First Look at Cart-Driver

By Ruth Tobias  |  July 8, 2014

“Pizza and oysters — what more do you need?” muses Kelly Whitaker while looking out with a grin over all 640 sq. ft. of Cart-Driver, the tiny but much-awaited Italian-inspired bar he and partner Andrew Birkholz are opening tomorrow afternoon in the RiNo shipping container next door to Work & Class. It’s a rhetorical question, of course. They know you need booze, and they’ve definitely got it. You may or may not need dessert, but just in case, they’ve got that too, in the form of vanilla soft-serve. What you don’t need or want, they’re sure, is pomp and circumstance — and you won’t get any. Given the size of the space, the team behind Boulder’s ever-popular Basta is smartly sticking to a system of counter service that Birkholz jokingly calls “quick casual, but with a maitre d’,” in reference to the host who will be stationed at the entrance to help streamline the ordering process. In that spirit, let's cut straight to the chase with the slide show below.   

2500 Larimer St.; 303-292-3553. Open Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday 5-11 PM, Friday-Saturday 5 PM-12 AM.

  • This is it — the entire dining room (though there are also two small patios, both out front, pictured top, and in the back courtyard).

  • In addition to the printed menu you'll receive on entry, these boards above the bar will clue you in to the ever-changing selection of seafood, meats and cheeses, and wines by the glass or bottle. 

  • That includes a daily crudo like this cobia, sliced before our eyes and served with a sprinkle of sea salt and agrumato (lemon-infused olive oil).

  • Of course there's sliced-to-order prosciutto...

  • seen here, accompanied by a side order of melt-in-your-mouth horseradish biscuits with garlic-lemon butter. We suggested to Whitaker he hire a baker solely to churn these babies out, because they're going to go fast. 

  • Whitaker actually designed the biscuits to go with his raw-bar platters, picturing them as a cross between garlic rolls and oyster crackers. Of course, these sparkling Wildcat Coves and Naked Cowboys stand on their own — and we're excited to see Cart-Driver is also sourcing Island Creeks, a cult favorite out of Duxbury, Massachusetts.   

  • Having had the privilege of watching the pizza oven arrive on-site a few months back, we're equally thrilled to see it up and running. 

  • Credit: Ruth Tobias

    Behold the namesake pie with mozzarella, sausage, rapini and chile flakes — perfect with a glass of Prost pilsner.

  • That beer and Prosecco are all beverage director Alan Henkin has on tap; in keeping with the Cart-Driver philosophy, most brews offered here are canned, be it Upslope Brown or Telluride Bridal Veil Rye IPA. As for the cocktails, Henkin's premixing them in batches for serving by the glass or in cute little jars containing three to four drinks each. In addition to a classic Negroni, he's currently pouring a Whiskey Daisy made with Bulleit Rye and Strega liqueur as well as the Little Italy, a Manhattan made with Cynar for an "herbaceous, vegetal" twist. So prime your palate for bitters galore before the doors open tomorrow at 5 PM.