By Stacey Brugeman, 5280 Magazine
It used to be the only attention that Denver International Airport got from visiting gourmands came in the form of angry Twitter rants. But with the June opening of Elway’s in Concourse B and the August opening of Root Down in Concourse C those cries for better food at DIA have been answered. A recent food-focused trip to New York started right here when I bellied up for breakfast at Justin Cucci’s Root Down DIA.
I ordered the fried egg BLT from chef Shoni Jones’ menu of seven breakfast items (all served until 3 p.m.). In a flight-friendly matter of minutes, a perfectly gooey-more-than-runny fried egg was peeking out at me from between the halves of a buttery croissant. The sandwich also came with sliced avocado and Roma tomatoes, black-peppered Tender Belly bacon, aged cheddar, and a generous schmear of house-made Romesco. Home fries—big chunks of sweet potatoes, Yukon golds, and purple Peruvians— and simple, lemon-dressed arugula flanked the plate. I’m a mayonnaise girl, but Denver’s Elevation Ketchup was on hand for those who paint their breakfast plate red.
If you start your day with something stronger than coffee (at 9 a.m. the woman to my left worked her way through two glasses of wine), Mike Henderson offers a bar program every bit as exciting as those at Linger and the original Root Down. There’s a blood orange mimosa; a hangover elixir featuring coconut milk; and the PYT, a low-alcohol, travel-friendly Prosecco cocktail. All are made from a 100-bottle collection that sits in vintage suitcases above the bar. With tight schedules in mind, the wine list features 10 half bottles. Twenty-two Colorado beers are offered by tap. Not only was transporting bottles and cans from a storage room at the other end of the airport going to be a logistical challenge, a draft-only beer list is better for the restaurant’s carbon footprint. In fact, eliminating brews by the can and bottle is an evolution Cucci will roll out at his other restaurants later this fall. (Large format and gluten-free offerings will still be available.)
While the bar’s booze program is impressive, there are hints that the Root Down team is serving an early morning crowd for the first time. Servers are still perfecting espresso beverages like the cortado, and I’d love to see the restaurant offer cold-pressed coffee instead of just pouring hot java over ice. But with subtle improvements such as these, Root Down DIA will no doubt appease even that most jaded Tweeting foodie.
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