Dining Out at Hey Kiddo

At Hey Kiddo, you’re reminded that dining out is such a wonderfully easy way to feel alive.

I’m obsessed with Hey Kiddo. To me, it’s Kelly Whitaker’s best restaurant, which is a big, bold statement given that when Michelin came to bestow its coveted stars on Colorado establishments, two of the restaurants in his Id Est Hospitality portfolio earned those top honors: The Wolf’s Tailor and BRUTØ. Hey Kiddo is certainly his most accessible establishment in Denver. The vibey hot spot on the third floor of the unassuming boutique Asher Hotel on Tennyson Street in the Berkeley neighborhood only takes a handful of reservations for large parties each night, holding the rest of the tables and every seat at the bar for walk-ins. And while those Michelin Star restaurants are all about multi-course tasting menus, Hey Kiddo’s delicious dishes are served á la carte.

And Hey Kiddo is absolutely the most fun—pure, unfussy fun. Stop by and see for yourself. Grab a seat at the bar if you can (the bartenders are all great conversationalists who nerd out about the tasty concoctions they’re pouring), order a Fantômas (Hey Kiddo’s take on a citrus fizz) and a caviar bump to get you in the mood. Here, the order of the day is to play with your food.

That’s what the chefs in the kitchen, led by chef de cuisine Jonas Zukosky, are doing. And in every bite, you can tell they are having a damn good time doing it. If there is a through line connecting all three establishments that Whitaker has going on here—Hey Kiddo; Ok Yeah, the menuless cocktail bar hidden in the back of the dining room; and The Rooftop one floor up—it’s that this is where you go when you want to have great food and a lot of oh-so-very-delicious, very-good-time fun.

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Since Hey Kiddo first opened in January 2023, I’ve been by enough times to have tried every dish on the regular menu, which is split into shareables, larger centerpieces, and accompaniments. The menu is supplemented by ever-changing nightly specials announced on a “fomo board” and Polaroids. Seriously, you can’t go wrong with any of them. You can go wrong, however, if you skip the Shaken Rice. The nostalgic dish originated in the childhood stories one of the chefs heard from his grandparents about growing up in Korea. The respect for ingredients here isn’t just palpable; it’s practically a religion. As for the food, Whitaker, in collaboration with San Francisco chef Deuki Hong and Zukosky, serves up a menu that’s as global as it is local. The K-Town fried chicken is the pro move; extra credit when you hit up the bubbles section, too. That chicken is served as popcorn or a half-bird, or they’ll send you out the whole dang thing. Another fan-favorite starter: the fluted ribbons of chicken liver mousse topped with crispy chicken bits from the prep of K-Town fried chicken slathered on Texas toast—a no-waste workhorse that’s a good vessel for a lot of byproducts created throughout the kitchen. Also to-die: the potato pavé with ikura blanc is chef’s kiss—thinly sliced potatoes layered with duck fat and chevre, topped with trout roe and dill. And don’t sleep on the milk rolls with cultured butter. Add some greens in the inventive cucumber salad with chili hazelnut crunch and mint. For the centerpiece, the wagyu beef galabi is the way to go.

When it’s time for dessert, tell them to “full send”—a frequency-shifting flavor grenade of red miso ice cream topped with brûlée banana and sansho, broken cone, lingonberry, and caramel.

Overall, the fare is not New American; it’s True American, with cuisine based in many traditions and techniques, always highlighting in-house fermentation, well-sourced protein, local grain, and a zero-waste kitchen mentality. The chefs use byproducts from their process to create new, exciting dishes like the shrimp toast, made with rice that otherwise would have gone to waste. Innovation in the kitchen doesn’t always pan out, but when it hits, it’s like a soulful blast of rocket fuel. And that’s what Whitaker and his team have curated—a spot that feels simultaneously exclusive and inclusive. As in: Here’s the best party in the city, and everybody’s invited.