Union Station and Stapleton are on fire. Latin food and wood-burning grills are hot hot hot. And several of our OG superstars — Frank Bonanno, Jennifer Jasinski, Troy Guard, Kevin Taylor, Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson — have some exciting projects on the front burner. Here's what's cooking in Denver this summer.
UPDATE: Make it 26. New Yorker Michael Gibney of Sous Chef fame will become a Coloradan with the July arrival of Emmerson Restaurant at 1600 Pearl St., Boulder; former Finn's Manor fave Owlbear Barbecue will also be opening a brick-and-mortar sometime this summer at 2826 Larimer St.
Tom's Home Cookin' becomes Jean-Philippe Failyau's Home Cookin': In taking over the beloved old Five Points joint, the Park Burger restaurateur will honor its predecessor by focusing on fried chicken along with other Southern-inspired eats, including pimiento breakfast burritos and sandwiches of all kinds, from morning to night. On the more techie side, the space will be equipped with kiosks to not only process orders and payments, but store past orders for easy repeats, send text alerts when your food is ready and so on. "We're trying to reinvent fast food," explains Peter Newlin, the president of Failyau's company, adding that sustainable sourcing and a license to serve beer and wine are part of the program too.
Early June Now open
A couple of years ago, we introduced you to mobile vendor Jorge Aguirre and his wonderful corn empanadas. Now we’re delighted to learn that he’ll be offering them at his upcoming brick-and-mortar cafe in Platt Park, along with many other Colombian specialties. Take bandeja paisa, an elaborate combo platter that typically includes beef, chorizo, chicharrones and a fried egg as well as plantains, red beans and rice; meaty soups like sancocho or fried green–plantain patties called patacones that Aguirre plans to offer in several variations; and mantecada, a sweet cornbread, as well as guava bread pudding. To drink, there will be tropical juices alone or in cocktails from the full bar, and Aguirre’s also working to import coffee direct from Colombian farmers. Bonus: Though La Chiva will be a casual place with counter service, the chef-owner hopes to make it festive too, with occasional live music and dancing.
Early June Now open
Only Troy Guard could roll out two restaurants in one season without breaking a sweat (see FNG below). But the powerhouse entrepreneur (pictured center) says this one is personal: “I live in Stapleton, and I think the neighborhood’s ready for some cool new options.” As the name suggests, the 100-seat spot in the Eastbridge Town Center is all about breakfast, serving a creative array of hashes, Benedicts and pancakes with juice cocktails. No word yet on the interior design, but knowing Guard, it'll be funky.
June Now open
Courtesy Frasca Food and Wine
Thrilled as Denverites are to have their very own slice of Frasca, owner–master sommelier Bobby Stuckey has kept a different Italian institution in mind as inspiration for his LoDo venture with chef-partner Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson: the legendary Cipriani. “Those guys were so good at hospitality — it wasn’t formal, but it was really crisp,” he explains. With that in mind, he and Mackinnon-Patterson have put an ace team in place. Chef de cuisine Ian Wortham has been traveling from Piedmont to Sicily for ideas for the pan-regional menu; Thomas Keller vet Justin Williams will serve as GM; and wine director Carlin Karr, a 30 Under 30 alumna whom Stuckey calls a "superstar," is building the all-Italian cellar. Stuckey’s no less jazzed about the 125-seat space, including the fireplace-graced bar: “It looks right into the canopies of Union Station,” he says. “You get off the train and you’re staring at it.”
ETA: Late June
Courtesy Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group
Hickory & Ash
With this soon-to-be anchor of Broomfield’s Arista complex, pioneering Denver chef-restaurateur Kevin Taylor marks his comeback even as he turns the reins over to his son, chef/co-owner Ryan. The younger Taylor will preside over a contemporary kitchen centered on a hickory grill, where he’ll showcase local ingredients in offerings such as Aspen Ridge Ranch short-rib pastrami and gnocchi in squash “Bolognese.” Mountain-chic decor will set the stage for a casual experience throughout the 120-seat dining room, adjoined by a patio.
