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The fancy toast currently on the menu at Bar Dough is made with ciabatta, ricotta, blueberry, and peas
Lucy Beaugard/Eater

Once a Mere Bruschetta, Bar Dough’s Fancy Toast Rises to Cult Status

As does chef Carrie Baird, who’s killing it at her LoHi restaurant post-‘Top Chef’

On a recent night at Bar Dough, LoHi’s hip-hop-pumping Italian wine bar and pizza oven, a black and white version of Gal Gadot’s “Wonder Woman” was playing in the background. It’s a perfect choice of show, given that this restaurant’s chef and co-owner, Carrie Baird, has recently risen to badass star status.

She made it to the final four on the reality cooking series “Top Chef” last season, while staying a fan favorite and even leaving on a high note at the end of February. She also, throughout the show, created some competition-winning toasts that stumped her fellow contestants. “In the real time, I didn’t realize I was toastin’ so hard,” Baird says now with her typical effervescence. “(Toast is) my thing now,” she adds. “And I’m not upset, even one percent, but it’s really funny how it all played out.”

Off camera, Baird says her cheftestant friends would tease her about the reappearing (and winning) toast dishes: “Oh you’re gonna make another toast!” they would egg her on. But she also says she could have thrown it right back at them: “Oh, you’re gonna make another pasta!” would have been a fair comeback, for some people. Now, however, “the toast has a story behind it.”

“I feel like my waitstaff is behind it,” Baird says, adding, “(everybody) loves eating food with a story and a reason.”

Chef Carrie Baird poses at Bar Dough with her spring ‘fancy toast’
Lucy Beaugard/Eater

Baird became chef of Bar Dough last July after leaving the paleo-focused Just Be Kitchen. Before that, she worked at Brazen, where the name “fancy toast” for her originated. She carried the tradition on, keeping a version of toasted bread with toppings consistently on Bar Dough’s menu. But it’s only now that the dish is having a moment.

“We always just called it ‘bruschetta,’” Baird says, laughing. “Now we call it ‘fancy.’” The latest, spring version of the fanciful topped bread features toasted ciabatta with herbed ricotta cheese, sweet peas, a blueberry balsamic gastrique, blueberries, and pea tendrils. It’s a sweet and savory balance that could just as easily start a meal, be the meal, or end it.

According to Baird, she used to order seven loaves of ciabatta for the toast each week from Grateful Bread Company. Now she orders 20 loaves a week. Overall, she says her restaurant’s sales are up about 30 or 35 percent since the show aired. “We’ve had to ramp up our staff a little,” she explains. Multiple times a week or a night even, she’ll hear that a table is visiting from out of town. They’ll say things like: “We came all the way from Texas just to eat here.” She’s humbled.

The Denver star has two years of traveling and appearance-making per her agreement with the television show, but she says she still spends about four nights a week in her restaurant. She also just bought a house (with boyfriend Blake Edmunds, head chef of Señor Bear), but she says they’re not working on any other new projects at the moment: “Anything’s possible, but for today, I’m just working on making Bar Dough more awesome than she already is.”

It makes sense. Just like its chef-owner and that superhero playing on TV, one of Denver’s top restaurants is also very much a butt-kicking “lady.”

Editor’s note: Bar Dough has other, non-toast things on its menu, also worth trying.

Bar Dough

2227 West 32nd Avenue, , CO 80211 (720) 668-8506 Visit Website

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