Decor melds rustic wood with industrial chic. More than a nice accent, the wood in the end wall fuels the kitchen's wood-burning stove — Photo courtesy of The Nickel / Hotel Teatro
Denver's Hotel Teatro underwent a significant renovation of its lobby and main-floor spaces and then re-emerged in August 2014 with a new contemporary restaurant and bar that will certainly draw LoDo and downtown residents, as well as hotel guests.
Helmed by Executive Chef Chris Thompson, The Nickel features locally sourced produce and flavorful grilled meats, poultry and fish hot off the kitchen's wood-burning grill. A creative beverage program includes craft cocktails on tap.
The restaurant's wood-burning oven and grill turns out hearty meat dishes and vegetarian options, too — Photo courtesy of The Nickel / Hotel Teatro
The Nickel is a nice pairing of upscale contemporary and rustic-historic. Giving a nod to the property's origins as Denver's Tramway Building in 1911, The Nickel takes its name from this space, where nickels were once collected from customers riding the city's streetcars.
Industrial metal elements blend with warm wood, and the overall clean, modern aesthetic provides glimpses into Denver's past, with historic items placed here and there throughout the restaurant.
Vegetarians will find plenty of creative, filling dishes on The Nickel's menu — Photo courtesy of The Nickel / Hotel Teatro
The menu echoes these same elements. A goat cheese and watermelon salad with spicy lettuces and edamame reflects today's sophisticated palate, while Aunt Helen's Parkerhouse rolls bring back memories of family dinners a generation ago.
There are plenty of starters, salads and entrees to make The Nickel a top choice for vegetarians, including an heirloom tomato burrata caprese salad with grilled figs and a roasted kabocha squash soup that's enhanced with maple creme fraiche and pumpkin streusel.
Roast chicken at The Nickel — Photo courtesy of The Nickel / Hotel Teatro
But The Nickel menu embraces Colorado's ranching traditions and affection for meat and poultry with such dishes as wood-roasted leg of lamb, rotisserie chicken, braised short ribs and Wagyu beef cooked up several ways.
Also on the menu are seafood items flown in and served very fresh, including Monterey squid, wild salmon and East Coast scallops. It just goes to show that when you're a savvy chef in the middle of the country, you fly in the best seafood from both coasts.
Grilled sides are among the accompaniments not to be missed — Photo courtesy of The Nickel / Hotel Teatro
Sides are a treat here, and they shouldn't be overlooked. Like the meat, a few come from the wood-burning grill. On offer are assorted rotisserie veggies; wood-grilled squash prepared with brown sugar and Calabrian chiles; Olathe sweet corn from Colorado's Western Slope, with chili-lime butter, prosciutto and cilantro crema; Brussels sprouts with brown-butter chestnuts and crispy sage; and for full-on meat-and-potato lovers, Wagyu tallow fingerling potatoes with herbs.
Another nice aspect of the menu is a list of items for the table to share: pickles, hummus, Kampachi crudo, smoked salmon rillette, marinated olives with fennel seed and orange zest and, yes, Aunt Helen's Parkerhouse rolls.
There's a lot on tap at the Barrel Bar, including craft brews and creative cocktails — Photo courtesy of The Nickel / Hotel Teatro
The Barrel Bar, a centerpiece of the restaurant, is already becoming a destination for those who enjoy fine cocktails, locally distilled spirits and Colorado craft brews. Honestly, isn't that just about everybody?
Showing off its trendy spirit and local focus, the bar offers a selection of cocktails on tap. If you can't decide which to try, go for the Tap Cocktail Flight, which showcases three of the options: a Manhattan, the Nickel Negroni and the Seven Nickel, all featuring spirits from Denver-based Leopold Brothers.
There's also a good selection of Colorado craft beers on hand. If you're not familiar with all of them, this is a good place to try a few. If you like what you taste, dig in deeper by visiting one of the nearby breweries while you're in town. The Barrel Bar pours Great Divide, Left Hand, Odell's, Funkwerks, River North and New Belgium, among others.