Written byPhil Sparr
Architecturally, the renovation of Union Station is a complete success. The old dingy depot has been transformed into a gleaming and elegant testament to Denver’s rise as a city. With its gilded decor and LoDo location, we assume there’ll be 1920s-themed New Year’s Eve parties here from now until forever, but if you’re not waiting for a train or channeling your inner Zelda Fitzgerald, is there enough to bring you back to this place on an average Friday night?
If the cocktails at the Cooper Lounge or the Terminal Bar have left you on the fence with that answer, one visit to Mercantile Dining & Provision should change your mind. This truly beautiful space is split into a formal dining room and a more casual, European-style market with a bar and high top tables. We’re more fond of the bar with its classic black-and-white tile and legion of meat, cheese, and dessert provisions. It’s as good as a lunch atmosphere in LoDo can get. But the modern dining room is also impressive and more intimate, and there isn’t a stuffy white tablecloth in sight. Whichever side you choose, you’ll be in good hands with the educated and attentive wait staff, and excellent food across the board. We like Mercantile so much we can even forgive the rickety name that helps perpetuate Denver restaurants’ ongoing obsession with ampersands.
Great cocktails and an impressive, if somewhat intimidating, wine list are on hand at Mercantile Dining & Provision, but don’t expect anything too outlandish on the dinner menu. Things are pretty buttoned up here, meaning you won’t see any molecular gastronomy or kimchi pupusas, and nothing is deconstructed. Mercantile keeps it relatively simple, but they’re executing at an incredibly high level. Union Station is fortunate to have them as a tenant and if this is where Denver is going, we’re fully on board.
A fantastic lunch option at the bar, this Vietnamese sandwich with pork belly and pork pate is excellent. Get those truffled kettle chips on the side and don’t be afraid to ask for sriracha, because this one isn’t super spicy.
Vegetarian doesn’t mean boring, so don’t avoid this just because you're judgemental. The nooked and crannied focaccia is pleasantly thick and the mix of hummus, eggplant, and romesco is excellent. A sidecar of pickled veggies also doesn't hurt.
Delicious, salty pork flayed from the leg with marcona almonds. It'll get things going nicely.
A strong, bisque-style soup with two types of mushrooms and a fried rice ball (arincini). If you don’t like salt or aggressive seasoning, this may not be for you, but we love it.
Between the truffle-brined egg yolk and shaved truffle that we had in this risotto, we were pretty sure gout would set in by the time dinner finished. And we couldn't have been happier about it.
Pork Shank Tagliatelle
There are a lot of good flavors going on with this pasta, as you'll see from the pepper being applied in the photo above. That said, it's more muted than you might expect.
Octopus a la Plancha
The tender, smoky grilled tentacles contrast perfectly with the creamy, herby potato bravas. We thought the broth was a bit sparse, but a worthy order regardless.
Lamb Shoulder Family Dinner
This one takes a full hour to prepare, but it’s a real head turner and worth the wait. The huge portion of roasted shoulder is probably too much for three people, but perfect for four. It’s super juicy and well-seasoned and we pretty much licked the apricot mostarda off the plate. All of side dishes were also generally great, but it’s hard to beat the salty/oily fingerling potatoes. A great pick if you’re with a bigger group.