Chef Jennifer Jasinski's flagship restaurant, Rioja, seems better built for leisurely meals over multiple courses, wine and an indulgent dessert than it does for curbside pick-up, but the the chef and her team have been building some impressive takeout packages for customers looking for more than pizza or sandwiches since the dining room has been off limits.
But there are many ways to help keep employees paid and working in a bizarre restaurant economy that's forcing restaurant owners to get creative. Rioja was one of the earliest eateries to start making meals for food-insecure recipients through Colorado Restaurant Response after the COVID pandemic hit Denver, and Jasinski has found other new ways to keep serving the restaurant's many fans despite a closed dining room.
The newest idea is The Flavor Dojo, a lunchtime pop-up that will debut on Monday, May 18, serving a menu of healthy bowls packed with grains, greens, heirloom beans and locally sourced ingredients. "Since January, I've been working on my own personal wellness," Jasinski explains, "and I wanted to share what I've been eating — Anson Mills farro, Rancho Gordo beans, greens from Rebel Farms. It's all super-healthy, but awesome and delicious."
The pop-up's name comes from Rioja chef Gabe Wyman, who calls the restaurant's kitchen the Flavor Dojo and his cooks the Flavor Ninjas.
One of the first combos Jasinski started making for herself turned into the Spicy Green Bowl on the Flavor Dojo menu. Packed with Haystack Farms goat cheese, avocado, a crunchy seed mix, hard-boiled eggs and jalapeño crema vinaigrette over a bed of spicy greens and endive, the bowl was inspired by Jasinski's days in California.
While the menu isn't entirely set yet, other options could include a farro bowl, a chilled soba noodle bowl, and a succotash and bean bowl, and they can all be supplemented with a list of seven or eight proteins such as sushi-grade tuna, grilled chicken, pork belly and tofu. "A lot of these are vegan choices in case that's important to people," the chef adds.
The plan is to run the Flavor Dojo from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday for at least three weeks. "And if it sticks, maybe it will be more than just a pop-up," Jasinski notes. Come next Monday, you'll be able to place orders on the Flavor Dojo website for easy pick-up at 1431 Larimer Street. In the meantime, call Rioja at 303-820-2282 to ask about its Feast on the Fly and Graduation on the Fly packages. Two of Jasinski's other restaurants, Ultreia and Stoic & Genuine, are also offering takeout specials, including picnic kits loaded with fresh baked bread, olives, meats, cheeses and wine from Ultreia.