It was a day of eating, drinking, and having fun in Denver, a re-do trip from our rescheduled New Year’s Eve plans. The kids were with the grandparents leaving us footloose and fancy free in the city. Every parent should have the opportunity to get away every now and then – explore restaurants without complaints about eating only mac & cheese, have the freedom to tuck into a bar for a drink and adult conversation, a moment to talk about anything other than the kids, the bills, and responsibilities.
We had already had cocktails and a light patio lunch basking in the new spring sun and people watching at Avanti (review on that to come). We checked into our hotel to freshen up, and decided to walk to dinner – a luxury we currently lack on the south-east side of Fort Collins, although hope for a walkable (or bikeable) part of town is on the horizon.
We walked hand-in-hand in Downtown Denver just as it began to rain. We laughed, running down the street together, getting drenched while waiting for intersection lights to turn green. Laughing more as our shirts soaked up the increasing downpour. We took cover at Novo Coffee, sitting by the open garage door watching the heavy rain hit the pavement, the smell of fresh rain filling the coffeehouse, drinking orange zest mochas as people rode their bikes in the typical Colorado spring weather.
It was magical, the perfect getaway date, and it set the tone for an amazing dinner at Work & Class.
Work & Class is one of the newer restaurants Denver, opening in January 2014. Influenced by their collective work experience at Panzano, Rioja, Bistro Vendôme, Euclid Hall, Steuben’s Food Service, and the Justice League of Street Food, co-owners Delores Tronco, Tony Maciag and partner and Chef Dana Rodriguez bring an incredible American/Latin fusion flavor to the culinary scene. They sum up their concept as a “square meal, stiff drink, and fair price.” Coupled with house rules like, “Be Nice, No Table Hibernation (others gotta eat too), and Wait Times Are Estimates, Not Prophecies,” they claim it’s Food & Drink for People Who Can Eat.
My kind of people.
Feeling relaxed and rejuvenated after the rainy city walk, we met up with friends we hadn’t seen in years, drinking hibiscus-grapefruit lemonade with tequila, catching up on our lives and happenings, and delving into the menu. Their cocktail menu is fabulous. Not only was the hibiscus-grapefruit lemonade refreshing, but they aren’t kidding when they claim that every pour is two ounces. Again, this is my kind of place! I also had the pomegranate-cucumber-lime tequila cocktail. Both cocktails were mixed with Suerte, tequila out of Boulder, but you can choose from a variety of other spirit options. Many of their spirits come from local distilleries, like Feisty Spirits, Spring 44, and Dancing Pines. Their spirit, wine, and craft beer selection is pretty expansive.
The menu is designed for sharing with options that include half or full dishes, and proteins by 1/4, 1/2, and full pound.
We went in like it was our last meal.
- The Massive Attack Salad
- Blue Corn Empanadas
- Cabrito (roasted goat)
- Whiskey and Coke beef brisket
- Coriander Colorado roasted lamb
- Garlic-tarragon roasted vegetables
- Haystack green chile goat cheese braised greens
- Sweet fried plantains
- Avocado lime panna cotta
- Butterscotch pudding with almond toffee
The Massive Attack Salad consisted of tempura broccoli, asparagus, avocado, spinach, cucumbers, parmesan and a preserved lemon vinaigrette. It was to die for. It was the preserved lemon vinaigrette that really brought this dish to the next level. Honest to god, I hadn’t had a salad that good in a long time.
The Blue Corn Empanadas were stuffed with zucchini, squash, Oaxaca cheese, and served with smoked tomato sauce. These came highly recommended by many readers, and no wonder, as we bit into the vegetal earthiness and strings of melted cheese pulled away from each bite. Droool…
All of the meats were hands-down delicious – the sweet, savory and tender brisket, the intensely flavorful roasted lamb, and the cabrito that you don’t see on many menus around Northern Colorado. By far my favorite was the roasted lamb. Each sliced medallion was perfectly cooked with rare pink centers, and thick coriander charred grilled crusts. And again, I’m drooling just writing about it. I’d drive back down to Denver just for this in a heartbeat. We ordered a 1/4 pound of each dish and we could barely finish them all between the four of us.
Our sides were just as impressive as every other course. The sweet plantains didn’t last long at the table; if someone was slow to add it to their plate, they only got a slice before the rest were gobbled up. Nobody was keen on sharing the sweet caramelized little slices.
The roasted vegetables and the braised greens were equally awesome. Both were appetizing and aromatic, especially with the Haystack goat cheese creamed in the greens and wafting the distinct fresh farm smell under our noses, and the tarragon in the thick roasted vegetables. You’d be thrilled to order either one. Better yet, just get them both, because you can. And you should.
And last but not least – dessert. I’m glad they came in little mason jars; there was no way we could fit much more into our stomachs than that. We had to activate the “dessert stomach” after the first bites just to make room for the sugary goodness – we weren’t stopping at one bite.
Both were decadent, silky, sugary bites of amazing, but the Butterscotch Pudding with Almond Toffee was a jar of “oh my god.” One of our friends said it tasted like campfire marshmallows, and I thought that was perfect! Bill and I never order the same dish at a restaurant as to maximize the review so we can explore more of the menu, and sometimes it gets competitive when we’re drawn to the same item. After sharing bites, there’s always the comment from someone (or both), “you got the better dish.” Well, Bill got the better dish with the pudding. The avocado lime panna cotta wasn’t bad, it was just the butterscotch pudding was insanely delicious, and the perfect way to end the meal.
We left feeling the dining high between great atmosphere, delicious food, and great company. When writing this up, I contemplated on what makes a great dining experience; a true 5-star review. While the food here doesn’t compare to a Michelin-star reviewed restaurant, many of my 5-star reviewed restaurants don’t. What happens in these instances is that the restaurant facilitates memorable experiences through high-quality food and a comfortable place to hang out. Work and Class really is a “working class place with a little extra class” as they say, doing an exceptional job of facilitating memorable dining experiences. Their quality is top notch and their concept is unique. I’d LOVE to find some latin fusion in Fort Collins! But, I happily recommend adding Work & Class to your Denver dining list so you get a chance to experience this on your own.
No doubt, that Denver date getaway will be remembered for years to come.
Work & Class
2500 Larimer, suite 101
Kid-Friendly? It is, and they have a kids menu.
Parking: Parking is atrocious. It’s street parking, but better yet, get a ride over here.
Healthy Options? Plenty. Small portion, vegetarian, a couple of vegan, and Gluten-Free options
Budget-Friendly? Typical Denver pricing – $15-$25 per entree, not including sides.
Recent Health Inspection: Not rated the same as Larimer County