Degree Metropolitan Food + Drink: A Denver Culinary Sensation Hiding in Plain Sight
Degree Metropolitan Food + Drink is one of the newest restaurants to open its doors to in the Denver dining scene. A little hard to find, it is located on the campus of Metropolitan State University (MSU), adjacent to Marriott’s SpringHill Suites®.
Managed by Sage Hospitality, the 48-seat eatery — formerly a food-test kitchen in MSU’s hospitality department — has been repurposed into a trendy eatery. Not only is it convenient for the student on campus, but it is centrally located close to the Pepsi Center, Sports Authority Field, and the Colorado Convention Center. Degree is open for lunch and dinner from 10:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
While many start-ups suffer from a lack of management and culinary experience, that is not the case here. Executive chef Daniel Hyman is no stranger to the food and restaurant industry, having started cooking at the tender age of 12. “I would flip our kitchen table upside down and pretend it was a restaurant. I would serve my sisters tuna sandwiches,” he said with a broad smile.
“My mother was my encouragement,” he continued. “She took us to Trio, in Evanston where I was exposed to a higher rank of food.” Now realizing the possibilities of a career in the food industry, he attended the Cooking & Hospitality Institute of Chicago where he earned his culinary degree. He further honed his skills while working alongside some of Chicago’s top chefs including Alex Cheswick, Stephanie Izard, and Jacky Pluton.
After working at Starwood and Hyatt Hotels, he applied his talents to Denver’s The Corner Office before becoming executive chef at Degree Metropolitan Food + Drink.
With all of the talent and experience as his foundation, Hyman learned the art of using well-thought out ingredients to create vibrant flavors. He prepares each dish with the same attention to detail and all the passion of a maestro conductor. This includes a delicate balance between just the right contrasting amounts of sweet and salty on the palate.
Giving new food makeovers to some traditional meals seems to be one of chef Hyman’s favorite menu innovations.
His Colorado chicken club, for instance, elevates this old late-night room service standby. His version starts with a potato bun and layers it with white cheddar green chili, bacon from a locally-sourced meat supplier, house pickled green tomato, yazu marmalade, lettuce, and grilled chicken. Some customers are so enamored with this one item that they come in for it every day.
The Degree burger is no less impressive for those who are always in search of the perfect one. It starts with grilled Angus beef and is topped with knock-your-socks-off bacon jam, whiskey onions, shitake pickled tomato, white cheddar green chili, guacamole, and for an extra zing, some crispy chicharrón.
Care for something a little more global? You don’t have to travel all the way to Japan for some good ramen. Hyman’s tokusen ramen bowl is almost too pretty to eat and is chock full of braised greens, pork belly, 72 degree egg, sweet pickled chili and shitake and green onion. “This takes six hours to prep,” he says and it is one of his personal favorites.
Desserts are just as creatively prepared as the entrees and include an olive oil cake with Chantilly cream, Toschi cherries, and Marsala caramel. Another must-try is his candy bar (served in a mason jar) with chocolate pate, puffed rice, whisky caramel sauce, honey powder, and…wait for it…marshmallow gelato.
For a small restaurant, Degree has a nice variety of 16 wines and 20 Colorado craft beers on tap. This includes Tivoli Brewing Company’s Helles Lager, Left Hand’s Nitro Milk Stout, and other local brews.
Another interesting aspect of Degree is that students who are enrolled in the on-site Department of Hospitality, Tourism & Events gain real-world experience working alongside chef Hyman and his staff.
Opened for just a month, word seems to be getting out about this small and demure open-kitchen eatery that has heretofore mostly been known by the students who attend the hospitality school there. Whether you are a local or Denver visitor, it’s worth the effort to find your way to Degree Metropolitan + Food for a truly inspiring culinary experience.