Charlie Palmer announced in May that District Meats would be rebranded into Charlie Palmer's District Tavern, a concept with a greater emphasis on "modern American tavern fare." Palmer sought to relax an identity crisis, but according to a "concerned neighborhood diner" on Chow, who's go-to spot was District Meats, the new concept doesn't settle well: "My concern is that the 'District Tavern' concept and corresponding menu revision may appeal to Denver's equivalent of the B&T crowd (baseball and theatre?) and no one else, since the identity of the place is starting to get a little generic."
Dear Mr. Palmer,
First off, in the interest of full disclosure I should say that I'm not really a fan - I lived in NY for 11 years and never visited any of your establishments there, and TheHotel is my go-to stop in Las Vegas but I've never been to Aureole or Charlie Palmer Steak.
Having said that, you had me from the word "go" with District Meats. I eat dinner out 7-8 times/month in Denver, and some of my fondest dining memories in the last 12 months involve dinner at the bar with some great cocktails, cool videos on the big screen, and Teres Major steak with fries (second instance of full disclosure - I haven't exactly roamed the menu. Aside from one unfortunate tri-tip steak episode, the only things I've ever ordered in about a dozen visits are the Teres Major steak and fries).
(At this point I have to give a shout out to Tara - not sure if she is still with you, but when I walked in and saw her behind the bar I knew I was in for a good evening, because she is the only bartender I encountered who actually uses jiggers, stirs drinks when they should be stirred, and knows how to garnish a drink properly. If I saw someone else behind the bar I usually ordered beer. This may seem elitist, but I'm not so sure - a lot of mainstream restaurants in Denver are starting to up their cocktail game - see Trillium for an example.)
I can understand the thinking behind the recent reboot to Charlie Palmer's District Tavern - yes, Denver is kind of a sprout-happy town, so the whole "meats" thing could have been a turnoff for some. However, I think the real key to success here is to have a handle that people can latch onto easily. Look at The Kitchen - perpetually slammed, but I've had serious (comp-inducing) service issues on my last two visits, and my encounters with the raw bar have been somewhat suspect. At the end of the day, though, everyone knows what this place represents - Boulder farm-to-table hipster chic at it's finest.
My concern is that the "District Tavern" concept and corresponding menu revision may appeal to Denver's equivalent of the B&T crowd (baseball and theatre?) and no one else, since the identity of the place is starting to get a little generic. Maybe going in the opposite direction and pushing the "meats" concept to an extreme (a la Cochon, Husk) might have been a better move (it certainly sounds more promising than the "ladies drink free" promotion I heard the bartender mentioning tonight - really, you can do better). If you spend much time hanging around brewery taprooms in Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins you certainly get the sense that there is a market for that kind of cuisine around here.
You've been on site for at least a third of my visits, so I know you're committed to making this place work, so please accept this constructive feedback in the spirit it was intended. Plus, I really miss seeing "The Last Waltz" and Johnny Cash on the big screen :)
Concerned Neighborhood Diner
Charlie Palmer's District Tavern [Photo: Adam Larkey]