Interviews Restaurants & Bars

Heart of Denver: An Interview with The Nickel’s David Coonan

David Coonan, General Manager of Denver’s luxury boutique Hotel Teatro and restaurant, The Nickel, knows that the way to anyone’s heart is through their stomach. Sourcing high-quality, locally grown food, and combining family recipes with unexpected ingredients evokes a sense of true Rocky Mountain nostalgia.

Read below to get inspired by Coonan’s success, and try not to salivate over some of The Nickel’s most mouth-watering dishes. 


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Can you explain the history behind The Nickel’s unique name? The property itself was built in 1911 as the Denver Tramway Building, with an original design incorporating a modern steel skeleton and traditional Renaissance, Revival-style edifice. In 1997, architects began restoring the building, and transforming it into what would become the Hotel Teatro. The name of the restaurant pays homage to the fare collected from customers riding the streetcars – a nickel. An original vault where riders dropped their fare has been preserved in its original location inside the building, and can still be seen today!

What type of offerings can we expect to find on the menu? The menu aims to evoke a sense of nostalgia while surprising and delighting the palate, and allowing us to spoil our guests like only a loved one can do. We do change things up seasonally, and sometimes you’ll see a new item added on a whim.

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The Nickel Wagyu Burger – Our burger has gotten a lot of love since winning the Denver Burger Battle last year – a new version is currently available on our lunch menu – and while it’s not listed on the dinner menu, it’s always available by request. Our use of local ingredients starting with the beef, topped with Funkwerk’s cheese to the bun from Grateful Bread Company. It’s a menu item you can find most anywhere, but the quality – that’s what sets it apart.

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Short Ribs – It’s been on the menu in some form for quite awhile. Currently, we’re featuring a French Dip Sandwich with horseradish crema and three year old gouda on our lunch menu – and a 36-hour short-rib pot roast during dinner.

 Where do you find inspiration for new menu items?

Our four-person chef team is heavily inspired by meals our chefs enjoyed as children through their parents and grand parents, while introducing modern technique and unexpected ingredients that elevate the dining experience for all guests.

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From left to right: Chef Alex Jun, Chef Russell Stippich, Chef Sean Stengel, Chef Chip Travelute

How do you differentiate yourself from other restaurants in the Denver food and beverage scene? 

There’s a lot happening in Denver, especially in the food and bev scene. Our goal is to provide an amazing dining experience from the moment you walk through the door to the second you take your last bite. Having a distinguished barrel-aged cocktail program doesn’t hurt either. It’s a combination of the high-quality products we put out and the extremely creative talent in both the kitchen and behind the bar that really sets us apart.

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How do you measure success? 

Success can be measured in many different ways – sure it’s great to see the numbers rise, but we wouldn’t have any success without the foundation that’s been set with a hungry staff. From there, all of the other many pieces to the puzzle are able to come together.

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What advice do you have for those just starting out as a chef or restaurant owner? 

Be creative. Collaborate. Work together and make something unique. If you focus too much on what everyone else is doing, you risk losing your own identity and direction.

Feeling hungry? Visit The Nickel (located inside of Hotel Teatro) at 1100 Fourteenth Street Denver, CO 80202

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