Or: 4141 Ninth Avenue East
When: Open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, from 11 a.m. to midnight on Friday, from 10 a.m. to midnight on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday from November 3.
For more information: Visit culinairedropout.com
What we saw: Opened November 3 and located in the new 9 + CO development off East 9th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, Culinary Dropout offers even more dining options in the area near the Rose Medical Center. There is plenty of room for everyone and enough food choices for everyone to find something – or a lot – that they want to eat. Culinary Dropout and its new neighboring sister restaurant Blanco Cocina + Cantina are owned and operated by Fox Restaurant Concepts, an Arizona-based company that also owns North Italia, True Food Kitchen, and Flower Child.
While there are seven other culinary stall sites (six in Arizona and one in Austin, Texas), the Denver outpost includes a few unique touches. Most notable is the giant high-end Converse artwork featuring hundreds of hand-decorated shoes, many of which were created by employees of other restaurants in the family. This three-dimensional mural is unique to this location, and diners can spend a good portion of the meal studying the intricacy of each shoe. Or they can admire the towering ceiling and birdcage-shaped lights hanging near the bar. The space is artistic without being overdone, in the same way that the menu is interesting without being fancy.
The mighty Paloma Spritz ($ 13), for example, is a take on the classic tequila and grapefruit cocktail, but made with sparkling wine and a pinch of pink salt. Many cocktails have fancy names that evoke pop culture and movies, like the Two to Mango ($ 12.50), with vodka, White Claw mango, pineapple, orange and guava; and the Two Birds, One Stone (d) ($ 13), with gin, hemp orange bitters, squeezed lemon and a hopped honey drink.
What surprised us: The size of Culinary Dropout stands out. There are so many spacious places to sit that you might get a whole different view on each visit. This includes cabins in the forward area, a large indoor / outdoor bar, cabins curved along a wall, high tables, and an expansive covered patio with fireplaces and cornhole. There is also a stage at the back of the restaurant where live bands will perform once the venue is fully open.
Like the space, the menu options are expansive and the portions larger than one would expect, even going out for classic American cuisine. An appetizer of chewy pretzel rolls with provolone fondue ($ 14) could easily feed a hungry group of four, especially if a side of spicy gochujang Brussels sprouts ($ 6) and mouth-watering agrodolce sweet potatoes with pine nuts ($ 6) are added. Other entrees include deli options ($ 4 to $ 7 per item), onion rings with bacon barbecue sauce ($ 7), homemade chips with onion dip ($ 8), stuffed eggs truffle with crispy prosciutto ($ 5) and more.
Then there’s the rest of the menu, which features Detroit-style pizzas (starting at $ 16); five types of salads to which extra protein can be added ($ 6.50 to $ 16.50); sandwiches (starting at $ 14.50); and entrees ($ 15 to $ 29.50). The turkey pastrami sandwich ($ 14.50) was served on a super soft pretzel roll topped with spicy pastrami turkey slices, a pile of crispy coleslaw and Swiss cheese. It was simple but complex, with a freshness not always associated with a sandwich like this. Bonus: He came up with even better perfect fries by adding a side of the restaurant’s homemade ranch for dipping them.
The ground chicken salad ($ 16.50) was supposed to be our healthy option. But while it was a salad, the chunky chunks of bacon, white cheddar, luscious stuffed eggs, and bacon and barbecue ranch dressing elevated it to the comfort food category. Equally satisfying is the fried chicken, which, when ordered off the brunch menu (available 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday), comes as a filet on two cookies with a spicy sauce stuffed with umami and flavored with Old Bay seasoning.
This place is also a winner for families. There is so much space that the kids can walk around and look at the art without cluttering up the other tables. Or parents can take them outside to play endless rounds of the cornhole. Culinary Dropout is a casual restaurant, and the music is loud enough to drown out even the loudest children. Plus, with a $ 7.50 kids’ menu that includes macaroni and cheese, cheeseburgers, and chicken fillets, kids will be just as happy with their meal as adults.