Late June Now open
8001 Arista Place, Broomfield; 303-534-1455
Like the Ballpark and Centennial branches, the 10,000-sq.-ft. Littleton iteration of this playground for all stripes — sports fans, party people, families — will be a biggie, complete with a rooftop deck, courtyard cabanas, ubiquitous flat-screens and a Sunday brunch buffet. We're told the wide-ranging, easygoing menu will resemble that of its siblings, encompassing tacos, burgers, flatbreads and steaks to pair with endless variations on the martini and the mule.
Late June Now open
Courtesy The Kitchen Restaurant Group
Hedge Row American Bistro
As much as we love The Kitchen, we’re all the more excited to learn that what was slated to be its Cherry Creek satellite is morphing into a similar but distinct venture, named for the farm that originally supplied The Kitchen’s Boulder flagship with its produce more than a decade ago. Needless to say, Hedge Row will be as staunchly farm-driven as all of the restaurant group’s endeavors, while its wood-burning oven will transform those carefully sourced ingredients into specialties like roast chicken (pictured) and mole-braised short ribs — though a few Kitchen classics remain on the menu (yes, sticky toffee pudding included). Wood will dominate the interior design as well, complete with locally commissioned furnishings. And we're told there will be more than one patio to amp up the lively aura.
Early July Now open
Courtesy Kevin Delk
Bang Up to the Elephant! (fka Mighty Mighty Sparrow! and the Sea Maiden)
You probably guessed it from the whimsical name(s) alone: This Capitol Hill project will be every bit the wild wonderland as its siblings Beatrice & Woodsley and Mario’s Double Daughters Salotto. Partner Kevin Delk is keeping the precise details under wraps for now, but he promises it will be serving food that’s “very festive, bold, big-portioned, a rockin’ value and super-unusual to the Denver dining scene,” while an adjoining cocktail bar brings the liquid fun.
Think of this West Highlands arrival as a more casual, low-key Mister Tuna. At F’in Good (to use the full but NSFW name), Troy Guard and company will turn out a contemporary comfort-food menu with an emphasis on wood-fired dishes. Reflecting the trend of the moment, they’ll also sell packaged items for neighbors on the go.
Courtesy Sage Restaurant Group
Following the success of Departure Restaurant + Lounge, Sage Restaurant Group's Peter Karpinski is exporting yet another Portland, Oregon, sensation. This 21st-century steakhouse franchise will take over where McCormick & Schmick's left off at The Oxford Hotel to serve as a showcase for whole-animal butchery and local products alike, from produce to spirits and beer. Menus have yet to be released, but they’ll be fairly similar to those at the other locations — so perhaps we can look forward to duck breast with foie gras pudding, twice-baked fingerling tarts and butterscotch sundaes in addition to premium chops. A U-shaped bar, a charcuterie station and cheese cart service promise to bring interactive energy to the ultramodern, spacious interior.
Courtesy Chubby Cattle
Denver has a few fine outlets for hot pot these days, but none quite like this one. The second branch of a Vegas phenomenon, it promises all the culinary fun and games you’d expect from the Entertainment Capital of the World thanks to its key feature: a refrigerated conveyor belt to transport food from the kitchen to diners seated around the main counter. Meanwhile, the iPad menu’s as useful as it is amusing, considering there are dozens of ingredients to choose from: beer-braised lamb, live clams, chrysanthemum greens, duck flippers (really!), you name it. Then there are dumplings, skewers, fried rice and more — not to mention a full bar in the 70–80-seat Baker space formerly occupied by The Walnut Room. This will surely be a blast.
Courtesy Four Friends Kitchen
Four Friends Kitchen
Well before big-name chefs started moving into Stapleton, two couples — Tim and Genefer Thornton and Kurt and Sarah Pletcher — decided to take the neighborhood’s dearth of dining options into their own hands by opening a cheerfully modern, Southern-inspired daytime joint for the whole family. It’s been such a success that they’re now opening an equally colorful University satellite, where kiddos will be treated to their own menu as well as playthings to keep them occupied — so that the adults can relax over cocktails and mushroom–sweet potato hash with eggs or root-beer BBQ brisket sandwiches.
