As usual, there was a steady line of java addicts standing elbow-to-elbow last week when I stopped by Crema Coffee House, the urban coffee joint at 2862 Larimer Street co-owned by Jonathan Power and Noah price. And you can bet that when the two partners open the Populist this summer, in the former Garden Spot Cafe space at 3163 Larimer Street, it'll be one of the most sought-after seats in the city.
The two partners inked the deal on the space just over a week ago, three years after Price picked up the property that's now Crema. "I'm super, super-excited about it -- we both are," says Power, who's been cooking at Crema for the past two years and whose past kitchen gigs includes stints at Root Down and Olivea.
The name, explains Power, "is a highbrow-lowbrow, tongue-in-cheek concept" that describes "a high level of food and service in a completely unpretentious environment that dispels elitism." And, he promises, his food won't be elitist, either. "The menu is going to be eclectic and really fun, and something really cool that we're planning to do is a shared-plate tasting menu -- a chef's discretion menu with six to eight courses that can be shared between two people."
The shift away from large entrees, says Power, is indicative of how Denver diners prefer to eat -- graze rather than commit to one dish. "We want to get away from the one-plate mentality, because I think people prefer to share, plus it means that diners can take more risks," he notes.
And the menu, Power tells me, will orbit the globe. To wit: a Mandarin-glazed duck leg confit with tandoori yogurt panna cotta and a green papaya salad. "The idea is to do great global dishes with protein and dairy and a little bit of veg -- and not a lot of starch" -- and, he says, he'll do several of his sauces and soups tableside. "I love those kinds of extra details."
The former Garden Spot Cafe, which will soon become the Populist.
And while Power is undeniably excited about his food, he's equally jazzed about the building in which he and Price have acquired. "We walked into a great space with a killer patio, and while it needs a bit of love to bring it up to the caliber of where we want it to be, it has amazing potential," he says. The 100-seat restaurant will house big communal tables, a partially open kitchen and a beer garden that will benefit from the beverage program. "We're definitely going to have lots of great beers, value-driven wines and some great snacks that are perfect for outdoors on the patio," he says.
"We love this neighborhood," stresses Power, "and we've loved watching it develop, but it's really under-served. There are tons of people living around here, and there are plenty of bars and pizza places, but that doesn't make a dining scene. I think there's a big need for a restaurant like this, and we're incredibly excited about it."
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Power says that he and Price hope to be open in early July, although he notes that it's dependent on when they receive their liquor license, which we hope will be sooner rather than later. "We're ready to get open and have some fun," says Power.
So are we.