We've barely scratched the surface of 2015, and already it's shaping up to to be a huge year in Denver dining and drinking. From chefs expanding their empires to new wine bars, watering holes and food-truck pods, the next 12 months will be stacked with new and exciting food-and-drink options all over town. Behold our digest of 22 upcoming Denver restaurants, bars and food halls.
Baur's, 1512 Curtis St.
Originally built as a candy confectionery, the Baur's space, which dates back to 1872 and is listed on the Register of National Historic Places, was most recently Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar, but restaurateur Robert Thompson (Argyll Whisky Beer and Punch Bowl Social) shuttered his French restaurant last year, leaving the 9,000-sq.-ft. stunner in the Theater District vacant. But Dory Ford, chef and CEO of Aqua Terra Culinary, an exclusive catering and event company based in Monterey County, has grand plans to revive the dormant restaurant. "My wife and I have friends in Denver, and during our visits here, we quickly realized what a cool city it was and that element, combined with an incredibly vibrant restaurant scene, super-friendly people, a good economic climate and really, really great product availability, made Denver a city that we wanted to expand into," says Ford, adding that he and his team plan to "produce timeless, inspired cuisine sourced locally and from the coasts." The food, he notes, "will pay homage to the restaurants of the past, but also have a modern American feel." With a focus on nose-to-tail cookery, Baur's will boast an in-house charcuterie concept, fresh-caught seafood flown in from Monterey, and housemade ice cream, bacon and sausages, all available for purchase. The 200-seat restaurant will also include a fluid cocktail syllabus and live music in the lounge; Ford's future agenda calls for a speakeasy in the building's basement.
Estimated opening date: May
Early this summer, 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 unveil Avanti Food & Beverage, a behemoth, industrialized two-story warehouse in LoHi that's an urbanized collection of start-up restaurants, all self-contained in shipping containers. There are seven tenants total, all of which share communal dining areas and the two bars, one downstairs and one upstairs. Five of the seven restaurants have been solidified:
Chef Marco Gonzales, whose culinary pedigree includes stints at several award-winning restaurants in Spain, France, Mexico and Italy, relocated to Denver earlier this year, and he'll make his Mile High City debut with a modern Mediterranean eatery that accentuates the flavors of Mexico. "Our goal is to take our customers on a unique flight of flavors, temperatures and textures that focus on tapas-style cuisine perfect for sharing," says Gonzales, whose container will reside in the upstairs section of Avanti Food & Beverage.
Estimated opening date: May
David Bravdica, who made his mark on the Denver food scene in 2010 when he graced the 16th Street Mall with a wood-fired pizza wagon that dispenses charred, bubbly crusts topped with mostly local ingredients, is extending his repertoire with a sophomore effort that'll allow him to sling pizzas and serve small plates without having to endure the elements. His shipping container is slated to occupy a first-floor container inside the culinary emporium.
Estimated opening date: May
Igor and Beckie Panasewicz, the duo behind the super-popular (and super-successful) Venezuelan arepa food truck plan to take up residence on the street-level section of Avanti, and while its signature corn pockets stuffed with savory fillings are the primary draw, the shelter of a steel shipping container will allow the couple to feature other dishes (think fried plantains), and, if all goes according to plan, desserts.
Estimated opening date: May
In 2014, Mizuna alum Jon Robbins opened Bistro Barbes, a tiny restaurant in Park Hill, and this year, he'll add Souk Shawarma, a Lebanese-inspired shawarma joint, to the upstairs lineup at Avanti. The "build-your-own" menu is simple: diners get pita bread, which is then tucked with falafel, spit-roasted meats (lamb, beef or chicken), or grains (rice, bulgur or quinoa), a choice of several housemade sauces and/or pickles.
Estimated opening date: May
From Kevin Morrison, chef-owner of Pinche Tacos, comes Poco, a fast-casual torteria that celebrates the torta, the undisputed king of Mexican sandwiches. Poco will feature a dozen griddled variations, all of which will be smeared with frijoles colados and served on house-baked bolillo, Mexico’s take on a baguette. Side dishes (think crinkle-cut fries), Mexican sodas and housemade aguas frescas will round out the menu. (Disclaimer: The author of this post provides communications consulting to Pinche Tacos and Poco Torteria.)