Unnamed restaurant (fka Paired) from Craig Lieberman
Cracker kingpin Craig Lieberman turned 34 Degrees into an international force, but his next project is as intimate as they come. Inspired by his own culinary travels, it occupies two tiny, adjacent old RiNo houses offering two different formats — casual all-day dining on one side, dinner-only tasting menus on the other. In both cases, the cuisine will be "eclectic and constantly changing," he says, and he and his chef-partner (whose identity is intriguingly under wraps, though all will be revealed soon) are also "looking to feature guest chefs with different backgrounds and styles on an ongoing basis." Upon launch, there’ll be seating for 40–50 inside and out on the front patio; eventually, a backyard garden will add more tables while offering “a different, more playful vibe.”
Smokehouse, speakeasy, sandwich shop: At this stage in his career, Frank Bonanno has done it all. Now he’s going back to his French roots. But while flagship venue Mizuna focuses on contemporary interpretations of the cuisine, his Downtown venture will present traditional bistro fare, prepared in an open kitchen where, he says, “I'm really excited to work with the rotisserie I ordered from France — can't wait to put a Colorado leg of lamb on that baby.” Here's what else we can't wait for, judging from an early draft of the menu: lobster-mascarpone risotto with lemon fondue, classic sole meunière and a trio of foie gras preparations. As for the atmosphere, Bonanno offers a little hint: “There's a pretty spectacular interior component that requires 7,000 Chartreuse bottle caps.”
August Now open
Courtesy Citizen Rail
This Kimpton project shares a number of traits with Hearth & Dram: the glam Union Station location, the open kitchen and, to keep it humming, an acclaimed exec chef from the coast — in this case, Christian Graves, most recently of San Diego’s Jsix. Of course, Graves has his own thing going on, starting with a dry-aging room for house-cut steaks; this being a hotel restaurant, he'll also be offering breakfast and brunch. Some dishes we're especially looking forward to: oxtail with aged-cheddar rice porridge, marigold and sorrel; a vegetarian chef’s board with selections such as eggplant caviar and cauliflower tabbouleh; and whole ember-roasted lobster. An extensive drink list seems apropos for the size of the bar area, which commands more than 50 of the room's 150 total seats.
The Inventing Room Dessert Shop
Sweet news from Denver's (and now Dubai's) conjurer of confectionery: Ian Kleinman will reopen his much-missed molecular dessert shop in the fledgling SloHi neighborhood, where he'll have a much bigger stage for his smoking, popping, floating, tongue-twisting creations — one that combines some of the steampunk aesthetic of its predecessor with a living wall and a patio (not to mention underground parking). In addition to his kooky shakes, sundaes, ice cream sandwiches, miracle-fruit tastings and other signature treats, expect a few new curios like the "virtual s'mores waffle"; Kleinman will also continue to host pop-ups like the monthly Gobblefunk dinner and temporary donut shops.
Tennyson St. & W. 29th Ave.; 303-885-2802
Courtesy Lobster Bliss
Ocean to Plate
The owners of the namesake seafood wholesaler who also run the Lobster Bliss food truck are bringing a bit of the breezy oceanside to Uptown with this One City Block venue, housing an exhibition kitchen that prepares steam kettles full of cioppino, raw-bar items galore and much more (including, of course, lobster rolls). There will also be plenty of shellfish-friendly beers and wines by the glass on hand to sip in the light-filled dining room or out on the patio.
