Colorado's culinary scene is rich, and the small college town of Golden is no exception. In the spirit of dining and trying out new places, we scouted out Golden’s up-and-coming gourmet dining scene — and, while there, stopped by the Briarwood Inn, a well-established fine dining landmark.
Bridgewater Grill at the Golden Hotel has a carefully curated menu with uniquely Colorado offerings. (Mmm, we’re talking a 303-style meatloaf with Colorado bison and Duroc pork, paired with an onion-tomato chutney. They borrow beer from their neighbor at Coors Brewing Company to make a Blue Moon demi-glace.
A newer kid on the block, Abejas, offers an ever-changing menu, taking advantage of nature’s best offerings. They’re extra creative with winter squashes and root vegetables during the colder months. And a cozy establishment, the Golden Moon Speakeasy, comes complete with a distillery (but no special handshake required for entry).
Golden is telling its faithful hikers, bikers and brewery tourists, "Hey, sit down, why don’t you? And stay for dinner."
Here are four must-tries in Golden’s drinking and dining scene.
807 13th St. in Golden
First, let your eyes feast on this restaurant’s digs. The building once housed a Piggly Wiggly Wholesale Grocery Store and other businesses. Now the cool, rustic interior features reclaimed barn wood, corrugated metal, old doors — all from a ranch in Golden that was up for sale. Greenery sprouts out of unique wall frames. The decor fits with the restaurant’s theme — locally sourced.
The concept at Abejas is all about seasonality, taking advantage of the season’s best offerings and offering an ever-evolving dining experience. For example, the chefs may serve salt cod fritters with purple sweet potato, celery root and quail egg and baked pancetta with pumpkin puree and bok choy.
Another menu possibility: Alamosa bass all plancha-house sausage with clams, heirloom beans, kale and fried herb vinaigrette and crispy confit duck leg-beluga lentils with cauliflower and curried brown butter. For dessert: Chocolate mousse with passion fruit and chantilly cream. It's seasonal and totally innovative.
In the past, Abejas has participated in Denver Restaurant Week, which can be a real tourist draw, if you happen to be in town during the right time.
At the Golden Hotel, 800 11th St. in Golden
Mark Willing, the executive chef at the Bridgewater Grill, has a culinary career that has spanned from Chicago to Peru. Now, in Colorado, he has created a menu that draws from some of the state’s classic dishes, with a contemporary approach. (Think: roasted corn and green chili bisque or a smoked Colorado trout dip paired with a sweet onion jam and pita.)
Colorado-raised beef tenderloin and the wild game meatloaf are diners' favorites among the entrees.
The patio is perched just above the scenic Clear Creek River that rolls through downtown. Stop by the lounge from 6 to 9 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays for live jazz by the Clear Creek Jazz Quintet.
1630 8th St. in Golden
Put this Golden landmark on your culinary bucket list. This opulent restaurant hosts afternoon teas and weekend champagne brunches.
Chef Jeff Jones's menu is rotating, but if you're lucky you may have the chance to try a spiced flatiron steak with a red pepper chimichurri sauce for the main course. Or grilled opah with beluga lentils, carrot ginger puree and macadamia croquant. Or housemade ricotta tortellini, wilted kale, wild mushrooms and a hot truffle vinaigrette.
While there, order up a classic drink: the Briarwood Cocktail, with fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, muddled cherries and Tin Cup Whiskey.
Gold Moon Speakeasy
1111 Miner's Alley in Golden
The old west feel of Golden makes it a good setting for a speakeasy-style cocktail lounge. Stop in to the Gold Moon for cheese, charcuterie boards or caviar and enjoy a craft cocktail or pre-prohibition style punch. The cocktails are all made with spirits produced by the Golden Moon Distillery, which specializes in herbal liquors and liqueurs using seasonal herbs, spices and botanicals. The artisan production process emulates those of the mid-to-late 1800s.
Happy hour is Tuesday through Sunday from open (hours vary) to 7 p.m. Seven different cocktails are priced at $7.