Last night, the Colorado Restaurant Association presented its annual Industry Spotlight Awards at the Stanley Marketplace. Among the recipients were the owners of the Squeaky Bean, Johnny Ballen and Joshua Olsen, who were receiving the CRA's Philanthropist Signature Dish Award in recognition of the work the two have done in the community. Minutes before the doors opened for the pre-ceremony cocktail reception, I received a text from Ballen letting me know that he had decided to close the Squeaky Bean.
The awards ceremony went on as planned and Ballen and Olsen accepted their trophy with humor and grace. Afterward, one of the first things that Olsen wanted me to know was that the annual Thanksgiving Feed for the Needy, originally started some thirty years ago by Virgil and Rosa Linda Aguirre, who owned Rosa Linda's Cafe, would continue, although in a different location than Bean headquarters at 1500 Wynkoop Street.
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Ballen and Olsen took over the Thanksgiving Feed in 2015 after the Aguirres retired from the restaurant business and closed Rosa Linda's. Olsen's involvement in Warren Tech High School in Lakewood gave the project access to a large commercial kitchen, where chefs from around the city have shown up for the past two years to help cook turkeys and all the sides. Olsen also oversees ACRES farm at the high school, where students learn about organic farming, soil improvement and the farm-to-table economy; he says he'll continue in that role to help educate Warren Tech students and bring produce to Denver restaurants and farmers' markets.
The Squeaky Bean first opened in 2009 in a corner spot at 3301 Tejon Street, right next to Rosa Linda's, and closed two years later because the space was too small to support the team's vision. But the Bean sprouted again in 2012 in the Saddlery Building downtown, where chef Max MacKissock continued to put out beautiful and creative plates for another year before departing. Since then chefs Theo Adley, Chris MacGillivray and, most recently, Darren Pusateri have carried the torch, putting out thoughtful cuisine packed with produce from ACRES.
The Squeaky Bean will close after dinner service tonight, after eight years of dishing up great food and serving the community. Over those years, Olsen and Ballen and their crew have made Denver a better city, and will continue to do so, even without the Squeaky Bean name.