I’m so excited to share our newest Business Love feature with Downtown Denver’s newest darling, Urban Farmer. Urban Farmer is centrally located in LoDo just a block from Union Station, which makes it a great meeting spot for lunch, dinner and happy hour. They even serve breakfast as well. The interior design is casual farm to table done right. Distressed wood meets rich blue and saddle leather, green walls of plants line the windows, with some windows opening up up to the sidewalk. These features are completed with compelling abstract paintings and a red neon David Bowie quote which give this space an authentic and hip Denver feel and also let you know that this is not your average steakhouse.
Enter passionate chef, Chris Starkus. Chris is the executive chef at Urban Farmer, and his knowledge and expertise in sustainably sourced meat, seafood and vegetables is impressive. A lot of restaurants are inspired by the farm to table movement, but Urban Farmer truly takes it to a whole other level. Literally. Their rooftop is home to several bee hives where Urban Farmer harvests their very own honey combs for both the bees, and their guests, to enjoy. They also grow herbs and edible flowers seasonally on their outdoor patio to compliment the kitchen’s creations. They even grow their own mushrooms! I love that each steak option tells you exactly which Colorado farm it comes from and that the kitchen is its own in-house whole animal butchery.
I highly recommend trying the deviled eggs with bacon. (Bacon from their in-house butchery.) They are so delicious and even included in their happy hour specials. Their cocktails are fantastic, ranging from classics like Bee’s Knees and Manhattans to seasonally-driven Sun Tea Negroni and a Butter Pecan Old Fashioned. I haven’t been in for dinner yet, but I am so excited to try their seafood tower and one of their grass fed steaks.
Urban Farmer is a welcomed edition to Denver’s growing culinary scene, whether you are a local or are planning a visit to Denver. It’s also in the historic Oxford Hotel and just a block away from the Crawford Hotel in Union Station and The Maven.
Don’t miss our full interview with Chef Chris Starkus below.
Follow Urban Farmer on Instagram at @urbanfarmerdenver.
Business Love Interview with Chef Chris Starkus
Tell me more about your background as a chef and restaurant owner.
I took my first job at a local restaurant when I was 15, cycling through every station from dishwasher to host to prep cook and expediter. During a visit to my grandmother in Las Vegas, I toured a culinary school and enrolled on the spot, relocating to Sin City after graduating high school.
After completing my culinary studies in 2001, I found work at Wolfgang Puck’s Chinois, and a year later, I made my way onto the opening team of Puck’s Postrio Las Vegas, first as tournant and later as assistant pastry chef, a yearlong apprenticeship position.
Next I looked to Renoir in The Mirage and took an apprenticeship under Chef Alexandro Stratta. When Stratta opened his eponymous restaurant, ALEX, at the Wynn Las Vegas, I followed, , taking on additional operational roles, and mastering whole-animal butchery. While I was on the team, ALEX earned numerous accolades including an AAA Five Diamond rating and two Michelin stars. In the wake of ALEX’s success, my mentor opened STRATTA, which I helped design and lead as assistant executive chef. During the same time, I studied for and earned his Level One certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers.
I relocated to Portland, OR in 2009 to work as a private chef. The position allowed me time to study organic gardening at Oregon Tilth, and then use my horticulture expertise to plant gardens for myself and my clients while tuning in to the natural offerings of the Pacific Northwest. In 2011, I returned to Sin City and joined Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood as chef de cuisine, amplifying his devotion to sourcing seafood, meat, and other ingredients from responsible sources.
I then returned to Portland in 2013 to join the flagship Urban Farmer restaurant. I recently moved to Denver to open Urban Farmer Denver.
Tell me more about Urban Farmer and its overall vision and business ethos.
Urban Farmer, Denver’s Steakhouse is located on the corner of 17th and Wazee Streets; in the heart of Denver’s LODO district, next to the Historic Oxford Hotel. Sustainability is a cornerstone of the ethos for the entire property; recycling and composting programs are initiated throughout the building including the Banquet + Catering Facility. Urban Farmer Denver’s commitment to sustainability is evident in everyday practices. Beef tallow candles are used to provide a romantic glow illuminating the restaurant space which is one of the many products from our in house whole animal butchery program.
Since Spring of 2017, the rooftop at the Oxford Hotel have become home to three hives curated by Chef Chris Starkus to produce hyperlocal micro batch honey, honeycomb, pollen and other whole hive products.. Which is used in a myriad of cocktails and entrees from the signature Bee knees cocktail to Seared Foie gras, bee pollen for the signature cheese cart service and local green salad with honey vinaigrette and crispy quinoa. This complements a fully organic patio garden that is used to grow everything from edible flowers, hand-harvested chamomile tea for tableside service. In addition to edible uses for the Honey Using the this year’s honey harvest, Chris Starkus has created a beeswax lip balm and wooden cutting board conditioner. A partnership with local seeds trust to continue community involvement in starting gardens for all pollinators including honeybees.
Did you always dream of becoming a chef and opening restaurants?
I did not always dream of becoming a chef, in high school I wanted to be a professional golfer. But during my junior year, I realized I was not going to be good enough and got a position at a local restaurant as a prep cook, host, busser and expediter. I fell in love with the restaurant industry and culture then. I went to Las Vegas to go to culinary school in 2000.
Do you have any plans to open any additional Urban Farmers restaurants in Denver or beyond?
We currently have four, Sage restaurant group is the company I work for and they plan to open more in the coming years. I love it here and have no plans on leaving Denver.
What are your favorite restaurants (other than Urban Farmer) in Denver?
The Wayback, (which I know has since closed to reopen soon), Old Major and Kachina.
What is your favorite thing about living in Denver so far?
The Sun!!! coming from living in Portland for 8 years, I have missed it so…
What is your favorite drink or cocktail?
Cognac tonic. Had one for the first time in Cognac, France on my honeymoon and loved it ever since.
What is your favorite food indulgence?
I love Falafel and Thai food!
Who are your favorite bands? Or what to do like to listen to most when you cook?
I love Ben Harper, Red Hot Chili Peppers and RJD2. I listen to music when I cook at home, but not in my professional kitchen.
What are you most grateful for?
My family and my marriage with my wife, we have been married for 14 years. In the restaurant industry, stability at home for me leads to bigger successes both personally and professionally.
What does contemporary bohemian mean to you?
Going back to the simple. Learning and growing from the source, having a understanding of nature and living with the seasons.