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Meet Nocturne: Jazzing Up Denver’s RiNo District

Hello, my name is Nocturne Jazz & Supper Club

by Monica Parpal | Senior Editor

Get ready, Denver, because River North (RiNo) is now home to some pretty cool cats. Opened on Monday, March 9, Nocturne Jazz & Supper Club brings live jazz and music-themed eats to the RiNo arts district.

First of all, let’s talk about RiNo. This part of town has seen quite a bit of revitalization in the past few years. Walking along Larimer on any given night of the week, people of all sorts saunter in and out of breweries, stroll into art galleries and artsy shops, and join friends for a bite from many new and eclectic restaurants in the area. And on 27th Street between Larimer and Walnut, an unassuming doorway to an old warehouse leads guests to a whole new experience: a modern jazz and supper club.

DiningOut was lucky enough to get an early taste of this euphonic new addition to the Denver dining scene. Here’s the inside story on Nocturne Jazz & Supper Club {1330 27th Street, Denver; 303.295.3333}:

A dish of lamb belly

Photos courtesy of Nocturne

Whom you’ll meet: If you’re lucky, you’ll meet the owners, Scott Mattson—a certified sommelier, jazz percussionist, and former wine buyer at Denver’s Mondo Vino; Nicole Mattson—hospitality guru of Sage Hospitality (and Scott’s wife); and Chef Dustin Beckner, who’s worked at Michelin-starred restaurants as well as Denver’s own Root Down as former executive sous chef. You’ll also meet a troupe of attentive, music-loving servers and wine-loving bartenders keen on making your experience the best it can be.

The Mattsons are originally from Denver, and spent the last few years living in Vail building careers in hospitality. “We decided that we wanted to leave a legacy,” Nicole Mattson says, referring to their decision to move back to Denver in pursuit of opening their own concept. Their dream? A place where people could experience America’s cultural history through dining and music. The Mattsons were inspired by photos of their grandparents going out on the town to enjoy dinner and live jazz. “We wanted to marry the art of food, music, and hospitality,” Nicole says.

Three restaurant owners in black and white

Nicole Mattson, Chef Dustin Beckner, and Scott Mattson

What you’ll see: Stepping inside Nocturne feels like stepping a few decades back in time. Walk through the door and enter a seductive, dimly-lit foyer where a hostess takes your coat and gestures around a black velvet curtain. Your eyes land on the grand, tin-covered bar and elegant period wallpaper. A wrap-around drink rail and bar-height seating encircle the spacious dining room floor, with low tables gathered around the ample central stage. More velvet curtains fall from the ceiling to frame a striking baby grand piano, sweeping you to the era of John Coltrane and early Sonny Rollins. Exposed brick and modern amenities bring us back to 2015, and a winding staircase leads to an upper balcony for additional seating and private dining for up to 36 guests.

The building—a 1927 warehouse—was completely restored by the owners, who had considered nearly 50 spots before settling on this historic location. That’s not to say it didn’t need some restoration work. “We were in here grinding concrete and power-washing the ceilings wearing ponchos,” Scott Mattson says, recalling the many months of hard labor that went into bringing the space back to life.

A dimly lit jazz club shot from above

What you’ll drink: Scott Mattson happens to be passionate about wine, and at Nocturne you’ll experience somewhat rare, small-batch wines from Northern Italy, California, and beyond. “We’ll usually have about a dozen reds and a dozen whites,” Scott says. “They’ll be unique, approachable wines—nothing overbearing.” Selections of unique bubbles from Crémant du Jura and Grower Champagne, as well as dessert wines like sherry, Madeira, Vins Doux Naturels, and Port, will balance the red and white wine offerings available by both the glass and bottle. Handcrafted cocktails, local spirits, and craft beers will also be available. If spirits-master Topher Hartfield (formerly of Devil’s Thumb Ranch and Volario’s in Winter Park) is on bar-duty, you’re sure to get a great recommendation.

Bartender Topher Hartfield at Nocturne

Bartender Topher Hartfield at Nocturne

What you’ll eat: The menu at Nocturne Jazz & Supper Club is like a love letter to the world of jazz. Chef Beckner finds inspiration in Italian food, local farm-grown fare, and even African grains for his menu, which he organizes into sections like “Sound Bites” and “Encore.” In many ways, the food is designed to fit the music; one element enhances the other.

Settle in with an order of Gnoccho Fritto off the appetizer menu: airy, lightly fried pasta dough topped with handcrafted charcuterie and Asian pear mostarda. Then there’s a delightful Fennel Bavarois—a special amuse bouche of pea-green mousse topped with salty Hackleback caviar and translucent orange carrot tapioca. This dish will likely find a home on the chef’s tasting menus, it’s so delectable. Heartier dishes like Apricot-Ginger Glazed Lamb Belly and African Grain Risotto with millet, polenta, and popped sorghum deliver big flavor and intriguing texture, sure to delight your taste buds while smooth sounds fill your ears from the stage.

A chef taking an order in a kitchen

Nocturne Chef Dustin Beckner

What you might pay extra for: To truly savor the Nocturne Jazz & Supper Club experience, you’ll want to try Renditions—the ever-changing chef’s tasting menu. With five to eight courses, every Renditions menu will find inspiration in iconic jazz albums like John Coltrane’s “Giant Step,” or “Way Out West” by Sonny Rollins. These menus will be released in a concert setting with the relevant album’s music performed by a local jazz artist. In between songs, guests will listen to Chef Beckner and Scott discuss each dish, as well as how the album inspired the food and drink. “The goal is to create art,” Scott says. “To offer Jazz 101 and beyond in one night, in one place.” The first Renditions menu will be offered at the end of March, and will run for approximately eight weeks.

What you’ll hear: Jazz, of course. The club will feature local acts like the Annie Booth Trio, as well as occasional national talent, like Jeff Hamilton. The Mattsons hope to revive what they call “America’s first art form.” Musicians and bands will play six nights a week, and many will participate in 12-week artist-in-residency programs. “This way, they get to do their art on stage every week,” Scott says. “It’s more than just a gig.”

What to do if you’re not familiar with jazz: This one’s easy. Order a drink and plate of Farmhouse Riffs (gin-roasted olives, housemade pickles, and Grateful Bread), chat with your companion, and let the music fill your ears. In other words? “Just have a good time,” Scott says. “Jazz is supposed to be fun!”

Nighttime stage at a jazz club