The final piece in Zeppelin Station's food hall has fallen into place; chef Cindhura Reddy and her husband, Elliot Strathmann, are adding Namkeen, a fast-casual counter that will focus on South Indian street food. You may have eaten Reddy's cooking, but it probably wasn't Indian — unless you're a friend or family member. Strathmann and Reddy also own Spuntino, at 2639 West 32nd Avenue, which serves Italian cuisine.
Reddy explains that "namkeen" is the Hindi word for salty or savory. "It's also a broad umbrella of savory snacks," she adds.
"We're breaking out of the mold of Indian cuisine you see everywhere else," Strathmann notes. Namkeen will specialize in kathi (or kati) rolls, handheld wraps of either roti or paratha filled with a choice of curries and other ingredients. Roti and paratha are types of Indian flatbread, and Reddy says that her version of kathi uses roti because it's thinner and more flexible.
Fillings will include methi chicken, chana masala (made with chickpeas) and lamb keema, "a dish I grew up eating," the chef says. Sourcing for fresh South Indian ingredients can be tricky in Denver, so the couple is already looking into local companies that can help them grow some of the herbs — like fenugreek (commonly found only as seeds) and curry leaf — for the recipes.
Reddy's family comes from the city of Hyderabad in the coastal state of Andhra Pradesh, but Namkeen's menu draws from other regions of the southern part of India, too. Reddy and Strathmann have traveled extensively in South India, picking up favorite recipes along the way. "Even within one state or region, you could spend a lifetime eating your way through the variety," Strathmann says of the region's diverse culinary landscape, much of it unexplored by other Denver restaurants.
All of the curries will also be available on basmati rice, and other options will include masala chai; vegetarian samosas stuffed with peas and potato; Chicken 65, a fried-chicken dish invented in Chennai in 1965; and murukku, a crunchy, coil-shaped snack made with spiced lentil and rice flour. Strathmann, whose bar program at Spuntino includes housemade Italian amaros made from locally foraged ingredients, is also looking into a boozy lassi and gelatos made with Indian spices.
Zeppelin Station is a mixed-use development under construction at the light-rail pedestrian bridge at 35th Street between Wynkoop and Blake streets. The ground floor of the multi-story building will house the market hall. Here's the rest of what to expect when Zeppelin Station opens in January 2018:
Vinh Xuong Bakery: A counter-service version of owner Duc Huynh's popular banh mi shop at 2370 West Alameda Avenue.
Aloha Poke Co.: Denver's first outpost of the Chicago-based Hawaiian seafood eatery.
Fior Gelato: Frozen dessert from the Boulder-based gelato shop.
Au Feu: Montreal-style barbecue, poutine and other Quebecois food and beverages.
Dandy Lion Coffee: Pastries and espresso drinks with a Vietnamese twist from the owner of Vinh Xuong Bakery.
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Mister Oso: A fast-casual version of Señor Bear, the pan-Latin American restaurant in Lower Highland.
Injoi Korean Kitchen: A mashup of Korean and Southern specialties from chef Bill Espiricueta, who is also opening Smok BBQ in the nearby Source Hotel, also expected to open in early 2018.
Kiss + Ride: A casual bar styled after European train-station bars meant for a quick drink before embarking on the light rail.
Big Trouble: A more upscale "East meets West" bar on the mezzanine level above the main food hall.