First Looks is a preview of newly opened and soon-to-open restaurants. These are not full reviews, but they should give you a little insight into what the restaurant is like.
The Venerable and Historic Red Rooster Bar and Grill in the Paseo was a smoky little hole in the wall with cheap beer and live music and stand-up comedy and bar foods a-plenty. It was much loved in its time, but then its time passed and it shut down.
But the Paseo is not a place where buildings lay fallow for long, especially venerable and historic ones. New owners purchased the old bar and set about renovating it. The newly re-opened space is gorgeous. For those who have experienced it, the dining room is reminiscent of Bar Arbolada: bright, open, and inviting.
While the cosmetic changes are most welcome and are sure to make Red Rooster an Instagram-highlight haven, it’s the new menu that has me eager to return.
The kitchen crew, with experience at Urban Agrarian and Ludivine, among others, and the bar manager, plucked from The R&J Supper Club and Lounge, have created some stellar dishes and drinks that will have metro-area foodies losing their minds.
Before we rundown what I ate, let me whet your appetites with all the dishes I can’t wait to try on my next visit:
Smoked steelhead trout dip with sea salt kettle chips; a blue-corn kielbasa corn dog; smoked salmon with heirloom tomatoes, green beans, olives, fingerling potatoes, a jammy egg, arugula, and lemon vinaigrette; fried chicken with blue cheese grits; smoked lamb sirloin with smashed fingerling potatoes and flatbread; Della Terra pasta with a basil-and-pecan pesto; bruleed banana split; etc. etc. etc.
Guys, I think this place might be amazing.
I started with masa grit cakes, topped with a black bean puree and a diced pickled squash served with an avocado crema. It was gluten-free and vegan and I didn’t know that until I looked back at the menu just now. That’s a ringing endorsement in my book. The grit cakes were crispy and warm and the creamy black beans were well-seasoned and tasted like pure comfort, with the pickled squash adding a nice burst of brightness.
Owner Andrea Koester (part of Venerable Concepts with Josh Gautreaux, John Otjen and executive chef Timothy Mort) told me the dish is an homage to the classic Native American trio of crops: corn, beans, and squash. The food nerd in me loves this stuff. The glutton in me just wants another plate ASAP.
I also got to try the scallion tacos, which are a trio of scallion pancakes filled with braised pork and pickled onions slathered in gochujang. I didn’t mean it long-term, but my first notes on these tacos were, “This is how I want tacos from now on.” I’m not about to turn down tacos of any sort, but you can be sure I’m getting these again.
The scallion pancakes are perfect—savory and pliant with a lovely chew—and the pork is so tender it cried watching “Avengers: Endgame.” The snap of the pickled onions is a great contrast and the heat of the gochujang is the perfect balance of sizzle without getting too hot to enjoy the next bite.
Bar manager Jame Corley’s put together a great drink menu, with lots of classic cocktails and a several that will change out seasonally. I asked him to make me whatever he wanted and I was rewarded with one of my all-time favorites: The Corpse Reviver No. 2.
Red Rooster opens Monday and brunch is coming in a couple of weeks. Koester also told me Monday nights they'll have a $10 burger/fries/beer special as an homage to the old bar. Something tells me a lot of people, new and old, are going to make Red Rooster their new after-work spot. Definitely worth checking out soon.