Courtesy of Lustre Pearl
In describing this RiNo watering hole, GM Matthew Wienholt refers back to the original in Austin (pictured above): “It somewhat felt like you were at a house party, but with an old-timey, Western feel.” Expect something similarly “worn and weathered” here, he says, featuring old woods, chandeliers, curtains and a fireplace — not to mention a stage, as a robust live-music lineup is in the works. As for the bar itself, it will keep 16 beers from both local and Texas brewers on tap, supplemented by several more in cans and bottles, as well as lighthearted cocktails like the frozen Orange Crush. And while there’s no kitchen, there will be drink-friendly snacks as well as an outdoor smoker for weekend BBQs.
ETA: Mid August
Charismatic sommelier-about-town Kendra Anderson (aka Swirl Girl) is about to settle down: she's opening a 75-seat RiNo bar and lounge that will be “sleek, modern, a bit masculine and a lot sexy,” according to her team. Expect a showcase for some of her favorite libations — bubbly, rosés and Negronis — among other wines, cocktails and beers, with small plates for pairing.
ETA: Mid-late summer
Jennifer Olson Photography
From pintxos to petiscos, the small plates of Spain and Portugal will star at Jennifer Jasinski, Beth Gruitch and Jorel Pierce’s tapas bar–inspired locale in Union Station’s Great Hall (just steps away from sibling Stoic & Genuine). The team tapped its Bistro Vendôme chef, Adam Branz, to do the honors in the kitchen, where he’ll prepare dishes both classic and original — perhaps offering prix fixe as well as à la carte menus for those who’d prefer a guided tour of regional items like almond gazpacho and sardine toast. The bar too, will encourage exploration by pouring variations on the standard gin tonic (as they're called overseas) along with sherry flights. Good thing a patio will double the capacity of the mezzanine-lined 50-seat space — small as it is, this place is going to be big.
ETA: Late summer
Courtesy Punch Bowl Social
Punch Bowl Social Stapleton
Robert Thompson’s retro-cool dining, drinking and gaming emporium has become a multistate franchise complete with a celeb chef, Hugh Acheson, for a partner. But it started right here, and now the Baker flagship is spinning off an instant landmark, set in the old Stapleton airport’s control tower. (You bet there will be plenty of room to play outside as well as in.)
ETA: Late summer
Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Uinta St.; 303-765-2695
To date, all of Mike Huggins and Lenka Juchelkova's successes have been inspired by the past — think the post-Prohibition patina of Arvada Tavern, the Old World–meets–small town vibe of Kline’s Beer Hall or the pre-Prohibition sepia tones of Union Lodge No. 1. By contrast, this Berkeley cocktail lounge will be all about the here and now, says Huggins, giving his GM and lead barman Josh Sevy "a lot more room for creativity." Granted, at 900 square feet, Tatarian won't have a lot of room period — but its savvy design will set the stage for experimentation, first and foremost with the use of wood. Huggins explains that the bar's named for a species of maple tree found in the neighborhood, so Sevy's working on various tinctures and bitters that "extract more of the savory bitterness" of barks, herbs and so on.
ETA: Late summer
Courtesy Kyle Foster
Long known as the head butcher and salumaio at Colt & Gray, Kyle Foster is striking out on his own — or rather with wife Katy Foster of Stir Cooking School — to open this RiNo tribute to his Southern roots. “Respecting tradition" will be a cornerstone of the restaurant, he says, with daytime menus composed of “simple, thoughtful” regional staples and a bar built around domestic whiskey. But come dinner, “I’m hoping to surprise people with food they might not expect." That plan extends to his charcuterie, which he’ll reserve for composed dishes: “I’m trying to get away from the meat and cheese boards you see everywhere else,” he explains. What Foster calls a “sophisticated Southern” design, featuring an expansive mezzanine and patio, will complete the picture.
ETA: Late summer/early fall
Grill Concepts, the California-based restaurant group behind gastropub Public School 303, is bringing a second brand to the Union Station area, this one seafood focused. If it’s anything like its Los Angeles sibling Laurel Point — and there’s good reason to assume it will be — expect an urban take on the breezy coastal fish shack, with a pan-regional menu encompassing lobster rolls, cioppino, oysters and sushi.
ETA: Late summer/early fall