Justin Cucci, owner of popular Denver restaurants Root Down and Linger, recently opened his third concept dining spot in LoDo.
Ophelia’s is an upscale gastropub with boudoir-style décor that harkens back to the building's roots: it once served as a brothel. But today, the 1894 Victorian Airedale building, listed on the National Register of Historical Places, houses a sustainable and local-minded restaurant with plenty of interest to eat and see.
Former brothel turns popular nightlife spot — Photo courtesy of Ophelia's
Cucci describes the menu at Ophelia's as vegetable forward and globally inspired. Highlights include stone-fire skillets, like the green chile cornbread with goat cheese and fennel-honey butter, and the vegetable-focused Brothel Board with roasted carrots, pickled Brussels sprouts, roasted beets, Hazel Dell mushrooms, shishito peppers, everything bagel pine nuts, cherry mostarda and pumpkin seed pesto.
But even though the menu is very veggie, carnivores won't be left in the dark. Try the porter-teriyaki duck wings with pickled apple slaw, beer nuts, chive, sesame seeds and Asian ranch. Or go for a crazy take on a beef patty with the Brothel Burger, made with fermented black bean, bochujang barbecue sauce, candied bacon, apricot-ponzu onions and steamed bao bun.
On the simpler side, flatbread pizzas and plenty of small plates and shareable charcuterie boards entice.
The happy hour menu at Ophelia’s features a roster of food and drinks all under $5, including cocktails like Maceo’s, mixed with rye, amaro, bitters and lemon, as well as $4 Colorado beers.
Menu highlights range from the Belgian mussels with fregola sarda, DeSteeg saison-curry broth, lentils, tomatoes, gigante beans, blood orange and jalapeño cheddar bread.
For some Louisiana taste, try the shrimp po' boy with spicy remoulade, Napa slaw and lemon.
And even though this chef is known for his creative cooking, Ophelia's doesn't disappoint in the bar department either. Simple, handcrafted cocktails with fresh, local ingredients – like the Airedale made with bourbon, rye, aperol and grapefruit oil – are the star attractions.
There's also a 24-tap collection of all-Colorado beers for beer aficionados, as well as four kegged cocktails.
On the design front, the place has a speakeasy feel and a state-of-the-art sound system.
The design mash-up carries through with Cucci’s trademark: “recycled and repurposed craziness." It pays subtle homage to the unique history of the building, including 1,500 yard sticks; over 7,000 square feet of handmade ceramic tiles; 65 retro light fixtures; 100 x-ray rollers; and a few dozen pinball machine tops.
“The design aesthetic for Ophelia’s has been in the making for a few years,” Cucci says. “The interior is inspired by vintage finds I’ve collected over time. When I’m looking for something specific, it often takes me down a rabbit hole where I find things I wasn’t even looking for."
As a matter of fact, much of the furniture and decor inside the restaurant was sourced from eBay, Craigslist, estates sales and nearby dumpsters.
"With Ophelia’s, we wanted to celebrate the building's history and create an atmosphere of indulgence," adds Cucci. "From intimate booths and the bustle of the bar to the subterranean stage, we want everyone to find their pleasure.”