Estimated opening date: May
When multi-talented chef Lon Symensma introduced Denverites to ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro in 2010, he had no intention of stopping at just one restaurant. The energetic New York City transplant is nothing if not a visionary, and next month, he'll open Cho77, a 2,000-sq.-ft. noodle shop and dim sum stop with a casual vibe and prices that top out at $20. The space will seat approximately 50 guests at a long chef's counter and also offer table seating. During a two-week visit to Southeast Asia last fall, Symensma and Ryan Gorby, his chef de cuisine, gathered recipes, insight and inspiration for the Asian-inspired concept that emphasizes the cooking of Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand. A full liquor license is in the works, but the beverage focus will lean toward beer, wine and sake. The name, by the way, represents the year Symensma was born (1977), and the number 7, of course, is a lucky number in Chinese culture. Cho77 will initially serve dinner only, followed by brunch at a later date.
Estimated opening date: February
A venture from Jerry and Laura Lasco, MAX’s Wine Dive (pictured above), 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 the popular Southern fried chicken) that dot the board at all MAX’s Wine Dive locations, while the second half of the menu stresses chef-driven dishes that flow with the seasons and focus on ingredients sourced from Colorado farmers and purveyors. Craft beers, an ever-evolving scroll of wines from around the globe (some of which are only available at MAX’s Wine Dives) and a 40-seat patio are all part of the Capitol Hill debut, which will open for happy hour, dinner and brunch.
Estimated opening date: April 1
Scott and Nicole Mattson, in partnership with exec chef Dustin Beckner, are gracing the Mile High City with Nocturne, a 3,500-sq.-ft. 1940s-era jazz and supper club that will occupy space in a restored industrial warehouse in Denver’s thriving RiNo district. Marrying the culinary, cocktail and musical arts to create a singular experience under one roof, Nocturne will feature nightly jazz performances from nationally touring artists, along with wine, beer and cocktails and a one-of-a-kind seasonal culinary program anchored by an iconic-jazz-recordings-inspired “Renditions” tasting menu.
Estimated opening date: February
Chef and restaurateur Jeff Osaka, who closed his beloved twelve restaurant last year, is on a roll in 2015. In addition to opening The Market in the H.H. Tammen Building this summer in RiNo, where 13 vendors (think everything from a butcher shop to a wine bar) are slated to bring a myriad of culinary experiences, Osaka is embarking on a ramen revolution. His ramen-ya will feature multiple broths filled with custom-made noodles and proteins, along with bento boxes, Japanese fried chicken and Japanese side dishes. Sushi-Rama (pictured above), also located in RiNo, will open with a revolving conveyor belt called a kaiten, an innovative carousel, first introduced in the 1950s in Osaka, Japan, brimming with displays of sushi that diners can grab and eat. (Disclaimer: The author of this post provides communications consulting to Jeff Osaka.)
Estimated opening date: March
Stanley Beer Hall, 2501 Dallas St., Aurora
Stanley Beer Hall (pictured below), a new restaurant and beer bar from Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group (Kevin Taylor's at the Opera House, Limelight Supper Club and Palettes), will anchor the forthcoming Stanley Marketplace on the border of Aurora and the burgeoning Stapleton neighborhood. The restaurant, housed in the 70-year-old Stanley Aviation building, proffers a casual, industrial atmosphere that preserves the current architectural elements, while showcasing views of the Rocky Mountains, Westerly Creek and a large swatch of the 22-acre park it overlooks. The menu will spotlight affordable dishes punctuated with local and sustainable products, says Taylor, adding that "approachable restaurants are the future, and I believe we can provide the level of cuisine we're known for, but in a way that is appealing to everyone, and fits within Stanley, and the surrounding community, perfectly."
Estimated opening date: Late fall or early winter
Habit Doughnuts and Carbon Coffee, 1553 Platte St.
Lisa Ruskaup, a Denver restaurant consultant, designer and concept director, has chosen the Highland neighborhood to unveil her two concepts: Habit Doughnuts and Carbon Coffee. The pastry chef-operated donut shop, which shares a dividing wall with the adjacent java joint, will roll out house-baked sweet, savory and seasonal creations made with buttery brioche that results in pastry-style confections. Carbon Coffee, a hybrid coffee, wine and cocktail bar, plans to serve brunch, fresh-made sandwiches, salads, grab-and-go meals and small plates that favor vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. Both concepts will be open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon snacking, happy hour, dinner and late night.
Estimated opening date: Early spring
This upcoming Cherry Creek raw bar, slated for the new 250 Columbine development project, comes via the same team of designers, builders and chefs that created Humboldt Farm Fish Wine. Promising a “Dock to Dish” experience through a daily changing oyster roster that showcases the restaurant's own farmed and wild, diver-caught oysters, as well as bivalves from both the East and West Coasts, New England native Sean Huggard, chef-partner of Blue Island Oyster Bar, is developing a menu heavily influenced by the simple but elegant seafood he grew up on. His menu, emphasizing New England specialties (think lobster rolls and stuffed clams), will also feature meat selections, and while the raw bar is oyster-intensive, ceviche, crudo, clams, crab, caviar and lobster are part of the mix too. Huggard reveals that the interior will "reflect a modern interpretation of a classic seafood restaurant with muted blues and grays, marble surfaces, brass highlights and industrial lighting."
