To mark today's spring homecoming, we're looking ahead to a full bloom of new openings between now and June. From a Southeast Asian street-food concept from ChoLon chef-owner Lon Symensma to a collective food hall, here are 16 soon-to-be-open spots that have us savoring the season.
Ever since Lon Symensma, chef-owner of ChoLon, arrived in Denver in 2010, fresh off a stint as executive chef of New York's Buddakan, the local food cognoscenti have begged and pleaded for a follow-up venture. They got their wish. Just last week, Symensma became the designated chef of the Cooper Lounge. And on March 30, Symensma, along with his chef de cuisine Ryan Gorby, will unveil Cho77 (pictured below), a noodle house in the Baker 'hood focusing on modern interpretations of Southeast Asia's street cuisine. Among its attributes: a straight-from-Vietnam push cart on bicycle wheels, a chef's counter overlooking the expansive kitchen, and noodle bowls and dim sum from Hongzeng Zhu, named one of our 12 Secret Weapons Behind Denver's Top Restaurants.
42 S. Broadway; 720-638-8179
For six years, chef-restaurateur Jeff Osaka (pictured below) wowed Denver diners with twelve, his Ballpark restaurant dedicated to monthly changing seasonal menus, and while twelve shuttered last year, Osaka is now on track to open a behemoth food hall and three new restaurants in 2015, beginning with Osaka Ramen, a subterranean, real-deal Japanese noodle shop that's slated to unlock its doors in RiNo in mid-April, followed by a second outpost in Cherry Creek North in May. (Disclaimer: The author of this post provides communications consulting to Jeff Osaka).
In late April, Dory Ford, chef and CEO of Aqua Terra Culinary, an exclusive catering and event company based in Monterey County, along with exec chef Robert Grant, plan to grace Denver diners and music buffs with Baur's Listening Lounge (pictured below). The 9,000-sq.-ft restaurant and live-music venue will open in the historic Theater District space — originally a candy confectionery — that dates back to 1872. The cuisine, described as "timeless and classic," headlines products sourced from Colorado, a nose-to-tail charcuterie program and fresh seafood shipped from both coasts. "It’s exciting to create an innovative menu for a modern American restaurant that respects the nostalgia and tradition of the restaurants that stood here before us,” says Grant. The beverage options focus around ingredient-driven cocktails and wines from small, artisanal producers, notes Grant, adding that cocktails, world-spanning wines from a private wine cellar and multiple craft beers are part of the lineup. In addition, the space will host local, regional and national musicians of all genres on a state-of-the-art stage.
1512 Curtis St.; 303-505-1655
In mid-May, Breckenridge Brewery is unleashing its $20 million beer campus (pictured below) on the South Platte River, unfurling a brewery and restaurant in a parklike setting that'll be unlike any other in the state. The 12-acre expanse will include a 100-barrel brewhouse with daily public tours, an 8,000 sq.-ft. restaurant called The Farmhouse, a stage for live music and two open-air beer gardens alongside the river. Serving farm-inspired dishes, along with 18 craft drafts, it'll also feature a screened-in patio overlooking the beer garden. The crew is also building a bike path connecting the existing Mary Carter Greenway trail to the beer garden, making it a breeze to cycle in for a bite and a pint.
6775 S. Santa Fe Dr., Englewood
A venture from Jerry and Laura Lasco, MAX’s Wine Dive is an 85-seat, 2,400-sq.ft. restaurant and wine bar that, says its owners, is "funky and eclectic and a complete juxtaposition that captures the qualities of a casual, industrial feel with a top-notch food and wine program." The menu, billed as "gourmet comfort food with a twist," is a two-parter: the first section is dedicated to classics (like Southern fried chicken, pictured below), while the second half of the menu stresses chef-driven dishes that flow with the seasons and accent ingredients sourced from Colorado farmers and purveyors. Craft beers, an ever-evolving scroll of wines from around the globe (some of which are exclusive) and a 40-seat patio are all part of the Capitol Hill debut, which will open for happy hour, dinner and brunch in mid-April.
