Review: LowDown Brewery + Kitchen is serious about good beer and good times
LowDown Brewery + Kitchen
Danielle Lirette The patio. Check out more pictures from LowDown.
800 Lincoln Street
The jokes started pouring in before we'd even set foot in Lowdown Brewery + Kitchen, a brewpub that opened in the Golden Triangle neighborhood this winter. We couldn't stop them, not when the door off the street led us through a foyer to a gym that shares the same building. "Now we know where we can go to work it off," my friend quipped as we hurried past.
Laughter continued as we scanned the menu, an assemblage of salads, sandwiches, pizzas and entrees branded with the kind of pun-oriented names that usually result from late-night brainstorming sessions when everything's funny and you just had to be there to get it. There's the "New Mi," a play on Vietnamese banh mi; the "Kurt Brussel," a roasted-Brussels-sprouts starter; and the "Green Zzz's," with grilled zucchini, sweet-potato gnocchi and puttanesca. But the one we chuckled about most was a dish my friend -- whose Catholic upbringing makes him far from a pottymouth -- ended up ordering. "I'll have the chicken," he said, trying not to repeat the words "Bad Motha-clucker" that were listed on the menu. The server hesitated; maybe he's also a lapsed Catholic? "You mean the, uh, clucker?" he asked politely. The rest of us did our best to suppress our laughter, not wanting the server to think we were making fun of him.
Danielle Lirette Bad Motha-clucker.
The cutesy names -- which mimic the ones on the beer list, such as Holy Ale and C3PA -- do more than elicit a few laughs; they set the tone from the start that LowDown doesn't take itself too seriously. That's good in a craft-beer scene that's evolving as fast as Denver's is, with more than thirty breweries within the city limits and another dozen or so scheduled to open this year. But the playfulness also obscures what's going on with the menu, which is a purposeful departure from the usual pub grub of nachos, burgers and wings. "When we originally talked about the menu, we said wanted a pub atmosphere but we didn't want bar food," recalls Philip Phifer, who co-owns LowDown with award-winning brewer and fellow Rock Bottom alum Scott O'Hearn. "We wanted people not to feel guilty about eating here."
To that end, the owners tapped Brendon Flood, a 27-year-old chef and homebrewer from Cape Cod, who most recently spent two years as kitchen manager at Vine Street Pub. Flood instantly warmed to the idea, developing a menu that's not health-conscious in the manner of True Food Kitchen, but nonetheless feels lighter and fresher than most hops-house boards.
Danielle Lirette Pilsner, Two Times a Lady, Robust Porter.
A vegetarian friend had a hard time choosing between the house salad, with pumpkin seeds, dried apricots and jicama, and the Cusco, with red quinoa, dried cranberries and pickled onions. She chose the latter, as pleased by the tart preserved-lemon vinaigrette as the fact that it didn't need chicken to count as a meal. Soups are used as signs of the season, and soon Flood will replace hot soups -- such as the vibrant parsley-artichoke I enjoyed recently -- with cold ones, including gazpacho, cucumber-melon and carrot-ginger.
The absence of a fryer also helps lighten the menu. Instead of shoestrings, onion rings or steak fries, there are roasted fingerling potatoes, dipped not in Heinz, but housemade ketchup made with organic tomatoes, ginger, cinnamon and cayenne. I wish I'd had other uses for that ketchup -- and that's something I don't normally say, since I'm not a fan of sweet condiments. But LowDown doesn't serve burgers, either, in part because the kitchen is only outfitted with an oven, a four-top stove and a panini press. So I looked for the next-best option and wound up with the Chad, one of eight crispy, thin-crust pies on the summer menu. Sprinkled with ground beef, tomatoes, bacon, mushrooms, thinly sliced pickles and a light smear of Cheddar sauce made from extra-sharp Tillamook, the pizza -- a deconstructed burger, really -- tasted far better than expected. The pickles do sound odd, but they delivered the salty accent that pulled everything together; in fact, the pie could've used a few more of them.
Keep reading for the rest of our review of LowDown Brewery.