Estimated opening date: Early fall
The Farmhouse, 6775 S. Santa Fe Dr., Englewood
Breckenridge Brewery is opening its $20 million beer campus (pictured above) on the South Platte River, unfurling a brewery and restaurant in a parklike environment that will 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 on the river. The restaurant will serve farm-inspired dishes and feature 18 craft drafts, plus 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 easy to cycle in for a bite and a beer.
Estimated opening date: Spring
Bartender extraordinaire Sean Kenyon, one of the proprietors of the nationally acclaimed Williams & Graham, a swanky, it's-imperative-to-have-reservations cocktail bar, has two projects in the works for 2015: American Bonded and The Occidental. The former, which resides in RiNo, is a neighborhood watering hole dispensing American beers, wines and whiskey (bourbon, rare selections and private barrels) and, in the food arena, American classics with a smokehouse tilt. The 80-seat spot will boast a 25-seat bar, open-air seating on Larimer Street and late-night kitchen hours. The Occidental, located in LoHi, just adjacent to Williams & Graham, is "more of an homage to the bars that my father and grandfather had," says Kenyon. The interior, 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 view, will have its own front entrance and an additional entrance inside the Williams & Graham bookstore. The food, adds Kenyon, will mirror the cocktail program. "It'll be traditional tavern food, sandwiches — entrees and snacks — but it'll all be well made with quality ingredients, and we'll also serve a free late-night family meal to industry people," he says.
American Bonded estimated opening date: Late summer
The Occidental estimated opening date: Mid-spring
Finn's Manor, 2927 Larimer St.
Noah Price, co-owner of the Populist and Crema Coffee House, along with partners Robert Sickler and Thomas Taylor, are gearing up for the opening of Finn's Manor, a cocktail temple and concreted food-truck plaza that occupies a former 7,000-sq.-ft. auto-parts salvage shop. The space, which beats to a New Orleans-style vibe, will feature Big Easy-inspired cocktails with a deference to whiskey and rum, music that you'd hear on Bourbon Street and original street art that pops with color. The food-truck pod, located behind the bar, has ample square footage to accommodate six to eight trucks, and they'll rotate daily to ensure a diversity of cuisines.
Estimated opening date: Late winter
Wurstküche, 2036 Broadway
Wurstküche (pictured above), a Los Angeles-based concept that's a combination of a modern beer hall, classic hot dog joint and exotic tubular sausage purveyor (think duck, rattlesnake and rabbit), has made its way to Denver, securing a spot in Ballpark. Its meaty concoctions are augmented by a slew of dipping sauces, double-dipped fries and Belgian and German brews. The space, decked out in white subway tile and light woods, has a cultlike following, and you can bet that the lines will snake out the door.
Estimated opening date: January
Ophelia's, 1215-1219 20th St.
Housed in an 1894-era Victorian brownstone 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.
Estimated opening date: March 1
Michael Shiell, who owned and operated Michael's Cherry Creek in the late '90s before becoming a restaurant consultant, is behind this 160-seat Larimer Square concept, which will serve approachable food in a fashionable, lively space that's conducive to fine dining. The menu, a digest of classic dishes with playful twists (think foie gras bonbons), will be complemented by an extensive wine list and cocktails that feature housemade ingredients and high-end booze. Design-wise, look for dark cement floors, white leather and light-wood accents.
Estimated opening date: Late January
A new venture from local restaurateurs and seasoned chefs Matt and Carrie Stein, this cozy neighborhood haunt, open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner, will dish out an ocean of seafood, including oysters, calamari, fried jumbo shrimp, crab cakes and several types of chowder (traditional white and red clam chowders will be mainstays). The 1,500-sq.-ft., 40-seat space is reflective of the couple's love of the sea, with ocean-themed artwork and fish ornamenting the walls and New England-y antiques adorning the space. A short libations list includes wine, beer and cocktails, and an 18-seat sidewalk patio is in the works as well. “Seafood is universally popular, but where someone is from reflects the experiences they’ve had with it. If they’re from the Midwest, they might be most used to fried fish; if they’re from the Northeast, maybe it’s the lobster roll, so for Chowder Room, we chose imagery that reflects that diversity. There’s something for everybody here, on both our menu and our walls," says Matt, who spent more than two decades at LA-based Kings Seafood Company before making the leap to Denver.
Estimated opening date: January 13