Two years ago, I had what was one (actually 2, since I went there again a month later) of the coolest restaurant experiences of my life. We were at Root Down, in almost-downtown-Denver, feasting on fancy “small plates” on an outdoor patio and wondering what it would be like to be a hip Denverite who got to eat beet gnocchi and bacon-wrapped, goat cheese-stuffed peppadew peppers regularly. I was also wondering what exactly a peppadew was, but that’s neither here nor there.
Root Down wasn’t perfect. I had a few criticisms, but the restaurant, the food, and the experience of both together was something special and different and totally cool. Fast forward to two years later when Joey and I are looking for somewhere new and different to celebrate his birthday, just the two of us. I threw out Linger‘s name right away, as it’s Root Down’s sister restaurant, and I’d heard great things about it.
We took advantage of the valet parking (parking in small Denver neighborhoods can be less than fun) and followed the giant sign to the entrance of the restaurant. The restaurant is located in what used to be Olinger Mortuary, which is totally creepy and totally fantastic. And if you’re going to open a restaurant in what used to be a mortuary, you might as well play into it with dessert menus that look like toe tags, a picture of Harold and Maude inside the drink list and coffin descriptions in the bathroom.
We got there just at 6, which is a little early for us but we expected a wait. Surprise surprise when they had a table right away, right next to a window that looked down on the cutest ice cream shop, designed to look like a giant old fashioned milk can. Too cool! Upon sitting down, we were given a big white bowl full of popcorn, which we were told was pina colada-flavored. Joey was sold right then and there. He is a popcorn fanatic. And neither of us could believe nowhere else had thought to serve popcorn instead of the overdone bread basket. Two bowls later, I wanted to beg our waiter to take it away. So addictingly good.
Then came the drinks. Joey was in heaven because they had his beloved Titan IPA and I got a great recommendation on red wine from our waiter, who also offered to grab the restaurant sommelier if I wanted some wine expertise. We may or may not have spent the most money on this portion of the evening. Oops!
We were slightly confused by the menu, which is broken up by regions, and referred to as “street food.” It’s a little hard to tell which items are more of an appetizer and which (if any) were supposed to be eaten as an entree, so we just elicited some help from our waiter who recommended we start with about three dishes and then go from there. For the record, three ended up being plenty.
We settled on the Grilled Never Ever Beef Tender, the Butternut Squash Pupusas and the Pork Belly Bun (which we ordered Vegan because it was made with jackfruit and I thought I was going to cry I was so happy to see it again after becoming totally addicted in Jamaica). The dishes came out staggered, which I didn’t like (I like to plate hop!) but Joey loved because he was able to experience the plate without mixing up the flavors with something else.
From Linger’s menu:
Butternut Squash Papusas / Avocado Aioli, “Broken Shovel” Goat Cheese, Black Beans & Jicama
This was all things good in the world. A perfectly crispy-crunchy “hot pocket” filled with butternut squash and goat cheese and avocado aioli on the side? Yes. Yes, please. These had a lot more heat than Joey was expecting but I found it to be just the right amount, especially paired with the creamy cheese and avocado. We devoured every last bite of this.
Also from Linger’s menu:
Pork Belly Bun / Grilled Pineapple Jam, Sambal, Plum Sauce & Scallions
(available vegan with BBQ jackfruit)
I should preface this section by saying that I’ve never had a steamed bun, but I have recently become obsessed with the need to eat one. I’ve never seen anything more deliciously fluffy-looking. I had to have this. I will say that I was disappointed that I couldn’t really see or taste the jackfruit, but the mushroom mixture inside the bun was perfectly delicious and bursting with flavor. And that bun? Don’t even get me started. It was every bit as fluffy and soft and doughy as I had imagined. Joey didn’t share my steamed bun infatuation so he wasn’t freaking out about it quite like I was but he did think it was good.
Again, from Linger’s menu:
Grilled Never Ever Beef Tender / Fried Brussels Sprouts, Plantain Mash, Chimichurri & Pickled Onions
We had mixed feelings on this one. Joey would not and could not stop talking about how much he loved the brussel sprouts, which were basically kale chip-crunchy and extremely flavorful and all together — steak, chimichurri, plantain and onion — I thought the dish was well done. But separately, we didn’t love the ingredients. The tanginess of the sauce was a little much and the beef actually could ever have been more tender. I think I ate that whole pile of onions by myself. I actually hate raw red onions, but I’ll eat almost anything pickled.
Overall, we loved Linger. Even more so than Root Down (which actually has a higher Yelp! rating). I don’t know if it was the popcorn, the near perfectness of the menu, the slightly macabre ambiance/decor of the restaurant or the wine, but I felt really cool after this experience. Totally full, but really cool.
What is the coolest restaurant experience you’ve ever had?
Would it freak you out to eat in an ex-mortuary?
Popcorn or bread basket?