A neighborhood needs a good neighborhood restaurant, an all-day place for breakfast, lunch and dinner where you can linger and chat over coffee or wine and maybe grab a few fresh-made items to take home. These types of eateries are common in Europe and are catching on in larger American cities, too, especially in locations where car culture is giving way to a more pedestrian-friendly way of life. Denver chef Linda Hampsten Fox has a vision for just such a spot: She's aiming to open The Bindery in the Highland neighborhood next fall, on the ground floor of a new apartment complex at 18th and Central streets.
The Bindery will incorporate a wood-fired bakery, cafe, gourmet market and 100-seat restaurant into one space, with a Mediterranean feel that Hampsten Fox brings from her years of traveling, living and cooking abroad. The chef began her career in professional kitchens while in college as an art student and worked her way through Europe as an apprentice in restaurants, hotels and resorts. Her experiences there, combined with her childhood surrounded by food in a large Czech-Polish family, instilled a sense of community surrounding cooking.
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"I had a large ethnic family upbringing that was all about food and celebrating," she explains. She also lived near Lake Como on the Swiss/Italian border and in Tuscany, where daily trips to the market and farm-fresh food are a part of the culture. All of this will influence the Bindery's menu, which Hampsten Fox notes will not be specifically Italian but will draw from all of her experiences. "It will be somewhat rustic but also timeless," she says. "I feel like my whole life will be in our food."
The Bindery may seem like an odd name for a restaurant, but Hampsten Fox says that it is "a nod to the history of the entire neighborhood," where several book-binding and printing companies once flourished. She also points out that Highland was once heavily populated by Italian immigrants, so she's glad to be part of the traditions of the area.
Although Hampsten Fox has been a professional chef in Denver for more than twenty years, with a résumé that includes teaching in cooking schools in the U.S. and Mexico, cooking for celebrities from Jane Goodall to Dave Matthews and producing events for Slow Food in Italy, this will be her first restaurant. Her team will include executive chef Jake Riley and chef de cuisine Bryan Bardusco. The building that will house the Bindery is still under construction, with an anticipated completion date of late summer. Once that happens, Hampsten Fox anticipates that the restaurant will take another three months to build out, so she's hoping for a late-October opening.