When you think of the Caribbean do you picture white sand beaches, tropical colors and flavors, fruity drinks, and island music? Well you'll find all this (minus the beach) at the new Calypso Caribbean restaurant, bar and café Bang Up to the Elephant in their cool, new space in Capitol Hill.
The fully immersive restaurant comes from Denver restaurateur Kevin Delk, the creative mastermind behind Two-Fisted Mario's, Mario's Double Daughters and the Aspen tree filled Beatrice & Woodsley. In similar fashion, Bang Up to the Elephant is full of imaginative touches, creative interior design, and lots of Caribbean colors. From the painted floor to the blue-hued light and everything in between, this new restaurant offers much more than just a meal.
The large space had been abandoned for nearly 27 years prior, and before that was The Mercury Café. The team had a lot of work ahead of them, but the empty canvas allowed for creativity and a total transformation. Between the ambiance, the unique food, and the tropical drinks (and plants), you really feel transported to a tropical destination. Another cool component is the sunny front “patio” café, enclosed with colorful mosaic stained glass walls, big doors that can fully open on a nice day and a park fountain.
We began with a few cocktails from Cocktail Conservator Dylan Holcomb, our favorite being the Nose Ender because it’s served in a coconut and festively garnished. Its spirit is tequila and house-made cream of coconut. If this doesn’t make you feel like you’ve been transported, the food and ambiance surely will. The Devil’s Claw and Newgate Knockers where our other favorite cocktails and were also beautifully garnished. Devil’s Claw contains Mekong, a Thai spirit, lemon juice, Chinese Five Spice, and curry syrup. Despite all the exotic spices, the drink was well rounded and refreshing, it did bring out the spice in the food however. The Newgate Knockers drink was a bit creamy and sweet, with lemon juice, tamarind, gin and Orgeat.
The menu is led by Executive Chef Travis Messervey, of Beatrice & Woodsley, and features a wide range of "Calypso cuisine". Delk gave us a brief history of the Islands, explaining how many different countries explored and colonized the Caribbean at various times, thus bringing their foods and customs to the Islands and its native people. Diners here will find African, Indian, European and Chinese dishes and influences on the menu. For example, the Jerk Chicken is slow-cooked over pimento wood from the All Spice Tree, traditionally used to smoke jerk meats, and covered in a savory, spicy rub. It had wonderfully deep flavors, wasn’t too spicy, and sits atop rice and black-eyed peas. It comes with a side of astringent papaya-red cabbage slaw and is garnished with tasty smoked, sweet pineapple slices.
Their Bake & Pepper Shrimp sandwich was also a standout and is one of four versions you can order of this popular Trinidadian dish. It had breaded shrimp between two pieces of fried flatbread with tomatoes, red cabbage slaw, and a green herb spread. It was satisfying, fresh and crispy. We also tried the Kale & Plantains salad that was coated in hot pepper vinaigrette which really packed a punch. The plantains and jicama help cool you, but beware. The Bowl-O-Chow Mein wasn’t spicy except for the jalapenos on top and was loaded with healthy veggies, a bit too soaked in teriyaki sauce however. To finish us off we had a scoop of fried ice cream with chocolate rum sauce and mango chunks. Delk admitted fried ice cream is not really Caribbean, he just has a soft spot for it and thinks his diners will too. It was delicious, tasting like a sundae atop a warm old-fashioned doughnut. Their menu is extensive and offers many more delicious dishes than we were able to try, so we'll be back.
Bang Up to the Elephant provides a great year-round escape, whether it be from the weather, the daily grind, or the typical meal. They have happy hour daily from 3-6:30pm and will also be launching live music brunches on Saturday and Sunday’s 9-3pm soon!
Words by Tiffany Candelaria @TCdoesFnB Photos by Samantha Bliss @redfollowsherbliss http://banguptotheelephant.restaurant/