If you live in Colorado, you’re probably already familiar with at least one facet of the Longmont-headquartered company Oskar Blues whether you realize it or not. You might know them as the brewers of Dale’s Pale Ale, the famous “craft brew in a can” that they launched in 2002, or perhaps you’re familiar with CHUbuger, their fast-casual concept with Denver locations in RiNo and at Coors Field.
Despite the fact that there are three other Oskar Blues Grill & Brew restaurants (Lyon, Longmont, and Colorado Springs), I knew little about the mini-chain prior to visiting their newest location on Market Street in LoDo. Only goes to show you, even though I’ve been here for two years now, I’m continuing to learn things about this place!
This brand new restaurant is dab smack in the heart of Downtown Denver. My husband and I stopped by the opening weekend to take a look around and try out some items on the menu.
Please note: Financial compensation was not received for this post. I was invited by the PR firm working with Oskar Blues to come in and try some other items on the menu on the house. Opinions expressed here are my own.
After undergoing a $2.5 million renovation, the Oskar Blues team was able to transform the 10,000 square foot space from a former Croc’s store and Brendan’s Pub into a full-service restaurant, bar, and music venue. With exposed brick, hardwood floors, and colorful blue and green upholstery lining the booths of the restaurant, the Oskar Blues downtown has a welcoming and unfussy feel.
The team has added playful touches to the design, such as the Instagramable ceiling over the chair and table area featuring suspended drumsticks dramatically lit with blue and red lights, making them like the rock ‘n’ roll version of stalactites or the endless string of Mardi Gras beads hanging from the hand railing outside the kitchen.
Spacious booths line the back and side of the space, with the corner booth illuminated by a custom light fixture with the face of Jimi Hendrix making up the repeating pattern.
Downstairs is the Black Buzzard – a 350-person capacity music/event venue with a full bar where local and touring acts are invited to perform and comedy nights are often held.
With a Southern-style Creole and Cajun inspiration, the menu leans heavy towards the types of comfort food that will make your belly happy, but completely ruin your New Year’s diet. Luckily, we didn’t make any resolutions this year so we were free to gorge ourselves with all the decadence Oskar Blues had to offer!
My husband is a sucker for Southern fried food appetizers so he decided to combine three of them as his entree equivalent. We started with the Fried Green Tomatoes ($5). I liked the light fry on the tomatoes and the dipping sauce, my husband said they were very good, but thought the tomatoes could have been a little juicier on the inside.
Next up where the Deep Southern Fried Pickles ($7). We always get this dish whenever we go to a certain dine-in movie theater, so we’ve had our fair share of fried pickles. Eating this version kinda ruined the other ones for me – these were far crispier, had more flavor in the batter, and the pickles had a bit more spring to them. It would be a pretty elaborate gesture, but I did consider how I might be able to pack an order of these into my bag and smuggle them into the movie theater the next time I go.
He also ordered a plate of Catfish Bites ($7) and a side of Collard Greens ($3.5). He said the catfish bites were probably the best he’s ever had since they were light and fluffy and the flavor of the catfish was not overwhelmed by the batter. The plate of fried fish was also enormous. We ended up taking most of that home, but I will say, catfish bites really do taste better when you eat ’em fresh. Despite a valiant toaster oven effort by me, I just couldn’t get ’em nice and crispy like they came out originally. To be expected.
Because he had ordered so many appetizers, my husband did not want to get the Toked Wings ($14). However, I was insistent we get them because I was in a wings kinda mood and the waiter said they were awesome. We compromised and asked really nicely if they could make us a half order instead, which they were kind enough to do.
The fried wings were served crispy with the sauces on the side, perfect for customizing for your desired level of spicy/saucy and trying out multiple sauces at a time. Ours were served with bleu cheese, celery, and carrot salad and the Mama’s Little Yella Pils Honey Sriracha and the Old Chub 3 Chili Chipotle sauces. I liked the chipotle sauce the best because it had that classic spicy wing tang to it.
Turns out my husband took one bite and was totally obsessed, saying they were some of the best chicken wings he’s ever had. Why do I need to keep reminding him that I’m always right?
For my entree, I ordered the Tom Waits’ Seafood Jambalya ($22). I didn’t realize how enormous this dish was going to be. When it came out I kinda gasped and made that “omg, what did I do? I ordered too much food!“-type face.
To say there was chicken in the dish would be an understatement. The order arrived with nearly half a roasted chicken on top. In addition was an almost four-inch long piece of andouille sausage split down the middle, and serious heaping of mussels, crawfish, and shrimp.
I would say because there is so much uncut meat on the plate I spent a lot of time trying to pare everything down into manageable bites. The protein components were so dominant, I actually found myself wishing it came with a bit more rice to balance everything out, but I’m also a carboholic and I always want a 2-1 carb to protein ratio.
The mere suggestion that I’d want MORE food on that plate is ridiculous. They absolutely don’t need more food on the plate – maybe they actually need less?? When I lifted it up to take a photo of it I had to use two hands – it felt like it weighed 6 pounds. I ended up taking most of this home and spent the next three days trying to finish it until I was like, “no more jambalaya for at least ONE WEEK!”
All-in-all I was happy with my experience at Oskar Blues Grill & Brew. I think this is a great place to come for a casual meal before a Rockies or Avs game, and obviously a great option for eating if you’re already headed to a show downstairs. I’d say out of everything we tried, their appetizers were super strong. I liked the price point on all of them – pretty affordable and you’re getting a substantial amount of food. We’d probably come back just for the wings alone.
The menu is enormous, so there’s a bunch of other stuff I didn’t get to try that I would like to – like the oysters for example, or the Royal Reds & Grits (how did I miss this on the menu???? Shrimp cooked in garlic over cheesy grits, hellooooo!). Ok, yeah, we’re definitely going back. I’ll update once I get my grits on.
Oskar Blues Grill & Brew – Denver –1624 Market St, Denver, CO 80202
- Decor: Funky, groovy brewery-focused bar/grill
- Crowd: We ate pretty early so it was just couples and a family or two
- Recommended: Toked Wings, Catfish Bites, Deep Southern Fried Pickles