Denver is a beer town. That much we know. Just walk into any bar, restaurant, gas station, or day care center, and you'll find about 21 local brews on tap, and probably some more being made on premises. That's been the case since the big "microbrewery" boom in the '90s, and it remains true today - even as much of the rest of the country is just now figuring out that Stella Artois is Europe's Old Milwaukee.
But as Colorado was soaking up the suds, we were falling behind the fast moving cocktail culture trend, despite companies like Stranahan's making excellent whisky right in our back yard. "Mixology" as they call it (we refuse to) became a big business over the last seven years or so, and up until recently, there weren't all that many places in Denver where you could get a quality Old Fashioned, let alone a Sazerac. Green Russell was one of those few places.
Opened in 2010 by Frank Bonanno and partners, Green Russell is Denver's best and most well-known spot for a quality drink. It's a Prohibition-style speakeasy in the mold of many that came before it, and by that I mean other places exactly like Green Russell that set up shop in cities like New York and Los Angeles around 2005 or so. The formula for all of these "neo-speakeasies" is pretty much the same - guests walk down some stairs and arrive at some sort of "front" (here it's a pie shop), then speak to a reservationist, eventually being seated after walking through some weird door or something. Cocktails featuring absinthe and molasses ensue.
We're always fans of a stiff drink here at The Infatuation, and we like Green Russell a lot. It's always a good place to hang with some friends, even though sometimes it feels a bit steamy down there under the street. But we're not here to just talk about drinks. We're here to talk about food, and Green Russell actually does that pretty well too. There's a solid menu of bar snacks that do a better job of keeping you satiated while you drink high-proof alcohol than they need to, and you can even have a slice of pie if you so choose. We're fans of their loaded potato chips, and pulled pork nachos, and if you want to get down on a full BBQ experience, they've even got an adjacent smokehouse where you can eat ribs with your expensive Manhattan. That one will get its own review at some point. We can only handle one trend at a time per review.
Look, nobody is winning any chef of the year awards for putting a bunch of sh*t on top of potato chips, but these are salty and good and perfect as a cocktail accessory. Order some.
(See, Loaded Potato Chips)
When you have a smokehouse next door, things like pulled pork nachos become a thing that can exist. Everyone wins.
If you are the kind of man or woman who orders pie at a speakeasy, we salute you.