There are TV’s everywhere including a ginormous one above our heads, casting an unnatural glow on us and our food. Good thing this isn’t a first date – neither one of us would have been looking our best. Instead, like most people faced with TVs in every direction, my husband and I looked at TVs in opposite directions, drawn in, put under the spell of sports I don’t even care about. It’s perfectly possible our mouths were hanging open a little bit too. We wouldn’t have known. And that’s why I don’t like sports bars very much. But I liked Element Kitchen & Cocktail because of what they are trying to do that’s different.
This sports bar has the culinary power behind it of John Tesar, a 3-time James Beard Award semi-finalist and Bravo’s Top Chef contestant. Because a sports-loving public doesn’t have to settle for things like Cheez Whiz (although it has its delicious place in the world), they can still get the things they expect from a sports bar at Element, like nachos, burgers and brews, just done up better. Just by looking on the menu, we could see that Tesar uses local ingredients whenever possible, listing them by name, showing them off as an ingredient, just letting them shine. From my vantage point, I could see the kitchen where, on a giant chalk board, the day’s date was written, telling the staff the day’s selection of cheese, fish, bacon and other of-the-moment items – always a nice thing to see.
The night we visited, we started with Colorado Lamb Meatballs. Shepherd’s Pride ground lamb, lardo, garlic, parmesan and local fresh herbs. Exotic and tasty, the meatballs were a good way to start off the meal and went perfectly with Princess Yum Yum raspberry beer by Denver Beer Company. Other options we could have chosen from to start the meal were Steak Tartare (with a quail egg – much more farm-to-table than sports bar), Deviled Eggs and Nachos that we were told are presented laid out on a tray with each chip a personal
portion, pre-loaded with all ingredients. No more fighting each other for the good stuff at the top of the heap only to be left with naked chip crumbles at the bottom. We’ll definitely go for those next time.
Hopping on the “Board” bandwagon, Element has charcuterie, meat and cheese boards for either 2 people or 4. Or the Element Bacon Tasting with the daily selection of Colorado’s own Tender Belly bacon, house bacon jam and grilled naan. There are wings too, as any self-respecting sports bar is required to have. In addition to grilled wings with spicy buffalo sauce, there’s also chili/garlic, salt/vinegar or Vietnamese style.
For our main dishes, we bypassed the more formal Entrée section which had the wide-ranging Fried Chicken & Waffles, grilled fish of the day and Steak Frites and, instead, ordered from the Sandwiches & Burgers selection (in keeping with the sports bar vibe we were on board with by that point – did I mention there were a lot of TV’s?). I chose the Roast Chicken Club with Boulder Natural chicken, Tender Belly bacon, Rocky Mountain fresh heirloom tomato and butter lettuce – hello, local! I loved this sandwich. Nothing fancy or remarkable that would make me say “this is the best chicken club ever,” I can say the flavors were great and the way the tomato, bacon and chicken got all warm and mushed together from toasting was very comfort-foodie. The chips were great too, which didn’t even make me miss French fries, which Element doesn’t really have. Instead, they do Yukon gold smashers (boiled, then smashed and broken open, and flash-fried for a crispy exterior and buttery interior – the best of a French fry and baked potato) or their lightly battered and fried Asparagus or Avocado fries! More items to add to the list for our next visit.
My husband’s entrée was a partial disappointment. A fan of Pork Belly Báhn Mì, he loves them from hole-in-the-wall-authentic places, typically in strip malls. The Bluepoint Bakery baguette didn’t have quite the chew along with crust of a traditional, and, despite being a big fan of chicken liver mousse, found it overwhelmed the sriracha, pork belly and pickled vegetables. We got where the chef was going with the idea but was just a little too “present.” My husband removed the half of the sandwich with the mousse to enjoy the rest without it but, even then, found the pickled vegetables lacking the tender-crisp, Asian flare. He said next time, he’d go with the Pimento Cheeseburger or Shrimp Po’ Boy.
We will return and sample more of their vast selection of Colorado beers, their creative cocktail menu and their brunch menu, coming soon. With a friendly, attentive staff, attractive atmosphere and devotion to supporting local purveyors (thereby providing the freshest ingredients possible to us, thank you), Element Kitchen is the sports bar even non-sports fans can enjoy.
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