Video: Johnny Ballen, head bean of the Squeaky Bean, gives us a sneak peek of the new space
For those of you who have been begging for an update on the re-sprouting of the Squeaky Bean -- and there are a lot of you -- we've got that and more, thanks, in part, to quirky king bean Johnny Ballen, who, we now know, may have been a used car salesman in a previous life.
For the past few weeks, Ballen and the Bean team, which includes exec chef Max MacKissock and bar star Sean Kenyon, who also does time behind the stick at Williams & Graham, have been working on a series of video clips to introduce Denverites to the new Squeaky Bean, which will bloom the third week in June in the ground floor of the Saddlery building at 1500 Wynkoop Street.
"We just kind of want to get everyone excited about the Bean again, so we're making some short clips of what's going on behind the scenes in anticipation of the opening," says Ballen, adding that "opening a restaurant can be a little tedious, and we want to have a little fun."
In the clip that follows, that ballsy Ballen is seen wearing a series of polyester tuxedos -- three to be exact, which he has bought on Ebay -- either stamped or screened with the Squeaky Bean logo, and then we see him strut around with a hairdo that will soon be a mullet if he continues to disregard the beauty parlor. It's hilarious.
And the 3,500 square-foot space, we learn, is coming along beautifully (we've also got several photos that give you an idea of what you can expect). "It took us a while to find the right space," admits Ballen, "because we wanted to recreate what we had before in Highland -- that was our goal -- and I think we'll do a good job of keeping the intimacy and atmosphere that people loved at the old Squeaky Bean."
It's vital, continues Ballan, that the Bean maintains a neighborhood feel, but he stresses, too, that's it equally important to have a restaurant that can accommodate larger parties -- something that the former Bean, which seated a mere thirty butts, never could. "We've packed a lot of love into this space, and we want to remain a neighborhood restaurant, but we were so crammed at the old Bean that we had to turn away bigger tables, and here, we're hoping that we don't have to turn away a table of eight on a Friday night because we don't have space."
A window-wrapped dining room, bedecked with custom-made maple tables reclaimed from railway cars, tables, booths and a wall with banquettes, will seat 76, while the horseshoe-shaped bar will accommodate seventeen, and the open kitchen -- all 700 square feet of it -- has room for eight at the chef's counter. "The design layout is very interactive, which is important to us, and since we have an open kitchen and a bar, it's like two stages, and there will be a lot of visuals going on. We want to entertain people -- to build the Casa Bonita for adults, but with great food," Ballan quips, noting, too, that the Bean will also have a lounge area with counter-high tables, where guests can also eat.
The bar, he adds, which will be overseen by Kenyon (he'll split his time between the Bean and Williams & Graham) will trumpet, among other attributes, an ice-carving station, old-fashioned soda jerk fountains and a 1,100-pound "mystery" cooler that's currently being restored in Chicago. "I bought the cooler, which is really rare, in Indianapolis -- and it came with Peyton Manning inside," jokes Ballen, who adds that it's actually tall enough for Manning, the former Indianapolis Colts quarterback who's now the QB for the Denver Broncos.
The cocktail syllabus, reveals Ballen, will be "playful and innovative, including the names, which Sean I are plan to have a lot of fun with." Kenyon, he promises, "definitely has some cool things up his sleeve for the bar program."
And so does MacKissock, who cooked in a virtually non-existent kitchen in the Highland space, which severely limited what he could do, although when it comes to MacKissock, he can do just about anything. "Compared to what we used to have, this kitchen is huge, and designing it was a lot of fun," says Ballen, who also tells me that MacKissock is currently spending his time in test kitchens creating his menu. "Max has an outline of what he wants to do, and I can say it will start out small and grow. It's all about the execution -- that's how he works and he's very methodical in his approach -- and we want to set ourselves up for success."
Given the time and effort that the Bean sprouts have put into the space -- and MacKissock's talent in the kitchen -- it's difficult to imagine that it could be anything but a success, but Ballen is well aware that building a new restaurant is difficult and that expectations are high. "We've taken our time with this for a reason -- we want to do it right -- and while we want it to be fun with lots of surprises and entertainment, we also want to make sure that we give people a great neighborhood dining experience." And down the line, says, Ballen, that will include Saturday and Sunday brunch. "We can't wait to turn that up a notch."
See photos of the new Squeaky Bean space on the next page.
The horseshoe-shaped bar, which will seat seventeen.
The new window-wrapped dining room is more than twice the size of the former Bean; it'll seat 76.
Chef Max MacKissick's new kitchen.
Another view of the kitchen.
A long view of the space.
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