Dining at RiNo’s newest restaurant, Julep, is like stepping into a modern adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play. The scene is set inside an industrial Larimer Street buildout (next door to the hip Dio Mio), where the pipes and air vents are still visible, but the whole space has a transforming quality about it. The bar is backed with rich wood and a display of swamp green tile, the stools are straight out of your grandma’s kitchen, and so is the yellow and white flowered wallpaper, back in style now and lined with moody gaslamp-like sconces.
Inside the main dining room, tables are placed comfortably — there’s only seating for around 40 people — so that the rest of the gathering can take place outside on the porch (OK, it’s a patio) come spring and summer, and upstairs in a mezzanine section for the rest of winter. The indoor spaces are open for lunch and dinner, and weekend brunch, starting today at 3258 Larimer Street.
Julep’s main actors are chefs Kyle and Katy Foster (she runs Stir Cooking School and is more behind the scenes here). But he is an up-and-coming chef with Southern roots and plenty of Denver experience between the kitchens of Rebel and Colt & Gray restaurants. The couple traveled the South together before embarking on this project, and Kyle’s resulting menu shows a broad appreciation with dishes from deviled snails, to rabbit and andouille gumbo, and pork and oyster sausage.
Sorghum makes appearances across menu items from the old fashioned to the rutabaga tart. And vegetables sing whether they’re battered and deep-fried, as is the case with the winter squash rings and “jezebel” dipping sauce; or crisped and topped with blood orange and cured egg yolk, which does happen with the broccoli. Cocktails range from the eponymous mint juleps, to hurricanes, pony boys, and pep rallies. For Sunday brunch, bourbon milk punches and Pimm’s cups will be everyone’s best options.
There are two seats in the house that will likely be booked for a while but are worth waiting for. They’re up the staircase on the second dining room level, at the very back and abutting a large picture window. Below it is a rarely seen bird’s-eye view of a seasoned kitchen crew at work in an exciting new restaurant. At any given time, Kyle Foster, Jonathan Tully, Justin Benavidez, Matthew Stahlecker, Sarah Nelson, Peter McCoy, Barrett Baskette, and Drake Louie might be down there. And although diners can’t hear them from behind the glass, they can at least watch this menagerie at work, pumping out one of Denver’s most anticipated new dinners.
Status: Julep opens Thursday, February 1, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Dinner is served everyday but Sunday and Monday, and brunch is served on weekends. For more information and menus, visit the website.