696 Sherman St.; 303-593-2554
Nearly two years ago, Mark Ferguson, who spent over two decades cooking alongside Wolfgang Puck as chef-partner of Trattoria Del Lupo in Las Vegas and Spago at The Ritz-Carlton in Beaver Creek, inked a deal on the former Highland's Garden Cafe space, an historic Victorian mansion on 32nd Avenue's restaurant row. And within the next month, Ferguson, along with his wife Andrea, who worked for Alain Ducasse and Jeffrey Chodorow, will grace the neighborhood with Solitaire (pictured below), a contemporary restaurant emphasizing refined service and daily changing sharable plates marked by responsibly sourced products from Colorado and around the globe. Thoughtful beer, wine and ingredient-driven cocktail lists are in the works too.
3927 W. 32nd Ave.; 303-477-4732
In late May, Brad Arguello, co-founder of Über Sausage, along with his business partners Patrick O'Neill (owner of Choppers Custom Salads) and Rob Hahn (head of GRT, a LoHi real estate investment and development group), will reveal Avanti Food & Beverage, an urbanized collection of start-up restaurants, all housed in self-contained shipping containers. Along with wines, cocktails and the largest Dogfish Head Craft Brewery presence in the state, with 10 taps featuring beers from the local brewery, there are seven restaurants, all of which share communal dining areas and two bars, one downstairs and one upstairs. The seven restaurants include: Poco Torteria, a torta shop from Pinche Tacos owner-chef Kevin Morrison; Farmer Girl, a farm-to-table concept from Tim Payne; MiJo, a Japanese-influenced build-your-own noodle bowl and rice bowl joint from John DePierro, chef de cuisine of Bones and Michael Nevarez of Bonanno Concepts; Brava, a wood-fired pizza concept from chef David Bravdica, who made his mark on the Denver street-food scene in 2010 when he graced the 16th Street Mall with a wood-fired pizza wagon; Quiero Arepas, a Venezuelan spot that features arepas from chefs Becky and Igor Panasewicz; Bixo Mexiterrean Bites, a modernized Mediterranean and Western European concept that integrates Mexican twists from chef Marco Gonzales; and Souk Shawarma, a Lebanese-influenced newcomer from Jon Robbins, chef-owner of Bistro Barbes. (Disclaimer: The author of this post provides communications consulting to Pinche Tacos and Poco Torteria).
Brothers Jason and Kris Wallenta, who spent time living and working in Mexico, are gearing up to open Dos Santos (pictured below), a taqueria in Uptown. "We love the traditions and various regional cuisines of Mexico," says Jason. "And our daily trips to the local markets and our beach-side adventures inspired this restaurant." The menu, mostly shared plates, will be complemented by fresh, simple and original cocktails made from mostly tequila and mezcal, as well as exclusive tap beers from Station 26 Brewing Co.
1475 E. 17th Ave.; 303-921-1918
The Occidental, a new venture from local big-name bartender Sean Kenyon, is scheduled to open in mid-May, just adjacent to Williams & Graham, the highly acclaimed LoHi cocktail hideout where Kenyon is also a proprietor. The space, designed with retractable windows, a 22-seat bar, a community drink rail that stretches across the center of the space, retro video games, darts, TVs and a patio with a city skyline view, will also have an additional entrance inside the Williams & Graham bookstore. Informality is at the center of both the food and cocktails, says Kenyon, citing a menu that focuses on sandwiches, entrees and snacks and a libations syllabus that's more conducive to an old-school bar than a mixology lab.
Housed in an 1894-era Victorian brownstone (pictured below) that's listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this former brothel/peep show/adult video library (it's been all of those at one time or another) will soon become Ophelia’s, the latest project from Justin Cucci (Root Down and Linger) and the Edible Beats team. The three-pronged concept — bar, restaurant and live-music venue — will pimp an upscale, gastropub-inspired menu with fresh takes on flatbread pizzas, burgers and wings. The interior has boudoir-style decor honoring the building’s past and Ophelia, the muse. Expect to see 4,000 Jäger bottles that decorate the back of the basement bar, vintage movie-theater wallpaper, a collection of old sex-show booths and marquees that celebrate sexuality, and a sunken stage that embodies a swanky Moroccan speakeasy feel.