Winning in the West

HearthandDram whiskey bar copy

Strike it rich at Hearth & Dram where a vast supply of whiskey and a bountiful feast awaits.

 

 

By Janice Hoppe-Spiers

Hearth & Dram is a modern-day saloon that transports its patrons back to the late 19th century in Denver when the gold rush was in full swing and the metal clanking of railroad tracks being laid could be heard in the distance. With wood-fire cooking and a selection of nearly 500 whiskeys from around the world, the rustic American restaurant has built a solid reputation in less than a year.

“We wanted to tell a story; anything we do starts with a story,” says Garron Gore, corporate director of food and beverage innovation for Atlanta-based Hospitality Ventures. “The environment is almost as important as the food, so we try to transport our guests somewhere unexpected. We take a spark of inspiration and build upon it, doing a lot of research to figure out what exactly the city loves and was looking for.”

HearthandDram Restaurant copy

Hearth & Dram pushed the design limits when it came to the saloon because creating the right environment is key to telling the story. The company chose wood paneling because that’s what it would have had in the late 1800s and painted it black to resemble a charred whiskey barrel. “It’s a beautiful space, named best interior design in 2017 and best new bar in Denver,” Gore notes.

The restaurant is also designed to be a bit playful. “We didn’t want to take ourselves too seriously with the design,” Gore adds. “There is graffiti art I found six months before opening that we kept coming back to. It spoke to us because of the saloon girl and says ‘fuel the fire’ on it, which is a play on our wood fire grill, so we framed it and put it on the wall. We have a stuffed bear head wearing aviator sunglasses on the wall. People take pictures with it and ask questions. It’s quite fun.”

Hearth & Dram is a local’s joint. It will always be a sole location and Hospitality Ventures made sure it involved the community during the restaurant’s design phase. “The tables are made by a local artist in Denver, as well as the artwork,” Gore notes. “I antiqued all the artifacts above the kitchen line. We didn’t do reproductions and tried to get as much as we could into the restaurant to celebrate the diversity of Denver.”

The Showstopper

A closed-off kitchen is a thing of the past and today it’s all about showcasing, Gore says. At Hearth & Dram, the wood-fired grill is the centerpiece of the kitchen, which is strategically positioned to showcase the culinary talent.

Jeffrey Wall is the executive chef of Hearth & Dram, bringing his experience from Atlanta’s Kimball House with him. Wall focuses on scratch-made foods and sourcing practices that he shares with his culinary team. “He’s amazing and believes things take time to progress flavors and age,” Gore says.

HearthandDram Food1 copyAlthough the menu changes with the season, some favorites at Hearth & Dram include the beef tartare with toast, grilled bologna and cheese and the grinder sandwich. The grinder includes capacolo, mortadella, pepperoni, city ham, lettuce, shaved onion and red wine vinaigrette. “The grinder sandwich features house-cured meats and is one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had,” Gore says. “People call in ahead of time to request it for lunch because we only make a certain number a day.”

Hearth & Dram may be most known for its whole beast feast, which must be reserved five days in advance and is served only to groups of four to 30 people. The restaurant offers a three-course family-style meal with the stars of the show being a whole roasted suckling pig, dry-aged and glazed duck, salt-crusted sturgeon or dry-aged prime rib.

“We do one whole beast feast per night and it’s a great way to showcase ourselves,” Gore says. “People love it because it goes back to the carnivorous instinct along with really great whiskey. People ask, ‘Where am I? Am I in heaven?’”

Bottoms Up

Hearth & Dram’s saloon features an illuminated wall of whiskey after whiskey. It boasts an extensive collection with more than 450 options that were tasted by Gore and others on the team to “validate each one’s quality, taste and essence of good, fantastic whiskey.” The restaurant offers whiskey on tap and a custom-made cart with whiskeys from its reserve list.

HearthandDram whiskey copy“We handpick what we want to put on the menu,” Gore says. “If I open a restaurant and take every whiskey on the market, I haven’t done any research or work. The niche for us is that the whiskey has to be aged in a barrel, so you won’t find any moonshine or flavored whiskey. We are all about the true essence of whiskey.”

Because of its vast selection, Hearth & Dram provides its patrons with an iPad mini to make their selection. “Uncorkd, a Chicago-based leader in digital wine and beverage menus, helped us develop and create the beverage list,” Gore says. “The beverages are divided into cocktails, wine or whiskey categories. Let’s say you select a whiskey, a descriptive paragraph comes up so you can educate yourself. Our staff is extremely knowledgeable and is always there to help.”

 

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