701 Grant Street
Capitol Hill, Denver
Bus directions: take the 0 from Market Street Station to Broadway and 7th. Walk east on 7th to Grant.
Bones is, at heart, an economical restaurant. It doesn’t waste much time on signage, for instance. I was walking down Grant thinking it was on 8th and had to call the people I was meeting to get new directions. When I did get to the intersection at 7th, nothing presented itself except Luca d’Italia, Mizuna, and the Lancer Lounge. I asked the guy with the spotted dachshund if he knew where Bones was, and he said he’d never heard of it. Presumably a man walking a dog comes from the neighborhood, so that boded badly.
Finally, with trepidation, I approached this door. You can’t tell from the picture, but “Bones” is painted above the door in tiny type, and in larger type to the left of the door. It’s a small place, about the size of D Bar Desserts. At 5:30, it was full.
Turned out that I was supposed to have been there at 5, which I would have known if I didn’t go on email strike on the weekends.
Turned out that the same man, Frank Bonanno, owns Bones, Mizuna, Luca d’Italia (all on the corner of 7th and Grant in Capitol Hill), and Osteria Marco in Larimer Square (Luca and Marco being the names of his sons). He’d probably buy the Lancer Lounge if he could and turn that into yet another restaurant. Or expand one of the others, since Bones and Mizuna are both small.
To me, running so many places implies an economy of effort. A person that busy has to know exactly what to do and when to do it, or the restaurants all come crashing down.
Yet he still found time to come by our table twice in the three hours we were there, and even signed my grease-stained one-page menu. If he devotes the same level of care to his staff as he does to his customers, his restaurants must be great places to work.
Our waitress took good care of us too.
And the food, Beth?
Oh, yeah. Since I arrived half an hour late, Denveater and our other dining companion had already started, but they were kind enough to leave me a steamed bun with suckling pig (shaped like a taco rather than a traditional pork bun), a beef eggroll, and some bone marrow, which was a treat for me. My first thought was to compare it to pâté, but its texture was less firm than most pâté, more like silky blobs of cooked fat, and its flavor was more meaty. I can see why Denveater loves it so much.
Also, there’s something about sticking a knife into the bone and prying out your food.
My favorite, though, was the black cod tempura. The batter was more delicate than your typical tempura from a Japanese restaurant, and on the first bite, my mouth filled with a light fish flavor. The jalapeño added the right amount of heat.
Almost everything I ate at Bones, with the exception of the eggroll and the steamed bun, was wet and soft and fatty. I did wish the escargot potstickers had been crispier on the outside (and I also wish I had focused a little more carefully).
But then, wet is appropriate for food at a noodle bar. My egg noodles with duck leg confit (meat cooked in its own fat) and oyster broth were delicious, but I had to take a break for a while because I was so full. The duck was lovely, but the oyster broth didn’t really register with me.
In case you can’t tell, I’m in over my head here. It’s been so long since I’ve had either escargot or oysters that they taste new.
If I stick around Denveater long enough, I’m sure I’ll get used to them, since she loves oysters. She was entertaining us at Bones with stories of how she got from “I don’t care if it’s good. I just want to eat” to the food writer extraordinaire she is today. Be sure to check out her (future) blog post on Bones, especially her take on all the namazake (unpasteurized sake) that we drank.
Did I say, at the beginning, that Bones was economical? Well, we got the bill. Considering all we ate and drank, it was a fair price. But if you go there, don’t let the low prices fool you. They add up pretty quickly.