Thursday, April 26, 2012

Williams and Graham - the customer is #1

I've followed Williams and Graham's progress from afar, first hearing about it through the Westword and other online mutterings. Sean Kenyon, former Squeaky Bean bar manager, was involved in the SB replacement, The Occidental, and Williams and Graham. Unfortunately, due to lease negotiations, The Occidental never opened, and WG's opening was delayed due to restaurant bar licenses. And so I left for my extended Europe and Australia trip without experiencing either. I was relegated to long-distance voyeurism via online publications. That's never satisfactory.

And now....? Well, Williams and Graham is my hangout. One week you show up there with a friend on Sunday and have a great experience. So great you have to return again and again and again and make reservations for another day.

Williams and Graham is tucked into the corner of Tejon and 32nd Avenue. It's distinctively on the corner, but with their minimal door signage, I accidentally passed it this Sunday. I weaved back around and entered their library front. Did you know that you can trade a hardcover book for one of their hardcovers? They may not be willing to part with some books, but the bartering opportunity exists.

Wednesday through Sunday are their busiest evenings, though one bartender will admit that Wednesday is hit and miss. I definitely recommend a reservation or calling ahead. Be prepared for a 1.5 hour wait. Fortunately, the host will call you in case you're at a nearby restaurant or at home. Consider it a fifteen minute warning.

Once allowed in, typically escorted by Todd Colehour (WG co-owner), you'll be beckoned through the concealed door past a dimly lit corridor into the bar area.
This view is from the back. WG offers bar seating, standing room only at the bookshelves, booths, and tucked away high seats on a raised platform toward the bar's right. Maximum capacity is 80 people. Even though this bar gets packed, conversation is relatively muted. I've enjoyed the bar, a booth, and standing room only settings and have been able to have decent conversations consistently. They don't have rules, so I respect their clientele's class. There is light music in the backroom. Also, at some point each evening scratchy blues will be played.
 Here we have co-owner, Sean Kenyon, a third generation bartender. He is an amazing source of information and has a remarkable memory. I say this because he remembered a drink he concocted for a friend based on a butterscotch drink request. He came back with a Flip comprised of Leopold Bros Three Pins Alpine Liqueur, Noci Amaro (walnut based), egg white, and perhaps another ingredient. Anyway, his attention to detail is shared with his staff. Once you meet your server or bartender, they introduce themselves and get your names. So they manage to remember your name, recall last night's special cocktail, have encyclopedic knowledge of spirits, are able to point you to drinks appropriate to your taste, and are equipped to handle problems proactively. There is much to enjoy.
 Here we have the Rob Roy, a drink featured in their Scotch Whiskey section. Their cocktail menu is separated first by house cocktails and then by spirit. The spirit sections include brand name, its respective location (USA, Ireland, Indonesia, etc), and cocktails that features these particular spirits. You can substitute spirits as I did for the Last Word (swapped Spring44 Gin for Leopold Bros Navy Strength Gin) or even go off menu if you have a special hankering. Sometimes you may be guided back to their menu.
And sometimes you might be very intrigued about an interesting bottle on a bar's top shelf. For instance, here is the 1605 Chartreuse (created to commemorate the return of a mysterious manuscript concerning an elixir of long life to the Carthusian monks). It's part of Sean Kenyon's collection and is $25 for that taste. It's well worth the experience.
For contrast, you can enjoy the Green Chartreuse VEP for $15. This picture highlights both its louching and Jason's fine beard.
Olivea working her magic on a fiery apple smelling drink. She worked very well with my friend and I, nailing requests and suggestions.
Hunting for top shelf Chartreuse spirits.
They let me keep the 1605 bottle since we emptied it. I'm searching for the last few herbal drops.
The secret cubbyhole for passing notes between the house front and bar. If you can't see it now, click the picture for a larger view.

Other notes: Be wary of the toilets. Their lids have difficulty staying up, so it might be less dangerous if you sit. The bacon beignets sound like a fantasy. There is a distinct lack of bacon flavor. The paired blackberry sage reduction is fantastic, though.

Williams and Graham
 3160 Tejon Street
Denver, Colorado 80211

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