Change doesn't happen rapidly in the Bonnie Brae neighborhood, the way it has in other parts of Denver. Businesses tend to stick around; just look at the 84-year-old Bonnie Brae Tavern as a prime example. So when 730 South closed last fall after eighteen years, neighbors were curious to see what would come next in that spot. The answer is Brightmarten, which is expected to open on April 27 at 730 South University Boulevard.
Brightmarten is the work of several Rioja and Euclid Hall alumni: Jared Riggs, Wade Nelson, Jake Grant and Josh Prater. Riggs describes the upcoming restaurant as "elevated neighborhood American," with such crowd-pleasers as a Juicy Lucy burger (that's the kind with cheese inside the burger patty) and nachos on the menu, but also with more upscale fare like a beef-and-beet carpaccio and mushroom risotto.
The group was drawn to Bonnie Brae precisely because of its old-Denver charm and wholesome family vibe. "It's one of the last strongholds of Denver neighborhoods," Riggs points out.
And while the rebooted Campus Lounge only lasted five months on the same block before closing in late March, a disappointed Dan Landes took responsibility for failing to deliver what the neighborhood wanted...and expected. He's hopeful the Brightmarten effort will do better and that neighbors will give it a chance.
Changes to the Brightmarten building include removing most of a brick wall between the restaurant's patio and the sidewalk, and moving the entrance to the front of the building facing South University Boulevard, both of which make the space a little more open and inviting. The interior will have two separate dining areas with a semi-open kitchen.
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The owners chose the name Brightmarten after researching the area's history. "We wanted an homage to the neighborhood," Riggs explains. "Bonnie Brae is Scottish Gaelic for 'Pleasant Hill,' and the marten is native to both Scotland and Colorado. It's a smart, playful animal, so the name feels lively and energetic."
Riggs, who also owns Wing Hut in Aurora, was on the opening team with Grant when Euclid Hall came on the scene in 2010. "He's one of the kindest chefs in the business, and very talented," Riggs says of Grant. "We're very fortunate to have him."
Nelson has been a bartender in Denver for more than twenty years, with more than ten of those at Rioja, so he'll be designing a beverage program to match the kitchen's upscale/neighborhood balance.
The initial plan is for Brightmarten to be open for dinner seven days a week, with happy hour starting at 3 p.m. and dinner served until 11 p.m.