A Classic American Bistro in the Heart of Denver
I consider the sharing of recommendations for terrific dining experiences, especially in my home town, a required element of this column. One of my favorite restaurants, not just in Denver but of all time, is modern-American Table 6 at Corona and 6th Ave. Having just eaten there last week (Table 6 is only open to the public for dinner and Sunday brunch), I’m happy to say it is still an awesome place and one well worth your patronage.
609 Corona Street
Denver, CO 80218
First-time visitors will invariably ask, “What’s with all the chickens?” Pictures and statuary featuring this humble bird are everywhere. At first, le poulet was just a mascot, emblematic of a French-country vibe, rustic with a modern twist. But as Aaron Forman, Table 6’s owner and self-proclaimed chief bottle washer recalls, his guests (he never calls them customers or clients), “definitely have a sense of ownership. They immediately took over the bird and now almost all were originally gifts.”
How has Forman kept his establishment relevant in the fast-changing Denver dining scene since its opening in 2004? For one thing, the food is great. Table 6’s eclectic, satisfying cuisine features perhaps the best tater tots in the free world, but all of it is driven by the passion of executive chef Carrie Shores. She’s been around the restaurant for six years, four as sous chef, and her cooking style is “keep it simple, don’t overdo things.” Shores has paid her dues, having gone to culinary school and worked in San Francisco for 10 years before moving to Denver. It was a tremendous education for someone who aspires to produce noteworthy dishes.
To match with Shores’ cool comestibles, Aaron deftly balances the wine list to keep it consumer friendly but also appealing to higher-end wine lovers. “I always include domestic standards like the 2012 Prisoner ‘Blindfold’ white blend from the Napa Valley ($55/bottle) and Jordan’s 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon out of Sonoma’s Alexander Valley ($68). I keep prices on these bottles reasonable so that less knowledgeable guests can feel safe when picking a good wine.”
But along with these no-brainers come many more unusual alternatives such as the 2002 Schlossgut Diel Riesling Spatlese Dorsheirmer Pittermannchen from the Nahe in Germany ($72) and a lovely 2004 Brundlmayer Cabernet Franc ‘Vincent’ emanating from Austria ($75). All are stellar wines, great with food and not that expensive given typical restaurant markups. There is also a super-cool reserve list that Aaron will whip out if you ask for it.
Shall We Brunch?
While Table 6 is primarily built for the dinner crowd, Forman and Shores preside over an impressive Sunday brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. “We try to be playful, local and seasonal,” says Forman. Shores adds that a big part of Sunday’s success relies on substantial portions. “No one goes home hungry.” Brunch is a la carte, with entrees ranging from $8-18. The wine list is fully available, although most imbibing guests freely partake of Mimosas and other specialty drinks.
Forman also believes in aggressively courting wine purveyors and makers to schedule industry tastings and special dinners at reasonable prices. “Our suppliers connect us to the best food and wine folks in the world, and we in turn introduce these artisans to our extended family. It’s a wonderful synergy.”
Continuity of excellence means that the place is always packed, which requires reliance on a passionate staff that includes “Hurricane” Lee Hernandez-Ball, general manager Mike Young, bean counter Dan Fergusen and events coordinator LeeLynn Nearing. Service is top-notch but not obtrusive, and the goal is to fully cover a guest’s table in ways that seem like the help isn’t even there.
Popular With Politicos
Table 6’s guest-first philosophy has led to Governors John Hickenlooper, Roy Romer and Dick Lamm, as well as former Mayor Federico Peña, Council Member Charlie Brown, former state Rep. Andrew Romanoff and Table 6 den mother and queen lobbyist, Maria Garcia Berry, enjoying meals. When asked which relevant alcohol and beverage laws he would change, Forman opts for allowing dogs on the patio. “We have an outside entrance and were able to do so in the past but now it isn’t legal. So we have to make people keep their dogs outside. This has caused little kids to cry and no one enjoys that!”
Table 6 is obviously a huge success, but what does the future hold? Chef Shores is scouting for a sous chef who complements her style. “As soon as I find one, we’ll have the manpower to go back to butchering whole animals and working on more detailed charcuterie.” And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a joint Table 6-Wine On The Road trip being planned to Portland, Ore., and Willamette Valley wine country from May 4 – 8, 2014 (go to www.wineontheroad.com/oregonwithtable6.php for more details).
I’ve long maintained that Denver’s restaurant scene is vastly improved over even a few years ago. We now have much to be proud of, especially in terms of casual yet authentic eateries. Table 6 is such a place.
While Forman and Shores like to change the menu on a regular basis, certain dishes speak to their hearts and thus stay on the blackboard, just begging for the perfect wine pairing.
“The texture and slight heat of our Chicken Skin Chicharone Taco appetizer,” says Forman (which comes with celery root slaw, blue, and T6 franks, $12), “just begs for a cooling effect. We have a tremendous riesling selection and I would recommend the 2010 Rudy Pichler Riesling Smaragd from the Wachau Valley in Austria. It’s the perfect example of exploiting differences between food and wine.”
As for the other sort of wine-food match which focuses on commonalities, Shores digs the Salt Baked Onion entrée (with wild mushrooms, Camember, and semolina spaetzle, $19). Alongside this earthy concoction she recommends 2008 Sierra Cantabria Tempranillo Reserva Unica from Rioja, Spain ($65). “It’s warm and smoky and snuggles up to the mushrooms and savory cheese like it was born to do.”
Certified sommelier and unfilteredunfined.com editor-in-chief Ben Weinberg, JD, MBA, pens Weinberg’s Wine Tech in Sommelier Journal and has written for the Daily Beast, Worth Magazine, The World of Fine Wine, Wine Enthusiast and The Tasting Panel Magazine, where he is the Rocky Mountain Editor. He also leads luxurious, behind-the-scenes tours of the world’s most famous wine regions via WineOnTheRoad.com. Ben can be reached at BentheWineBerg@coloradostatesman.com