Until yesterday, I hadn't spoken to Sean Kelly in a long time -- not since he shuttered Somethin' Else (now Fruition) in 2006. Not since he hooked up with the Little Pub Company, whose fourteen pubs, bars, taverns, saloons and (sort-of) restaurants are strewn all over the city. And not since he left the Little Pub empire, took some time off and then joined the three musketeers -- Rod Wagner, Joe Vostrejs and Jeff Hermanson -- the guys who run Larimer Square, brought Billy's Inn, at 4403 Lowell Boulevard, back from the dead last year, and recently snatched up the old North Star Brewery building at 3200 Tejon Street, which is where Kelly will be cooking when the space opens in June.
And he couldn't be happier about it. "This has been an incredibly fun and interesting experience," Kelly said when I got him on the phone. "I'm working with pros. I feel really good about the restaurant, everything is top-shelf and it's just a great situation for all of us."
There's just one problem: The joint still doesn't have a name, although there've been plenty of possibilities tossed around, including Steak Hut, which was proffered by my editor and promptly squished by Kelly when I proposed it: "Uh, this isn't really going to be a hut," Kelly deadpanned.
So what's it gonna be, then?
LoHi Steak Bar.
Maybe. "This naming thing has been a major process," Kelly conceded. "What we're aiming for is a family-friendly neighborhood place with upscale bar food, things like great steaks, hand-cut frites, housemade pickles, a really great burger, a handful of appetizers and lots of specials, maybe even blue plate specials down the line, and the name has to fit all that."
Partner Rod Wagner pretty much told me the same thing, explaining that the name game is still in the wording stage. "We just really want to make sure that whatever name we eventually choose fits into the fabric of the neighborhood," said Wagner, who's majorly psyched about the neon blade signage - name or no name. "It's really cool," he said, "like one of those older supper club signs."
Wagner is also pumped about the architecture, even though the work involved has pushed back the original opening date for the restaurant. "We took a hundred-year-old rundown building that was just waiting to be bulldozed, preserved the structure, and now we're completely making it over," he said. "Design-wise, this is definitely something different for the neighborhood. It's going to be very contemporary and modern, edgy even."
Kelly seconded that: "Yeah, it's a crazy cool design with with a titanium-like contemporary look and maroon and silver-ish colors."
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When Wagner and company open
Steak Hut LoHi Steak Bar (or whatever), it'll serve lunch and dinner seven days a week. As for prices, Kelly wants to keep them low. "The food is going to be great," he concluded, "but I really want to keep everything below twenty bucks."
That's smart thinking in a chopped-meat economy.