Construction Watch

Justin Cucci Aiming for Mid-April Opening for Ophelia's

Justin Cucci's Edible Beats restaurant group includes runaway successes Root Down and Linger in Lower Highland as well as the Root Down that opened at Denver International Airport in 2013. In the coming months, Cucci will double the size of his restaurant empire with three new concepts in various stages of development, including a vegetarian eatery and juice bar called Vital Root on Tennyson Street and another LoHi eatery. But it's the long-in-the-works Ophelia's, his restaurant/bar/music venue on 20th between Larimer and Lawrence streets, that promises to make a big splash when it opens in mid-April.

Ophelia's is taking over a large portion of the historic Airedale building, which first opened in 1889 as Kopper's Hotel and Saloon. The brick structure has been home to various flop houses, peep shows and porn shops over the decades and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999, when it housed Diamond Lil's, an adult bookstore. Cucci's plans for the space are considerably grander. The main floor will house a restaurant he describes as a gastropub (while admitting that the term has become overused). "It will be true to what we do at Linger and Root Down," Cucci explains, "with food, hospitality and beverages at a really high level."

And like its two sister restaurants, Ophelia's will offer a vegetable-focused and seasonal menu. In addition to the food, there will be a stage for live music on weekends, a DJ booth and dance floor, and a 25-foot projection TV. "We put a 20-by-20-foot hole in the floor," says Cucci. The stage, dance floor and big-screen will be in the lower level, and there will be a full view of that action from the main floor. "The live music scene on the weekends will be an experience, not just going to see a band in a big warehouse space," Cucci adds.

If Linger and Root Down are good gauges, though, the menu created by Cucci and Edible Beats culinary director Daniel Asher will still be the main draw. Ophelia's kitchen will be headed by Jeremy Kittelson, who became executive chef at Root Down in June 2013. Joining the team will be new general manager Kate Kaufman, who spent eight years in the front of the house at the Kitchen in Boulder.

Cucci says Ophelia's will have a number of soft openings in early April, with the hard opening planned for later in the month. Expect more of the upcycled and reclaimed decor that are a big part of his other restaurants' visual appeal. And that third new eatery? Cucci says it will be "a pretty straight up tapas bar" focusing on Spain, but with North African and Middle Eastern influences.

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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation

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