Southern food is becoming a growing trend in the Denver restaurant scene, with Bread-N-Butter opening last week in Uptown and fried chicken, biscuits, barbecue and Low Country cuisine hitting menus across town. A couple of weeks ago, a Facebook page simply named Julep appeared in my feed, so I fired off a message to see who and what the project might involve. I received an answer from someone named Kyle, stating that details would soon emerge. As it turns out, the man behind the message was chef Kyle Foster, who's plenty busy these days as the butcher and charcuterie expert at Colt & Gray and as the "meat guy" — as owners Dan Lasiy and Bo Porytko call him — at Rebel Restaurant.
Foster and his wife, Katy, who is the chef/owner of Stir Cooking School, are shooting to open Julep in a new development at 33rd Avenue and Larimer Street next winter. Given the Kentucky Derby provenance of the name, a Southern theme makes sense; Foster says his menu will honor the traditions he learned from his mother, who was born in Savannah, Georgia, and his grandfather, a Kentuckian. "Keeping the family traditions alive — that's important to me," he notes.
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Those traditions include vegetable gardening, preserving and "treating everything very simply," Foster adds. As for meats, his family always used as much of the animal as possible "so that it's not wasteful or disrespectful," he recalls.
"There's this misconception that everything is chicken-fried and covered in gravy," Foster explains, "but there's so much tradition and history there...each state and each region is different." His inspiration comes not only from family, but from recent travels with his wife throughout the South (including Louisville, Charleston, Memphis, Nashville and Dallas) and from combing through old Southern recipes that date back to the earliest days of statehood.
"Lunch and brunch [at Julep] will be the simple, thoughtful food that you associate with the South, but the dinner menu might surprise people," he says. "Dinner will be a little more sophisticated, but I still want people to feel comfortable."
Right now, Julep's address, 3254 Larimer Street, is just an empty lot, but by next winter, the restaurant will take up 2,750 square feet (not including a mezzanine and outdoor seating) on the ground floor of a new three-story office and retail building. Katy will be working with Kyle on the opening of the restaurant, but she'll continue to run Stir Cooking School once Julep launches.