It's always onward and upward for Josh Wolkon, the restaurateur who brought this city Vesta Dipping Grill, Steuben's and the Steuben's Food Truck (better known as "Pearl") with the help of his wife, Jen, and other cohorts, including Matt Selby, Brandon and Emily Biederman, and Jeff Bustos.
Now Wolkon has another project in the works: After months of negotiations, this past summer he secured the lease to the Storz Garage space next to Steuben's, which will allow him to give that restaurant at 523 East 17th Avenue a bigger kitchen.
But that's not all: Wolkon also plans to put a ping-pong hall in the new place, an idea he's been toying with since he tentatively pitched the concept to a couple of friends a few summers ago -- and they enthusiastically encouraged him to proceed. So Wolkon and his team began traveling, hitting ping-pong spots in cities like New York City and Portland, looking for inspiration for the new spot.
The partners always knew they'd include a restaurant and bar, too, but until now, they've been fairly quiet about the details. Wolkon's still preserving some mystery -- he doesn't have final confirmation on a name, for instance -- but after visiting pizza joints, barbecue shops and chicken-wing havens for research purposes while checking out other ping-pong places, he and his team have narrowed down their culinary focus to Asian fare. "We've been traveling the country researching bao, dumplings and Korean fried chicken," Wolkon says. "Ultimately, the food will be our own twists on items like that. And the menu will be focused on small plates and sharing."
Randy and Ryan Layman will head up the bar program at the new joint, and Wolkon promises drinks that, true to the twins' style, will be both unique and geeky, good for pairing with the food or just slugging down over a heated game of ping-pong. They've also nailed down what the space will look like -- or at least how it will be laid out. "We're working with a ping-pong pro to chalk out the space," explains Wolkon. "We'll have seven indoor tables and two outdoor tables" that will be covered by an awning. As for the interior design scheme, he'll say only that the new space will be "radically different" from any of his other concepts.
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Brandon Biederman goes a little further, revealing that the group is building out a private ping-pong room that will double as a private dining room. "We're going to radically transform the corner," he promises.
Construction is slated to begin soon, and the new place will open later this year.
A version of this story originally appeared in Cafe Bites, our weekly newsletter devoted to Denver's food and drink scene, which arrives in e-mail boxes every Wednesday afternoon. Find out how to subscribe here.