All Aboard Citizen Rail, It’s Back On Track

BY Gabriela Reyes

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The meat is back at Citizen Rail with a new kitchen and chef Jared Becker at the helm.

In August, 2017 the acclaimed restaurant originally opened under chef Cristian Graves, and over the years it’s gone through an evolution in the best possible way. Initially renowned for a wood-fire grill and locally sourced ingredients, Citizen Rail has become synonymous with upscale, meat-forward dining in downtown Denver. 

Diners not only get treated to a culinary show thanks to the open kitchen, but the dinner theater comes accompanied by divine aromas. Not enough? Get a glimpse into the process of dry-aging meat through a glass window in the meat locker next to the cook station, a testament to the restaurant’s commitment to quality and transparency of ingredients. 

Unfortunately, at the end of last year dinner got put on hold after a kitchen fire disrupted operations. The restaurant closed down for a few weeks to repair and refresh. Now it’s back and better than ever, complete with state-of-the-art Josper grills and chef Becker leading the show. 

long bar with black chairs
The chef’s counter is the place to sit in order to see the live-fire and watch the chef cook. | Photo by Citizen Rail

The Chef 

Becker is no stranger to the workings of Citizen Rail. He cooked with Graves years ago at JSix in San Diego, under the Kimpton Hotels umbrella. A call between the two old friends brought Becker to Citizen Rail to join the ranks. Five-ish years later, with Graves working on another, soon-to-be-open hotel, Becker now runs the kitchen and the restaurant’s glorious aged-meat program.  

The Menu

Chef Becker’s commitment to excellence extends to the art of dry-aging a variety of meats. Think beef, duck, lamb, and pork. He begins by carefully picking animals raised on a diet of corn and grass. The emphasis relies on cuts not only lean and flavorful, but also with superb marbling. For example, menu favorites like the bone-in 18-ounce ribeye ($65) and smoked short rib ($49).

What makes the dry-aging program shine lies within the meat locker. Here a unique, seven-year-old yeast strain exclusive to Citizen Rail infuses the meat with distinctive flavors as it ages for periods of up to 100 days. Next the cuts get prepared over live fire and embers, resulting in a perfectly charred exterior with a tender, ruby-red interior that melts in the mouth.

The menu isn’t all meat, the live-fire method touches an array of other high-quality ingredients. Take the charred romaine ($16), a type of Caesar salad enhanced with black garlic. Coal-roasted beets ($15) also shine with a maple-sherry vinaigrette, feta, and orange. For a vegetarian main dish, the cauliflower ($24) with fermented kumquat, green mole, and pistachio sings with intricate flavors. 

black plate with cheeseburger and fries on it
Steak is great, but the burger is also delicious. | Photo by Citizen Rail

A Bit of History

Union Station holds Denver’s rich history and has welcomed visitors since 1914. From its origins as a hub spurred by the gold rush of 1858 to its transformation into a median of tourism thanks to the railway system, the evolution of this landmark mirrors the city’s own growth journey.

Following a period of decline when train travel waned in popularity, Union Station experienced a renaissance in 2014 due to an intense renovation project. Emerging as a multi-use destination, it now houses an array of amenities including a hotel, dining options, bar, and transportation. 

The revitalization of Union Station catalyzed a resurgence in its surrounding neighborhood, attracting residential complexes, upscale retailers , and an eclectic mix of bars and restaurants. Among these establishments was the Kimpton Born Hotel, featuring the acclaimed Citizen Rail restaurant and bar. Recently the hotel transitioned under new ownership into the Limelight Hotel Denver. However, the lauded establishment continues to attract visitors with a blend of sophistication and convenient hospitality.

Pay a visit to the Limelight Hotel and Citizen Rail and see it for yourself. Visit the restaurant for brunch Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. And on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner runs Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday 5 to 10 p.m. 1899 16th St. Mall, Denver, citizenrail.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gabriela Reyes

Gaby has been part of the Denver/Boulder food scene since 2015 when she moved to Colorado. While gradually losing her ability to eat due to six years of misdiagnosed food allergies, she became fascinated with the culinary scene. Gaby, aka The Restaurant Encyclopedia, has been DiningOut’s restaurant coordinator for food festivals since 2017 and joined the editorial team in 2022.

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