Sip & Savor
The culinary scene in Denver is having a moment. And longtime restaurateur and chef Mary Nguyen is capitalizing on it with Olive & Finch Eatery and Bakery, her brilliant concept eatery with two locations: Uptown and Cherry Creek.
Having owned two restaurants in Denver — Parallel 17 and Street Kitchen Asian Bistro, both full-service and Asian-inspired — Nguyen has learned a thing or two about Denver diners. They want really good healthy food, and they want it fast and affordable. She delivers just that at fast-casual Olive & Finch. Make that gourmet fast-casual.
“I wanted to create an environment where people could get chef-driven made-from-scratch food
without the time commitment and having to pay full-service prices,” Nguyen said. “We provide the same quality food as a full-service restaurant but in a casual setting.”
Chef Mary is being modest; her food is beyond “quality”— it’s fantastic. Everything she serves is hand-made in her kitchens — every sauce, every loaf of bread, every pastry, every juice drink — even meats are cured and smoked by the chefs.
We visited the Cherry Creek eatery, a delightful space, light and airy with lots of windows and a patio. An open kitchen separates two dining areas, each with a community table as well as individual tables. The larger room has a counter where we ordered our food brought to us by a friendly server. Also at the counter is a refrigerated case of yummy bakery items, all house-made and many gluten-free.
Because of Nguyen’s stellar reputation, we knew the food was going to be nutritious and delicious. But we had no idea the helpings would be as large as they are for the price. Nothing is more than $15, even the entrees, which come as a full meal.
For example, tender slices of roasted chicken breast lie on a bed of harissa-spiced vegetable tagine sharing the plate with braised greens. A yogurt sauce delicately flavored with dill and cucumber blankets the chicken. This dish offers a touch of the ethnic flavors that show up on a few of the dishes.
Salads come in half and full sizes. My half salad was piled high with kale, carrots, chickpeas, feta cheese, grape tomatoes, raisins, apples, sunflower seeds and farro grains. It came dressed with a vinaigrette perfectly laced with apple cider.
Flatbreads and sandwiches are chock full of proteins and veggies on house-made breads. Ingredients are thoughtfully paired and creatively sauced like apples with figs, caramelized onions and blue cheese, spread with garlic puree and béchamel sauce on flatbread. Sandwiches are a twist on the classics, like roast beef paired with caramelized onions, red peppers, garlic, brie and arugula spread with horseradish aioli on a baguette.
Breakfast is fun and creative too. The lemon poppyseed quinoa pancake is the lightest I have ever eaten, due to it being gluten-free. I can’t wait to go back for three-cheese polenta, spinach, roasted tomatoes and two eggs (cage-free, of course). A complete barista bar serves coffee drinks, and juices are pressed from fresh fruits and vegetables right there. Most dishes can be made vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free with slight modifications.
In a hurry? Order ahead for curbside delivery, especially during peak lunch hours. Catering is available for five to 500.
Like the Finch bird that is up from morning to night, Olive & Finch’s menu is available all day. And like the olive, a fruit with many uses both savory and sweet, the eatery features foods of many flavors and cuisines. Hence, the name. . .in case you were wondering.
Olive & Finch Eatery and Bakery
3390 E. 1st Avenue (Cherry Creek)
Denver, CO 80206
Open 7 a.m.-10 p.m.; Happy Hour 3-6
1552 E. 17th Avenue (Uptown)
Denver, CO 80218
Open 7 a.m.- 9 p.m.; Happy Hour 3-6
(This location is smaller with fewer menu options)
To get the Olive & Finch recipes for Smoked Salmon Mousse and Gluten-free Peanut Butter Cookies pick up an Aug-Sept 2017 issue of Colorado Expression magazine!
Claudia Carbone is an award-winning journalist and native of Denver. She writes regularly for Colorado Expression and other magazines and websites. Visit her hotel blog Sleepin’ Around on GoWorldTravel.com.
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