exactly that – a showcase of contemporary and complex yet very approachable dishes. There's Spanish octopus, red wine-braised short ribs, Olathe corn risotto and house-made pasta. There are snacks (two to three bites), as well as traditionally sized appetizers, and there's a section devoted to family dinners for two or more, served family style.
Among the restaurant's house-made items are fresh pastas, as well as the sorbets and gelatos on the dessert menu — Photo courtesy of Lucky Malone Photography / Mercantile Dining & Provision
Seidel and his cooks offer a range of items made in-house that are used in the restaurant and sold in the market. Market customers can take their purchases out to the seating in Union Station or back to their offices, but they can also take a seat and relax for a bit on this casual side of Mercantile.
A coffee bar supplies caffeine-lovers with espressos and other coffee drinks, and there are pastries that pair perfectly — Photo courtesy of Lucky Malone Photography / Mercantile Dining & Provision
The market has a wide variety of breakfast and lunch nibbles to choose from. Pantry shelves and coolers are stocked with sandwiches, sodas, yogurt and even chocolate pot de creme. There's a coffee bar with espressos and other coffee drinks, including some for ages 21 and up only.
There are also items to take home or give as gifts: olive oils, vinegars, sea salt, honey, bulk herbs and spices, coffee, tea and handcrafted caramels and chocolates.
Preserves and other goodies are made at the restaurant or brought from the farm, sold in old-school canning jars just like the ones used for generations across America — Photo courtesy of Lucky Malone Photography / Mercantile Dining & Provision
Some of the preserved foods come from Seidel's Fruition Farm in Larkspur, Colo., where the dynamic connection between farm and restaurant supports and drives both. Sheep, heritage breed pigs, bees, herbs, fruits and vegetables are raised on the farm, which produces honey and three types of sheep's milk cheeses, among other things.
Although neither Seidel nor anyone else on the farm knew about cheese making or farming when they started, one of the cheeses has already won awards. That's not surprising, considering this chef has managed to combine his passions into one of Denver's most versatile restaurants.