Two of the owners of the popular Epic Chophouse in Mooresville have added yet another enticing restaurant to the local dining scene with Chillfire Bar and Grill in Denver. Epic owners Jim Morasso and Larry Sponaugle, along with partners Larry and Sheree Griffin and chef Jon Spencer, opened the new restaurant this summer in The Shoppes at Waterside. “There’s nothing like Chillfire here in Denver,” says Morasso. “We’ve been lucky—it’s been well received.” With an emphasis on fresh ingredients and creative entrees, Chillfire has a contemporary yet relaxed atmosphere, with Sheree Griffin overseeing the design details. Substantial wooden doors give way to a sleek and spacious interior, with a wood-beam trellis over the bar, a tin ceiling in one dining room, and a soaring black industrial ceiling in the remaining space. Alluring accents include chandeliers made of heavy rope and floor-to-ceiling windows that provide great views and help create an open, airy feel. There’s a spacious dining area outside as well. Already garnering loyal customers, Chillfire is usually buzzing with diners. On a recent visit, despite the bustling crowds, we were seated immediately, even without reservations. The wait staff was attentive and efficient, promptly delivering our drinks and appetizers, including five perfectly flash-fried baby lobster tails that were crunchy on the outside with a delectably tender interior. The lobster tails were served with a horseradish jalapeño honey mustard sauce that was sweet and creamy but lacked the spicy punch we were expecting. At $10.95 it was a good value. Our second appetizer, the Carpet Bagger, was filet mignon medallions with asparagus spears, a fried oyster, and Béarnaise sauce. The steak is cooked to order, which is a nice touch for an appetizer. The classic Béarnaise sauce was a savory accompaniment to the asparagus and beef, and the oyster was fried perfectly. At $9.95, if accompanied by a salad, this starter could make a nice entrée. There is a tempting soup and salad selection, including classics like Caesar ($6.95), wedge ($5.50), and a gooey crock of three-onion soup ($5.95). For something alittle different, there’s the Chillfire Mariner ($10.95), with baby shrimp and lobster served over greens with a horseradish Catalina dressing, or the Chef’s from the South salad ($9.95), which combines country ham and pimento cheese with a chef salad( $9.95). The restaurant’s 11 salad dressings are all made in-house. The main entrees are varied and creative, ranging from pastas, steaks, seafood, and poultry. We were intrigued by yummy-sounding options like slow-cooked barbecue baby back ribs ($21.95) and Piedmont paté ($12.95), a thick slice of charbroiled meatloaf served over Yukon gold mashed potatoes. After much debate, we finally selected a 12-ounce prime grade sirloin ($16.95) cooked to order—well charred yet still red and bloody inside—along with country potato cakes, which had a nice flavor although the texture was slightly gluey. We also ordered the Chatham Shellfish Succotash, a delectable combination of Maine lobster, Gulf shrimp, and blue crab served with white beans, corn, okra, cherry tomatoes, onions, and garlic in a white wine/thyme sauce. The dish—one of owner Jim Morasso’s favorites—was a riot of color and a real feast for the eyes. The flavor was fresh and rich with smoky undertones. At $22.95, it’s one of the pricier menu items, but the portion size is more than generous. For pasta lovers, there is a selection of six dishes from which to choose, ranging from vegetarian, grilled vegetable cicerone, and hearty rasta pasta, which features cheese raviolis with pan seared lobster, Andouille sausage, bell peppers, and asparagus in a curried madras sauce. Favorite poultry dishes include pecan-crusted chicken breast with a maple-Dijon glaze and oven roasted Barbary duckling in an orange-jack barbeque glaze. Of course one of the best parts of dining out is dessert. We chose a delectable and decadent red velvet cake. Nearly all of the desserts served at Chillfire are made by Queen City Bakery and are exceptionally large—one slice of cake is more than enough for two people. The cake was pleasingly spongy and the cream cheese frosting not overly sweet, just right. It was a great way to end an excellent dining experience. Thanks to a passionate and experienced group of owners, Chillfire, while still working out some newbie details, is a promising new restaurant that offers the right combination of ambience, design, and upscale food.
Chillfire Bar and Grill 121 A Cross Center Road, Denver 704-827-2121 www.chillfiregrill.com