Coming Soon

6 Things to Get Excited for at Cart-Driver, Opening in May

By Ruth Tobias  |  April 7, 2014
Credit: Ruth Tobias

How do you get a 5,000-pound wood-fired pizza oven into a 640-ft. space? Very, very carefully. We know, because we watched the whole nail-biting adventure with Kelly Whitaker and Andrew Birkholz, who are bringing a taste of their Boulder smash hit Basta to RiNo in the form of Cart-Driver, a bar inspired by the truck stops along Italy’s autostrade (highways). Learn all about the snacks and sips they'll be slinging out of a reclaimed shipping container come May as you watch the action unfold in our slide show below. 2500 Larimer St.

  • Credit: Ruth Tobias

    The vibe in a nutshell: industrial, funky and laid-back. Whereas its neighbors, Work + Class and Huckleberry Roasters, sport brightly contemporary interiors that camouflage their original uses, Cart-Driver will "really feel like a shipping container," Whitaker explains, from the original hardware on the doors to the metal railings on the ceiling. Due to its wee size, a waitstaff is out: guests will be met with a menu on the front steps, then place their orders at the bar. 

  • Credit: Ruth Tobias

    Pizzas, oysters and take-out treats: the tiny kitchen is keeping it simple and super-fun. Basta buffs will know by heart the quartet of pies on offer, all based on the dough Whitaker makes with a 200-year-old starter he obtained from the Italian island of Ischia upon opening his flagship four years ago, including the namesake Cart-Driver topped with sausage and rapini. Meanwhile, fans of The Squeaky Bean may recognize the antique Berkel meat slicer in the bar area, which has found a new home here as a showcase for American-made prosciuttos. Raw oysters and crudos round out the daily selection, along with housemade soft-serve ice cream in flavors like campfire-vanilla and a few other goodies Whitaker's considering as game-day specials: "These are just ideas right now, but we may do mortadella hot dogs, piadine [flatbread sandwiches] - stuff people can grab and go." 

  • Credit: Ruth Tobias

    Taps and tumblers star at the bar. Six wines (including a rosso frizzante), a few beers and a couple of cocktails, like Negronis, will all be kegged and served in the simplest of glassware, while amari, grappa and other digestivi enjoy their own pride of place in the beverage program. As for plain old water, you can get that yourself from a self-serve spigot.

  • Did we mention the space is tiny? Thanks to custom-built furnishings from Rocky Mountain Table Co., it should accommodate 25 to 30 diners and drinkers along the high-tops and three booths lining the wall opposite the bar.

  • But two patios will just about double its size. A courtyard seating area, covered for year-round use, will hold about 20 patrons, while a bartop will anchor the small deck out front to squeeze just a few more lucky bodies in.  

  • Credit: Ruth Tobias

    And somehow, the owners are even making room for retail shelves. Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes - a Pizzeria Bianco-branded cult favorite "you can't buy anywhere else in Denver" - will be on display, as will Jacobsen sea salt and organic 00 flour from Utah's Central Milling, which Whitaker "encourages anyone" to compare to Italian brands. Finally, get this: you can even buy R. Murphy oyster knives "so you can take unshucked oysters home" straight from the kitchen. Now that's service, especially from a place without servers. 

    We'll give you a full-color tour of Cart-Driver once it opens: Whitaker says the best-case scenario is early next month, worst-case is the end of May. Cross your fingers in the meantime.