Jerrod Rosen has been immersed in Jewish delis his entire life. He's a fourth-generation Coloradan who grew up in Boulder; his father's parents ran Rosen's Grocery, and his great-grandmother ran Rosen's Kosher Deli, both in Denver. On his mom's side of the family, his grandfather owned the Oasis Drive In at East Colfax Avenue and Williams Street. After attending culinary school in New York City and working for top restaurateurs there, Rosen is now ready to open his own deli. He's launching Rye Society at 3090 Larimer Street (in the former home of Hutch & Spoon) in early 2018.
"I grew up with my great-grandmother cooking matzoh balls until she was 104," Rosen recalls. In fact, her matzoh-ball soup recipe will be on the menu at Rye Society, which Rosen describes as a Jewish-but-not-kosher deli that will be "contemporary but comfortable."
"The matzoh-ball soup recipe is one that goes back many generations," he continues. But he had to adapt the instructions for modern restaurant cooking, since directions like measuring "a half eggshell of water" are tough to follow outside of a home kitchen.
Rosen attended the French Culinary Institute in New York and took every restaurant position he could get, from dishwasher to general manager. He developed a passion for front-of-house management, especially for getting front-of-house and back-of-house employees to work together as a team. In that capacity, he worked at Thomas Keller's Per Se, Danny Meyer's Tabla and Nizza in Hell's Kitchen. During his time off, he explored the many Jewish delis in the city, especially such classics as the Carnegie Deli, which closed last year after eighty years in business.
Returning to Denver, Rosen was the opening manager at Colt & Gray, where he met chef Ryan Leinonen. Rosen has been planning Rye Society for the past two years, and had been scouting locations when Hutch & Spoon closed earlier this year. Leinonen, who owned his own restaurant, Trillium, from 2011 to 2015, was doing menu consulting, so Rosen knew the time was right to act. "He's an amazing chef, and we were extremely lucky he was available," Rosen says of Leinonen.
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Together, the two have been planning the menu and hammering out the details of the concept, which will include breakfast and lunch as well as brunch on the weekends. In addition to matzoh-ball soup, there will be pastrami borscht and pastrami sandwiches made with meat procured from the Carnegie Deli; it turns out that while the iconic restaurant closed, the company still makes and sells pastrami wholesale.
Rye bread will be made in-house daily for a variety of deli sandwiches, and there will also be grain bowls, salads, breakfast sandwiches, granola and oatmeal.
Rosen laments the loss of Jewish delis not just in Denver, but across the country, and says he wants to bring back the comforting, home-style food of his heritage while also offering options for modern diners. When he was a kid, the New York Delicatessen was the only Jewish deli in Boulder, and it closed in 1999. Rye Society will add a little bit back to what Denver has lost.