A lot of Denver restaurants bake their own bread, but a lot more rely on bread baker extraordinaire Michael Bortz, a veteran bread head, whose company, City Bakery, supplies rolls and loaves to dozens and dozens of local restaurants, including Elway's Cherry Creek, Oceanaire, Ocean Prime, Steuben's and Ace, Charcoal, True Food Kitchen, the Universal, Snooze and Shanahan's. And come early April, Bortz and his team of bread bakers will make their bread accessible to the rest of us when he opens City Bakery Cafe in the former Lenny's Sub Shop at 726 Lincoln Street.
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"We've been looking for a space for a year, maybe even longer, but nothing felt right until we found this," says Bortz, who isn't new to the Golden Triangle 'hood. Years ago, in 2000, Bortz was working just steps away from his new cafe, at Paradise Bakery, a company that he spent a decade with before branching off on his own and opening City Bakery in 2007, at 5454 Washington Street.
"Six months ago, I was talking to Allen Fine, the guy who owns Turin Bicycles, which is right next door to Lenny's, and I told him that I'd love to have the Lenny's spot if it ever became available, and a week later, Lenny's closed, so I think it's meant to be," says Bortz.
And the cafe, he adds, will give him -- and his crew -- the opportunity to grow. "We have such a great group of people with us who want to grow, and I want to help them grow and grow the brand -- this is the next logical step for us," says Bortz, stressing that "while we have no illusions of growing this thing into a monster, we're going to have fun with it."
It's all about "doing good food, fast," says Bortz, who will keep the quick-casual component of Lenny's in place. "It's pretty turnkey, and Lenny's already had a really good system in here -- a good line -- and because of that, we don't need to do a lot of construction, but we will have better bread and better everything, although it will still be a fast-casual restaurant," adds Bortz.
At the cafe, he'll sell all of the breads he bakes at City Bakery, making it the first time that the public will be able to buy directly from him, and he'll also pimp a board of sandwiches, soups and salads. "Our main focus will be sandwiches, but we'll also have housemade soups and salads, and we'll also serve as a retail outlet for our breads and pastries," notes Bortz.
The sandwiches, he says, "will be a bunch of classic favorites," augmented by pretzel roll sliders, and during the morning hours, the cafe plans to serve pastries and egg sandwiches. He'll open at 6 a.m. Monday through Saturday to satiate early morning revelers and close at 3 p.m.
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"I love this neighborhood, and I love sandwiches and bread, and while this will be a challenge -- anything new is always a challenge -- we have a lot of passion and love for what we do, and we're super-excited to get open," concludes Bortz.