I’ve heard a lot of good things about this restaurant, and was anxious to try it, but, apparently, I picked the wrong day.
We went with a group of five on a Friday evening. We had reservations, (and, yes, you should make reservations), but they became confused through some failed attempts at communication. Nonetheless, we all found our way there, and sat down to enjoy some time together.
The restaurant is very cute, but very trendy. It is situated in what formerly was a filling station in a historic district of Denver, and, yes, you can actually eat in the service bays.
Right away, we discovered they have good Happy Hours deals, ($3.00 craft draft), but the tables on the patio, (at least the “little” patio) aren’t really suited to people our age, or groups our size. This place is perfect for groups of two to four, and within the age group of 21 to 35. It’s not really suited to older folks, except for the nostalgia of the filling station itself, and the memories posted as “art” on the walls.
Now, for the food. The happy hour beer was good, especially at that price. Just know that the happy hour beer is their choice, as is the wine, but that’s not really unusual. For the things to eat, patrons can choose from soups, salads, “small” plates," sliders, or full-sized entrees. There are a lot of vegetarian choices on the menu, and the menu does change from time to time.
On this visit, I was fortunate to sample the Veggie Burger Sliders for $9.50, and the Sweet Potato Falafel for $8.50. For my tastes, the sliders were too “mushy,” (no texture), and not really very flavorful. As for the falafel, I like falafel, but this was falafel by name only. Falafel should be crisp on the outside, and tender on the inside, but never “mushy.” Yes, it too, was mushy. OK, I understand this is trendy food trying to “redux” classic recipes, but, if I want a Veggie Burger, I’m still going to Red Robin where they do Veggie Burgers right, with bottomless fries for a dollar less. Also, even thought I appreciate their effort, and the falafel almost had the correct hint of flavor, if I want falafel, I’m still heading to Marakesh down on Colorado Boulevard and Illif.
It is good for chefs to be creative and alter recipes, but, when they do, they need to at least try to approximate the flavors and textures of the original dishes. Having an idea, giving it a recognizable name, and making it pretty does not a good dish make. They might be able to fool the young kids with such trickery, but my pallet is more mature.
One final note on Root Down. This is the only restaurant I have ever dined at that required me to “pay” before I got my food. Oh, I don’t think they do this for everyone, but they did it for our party. There were five of us, and they wanted to move us to a larger table, (we were crowded around a table for two), to open up our table for a smaller party. Unfortunately, our food had not arrived, (It took almost an hour!), and when I told the waitress we were being moved, she presented us with the bill to, “Square up.” I thought the bill would be only for our drinks, but it was not. They wanted payment for the entire bill even before we tasted a bight of our food. Being the good patrons we are, and as is our custom, we still left a very nice tip, (after all, we held up that waitresses station for nearly two hours while we waited first for our drinks to come, then to place our order, and then for the food to come), but the waitress did not even thank us! I guess she is used to 30% tips; I don’t know. The ultimate insult came later when they tried to present our bill again! Hey, this place may be good, and maybe not, but one thing’s for sure – they sure do not handle crowds well. If you go, go in a small group, and never, ever on a Friday or Saturday. There are plenty of other, good restaurants in the area where you will food just as good, but much better service.