Last night, after months of planning and years of seeking the perfect space, Mario Nocifera and his partner, Alex Figura, will open the doors to Lower 48. The Ballpark restaurant, located in a multi-use residential and commercial LEED-gold certified building, serves contemporary American cuisine from a 2,800-square-foot space that can accommodate 98 guests - 70 at tables, 10 at a chef's counter, another 10 at a bar-height communal table, and 8 at the bar.
What is Lower 48? "The name references the continuos United States," says Mario Nocifera. "We get our inspiration regionally throughout the lower 48 states. A lot of the design of the restaurant references what I feel has made America great- the expansion out West, the Transcontinental railroad... "
"You will see images of trains and travel and commerce throughout the restaurant, including the wood above the bar that came from a 1950s semi, the community table is made of 1930s boxcar floor," he explains.
The menu, created by chef Alex Figura, with whom Nocifera worked at Frasca Food and Wine, is an eclectic mix of items ranging from chickpea fries to a braised brisket. Fermented, pickled, or smoked are descriptions you'll find in nearly every dish. With five sections to choose from, Lower 48 aims to cover the needs and wants of every diner.
The "Each" section brings small individual items priced accordingly at $2 or $3. These are bite-sized portions (think a new American version of tapas) of dishes like the Johnny Cake, Smoked Chicken Wing, Fritter, or American ham. On the "Small" section, dishes like the Savory Pancakes or Braised Squid are an option, while on the "Large," Grit Pici pasta prepared with chicken liver, fried sage and Parmesan or scallops, served with smoked fermented vegetable and bread flakes are available. There are daily specials and soon, larger plates to be shared by two or more guests. Three desserts offer guests a Citrus and Meringues option, an inverted caramel tart, or a grit custard.
The wine list follows the same vain of the food menu with a carefully selected list of whites and reds. Master sommelier Brett Zimmerman of the Boulder Wine Merchant in Boulder consulted on curating the wines which are available by the glass or the bottle at very attractive prices. "We want the restaurant to be accessible to everyone so we're keeping the prices low. We are building a restaurant for people who love to eat and drink."
The details were carefully taken care of: food is served on Dudson plates, made in the style of Heath ceramics, coffee is served in Le Creuset mugs, and wine served in high quality stemware. The coffee beans come from Boxcar Roasters and the varied beers, include locals like Great Divide's Hibernation Ale and Elevation's 8 Second Kolsh. The cocktail list, created by industry veteran Brandon Brough, formerly of the Squeaky Bean, includes five classics- Negronis and dry Martinis included- and four original ones.
Lower48 is now open and serves dinner six nights a week - Monday through Saturday.