Openings and Closings

Colt & Gray plans a big expansion, including a new bar and a charcuterie kitchen

It may have a hard-to-locate front entrance, but that hasn't prevented Colt & Gray from becoming a big player on the Denver restaurant scene since it opened in August 2009, offering upscale gastropub fare paired to a stellar list of cocktails, beer and wine.

And when a bank exited from its address right next door to Colt & Gray, restaurant owner Nelson Perkins jumped at the chance to pick up more space.

With this acquisition, Colt & Gray will gain a corner entrance -- which should be considerably more convenient for anyone driving up and down Platte Street, looking for the place. The restaurant will also pick up some tables: Perkins will blow out the wall that currently divides the corner space from the restaurant, allowing him to drop in 26 new seats and extend the bar -- which will become the center of the space -- as well as add a few stools for patrons waiting for tables.

But that's just the beginning of what he has planned: Perkins also picked up the basement level of the space, and he wants to build a private dining room and introduce a pair of new concepts in that real estate.

A sliver of the space will become a cold kitchen devoted to Viande Colorado Charcuterie, where the restaurant will expand its house-cured meats program. "We'll definitely do the duck prosciutto, bresaola, guanciale, lomo embuchado, a couple of sausage variations and cured lamb of some sort," explains Perkins. "We'll start with ten or so products and go from there."

Perkins doesn't just want to sell those in his own spot, though. "We're going for USDA approval," he notes. "We'll also wholesale it to other restaurants."

In another portion of the space, Perkins is working with head barman Kevin Burke to build a bar that will extend the beverage program at Colt & Gray into a more casual spot devoted to drinks.

Called St. Ellie for Perkins's daughter (Colt & Gray derives its name from Coulter and Grayson, the owner's two sons), the bar, which will be accessed through the restaurant or via its own private entrance and staircase on Platte Street, will feature 15 bar chairs plus 26 seats in a lounge set-up. And while the decor scheme is still being determined, Perkins divulges that the menu will include many of the bar snacks and burgers from upstairs, plus a few other items in the gastropub vein.

"We're not going for a new theme," explains Perkins. "St. Ellie will be a more casual version of upstairs with a more limited menu. It'll have its own kitchen, and we'll keep upstairs focused on the fine dining side."

As for the beverage program, Burke says he'll focus equally on spirits, beer and wine, bringing in excellent versions of all three. And while he's toying with keg wines -- if he can get the quality he's after -- and cocktails on tap, he says you can expect the new bar to follow in the footsteps of the restaurant's bar. "It'll have a similar focus as upstairs," he says. "Colt & Gray's drink concept isn't going to change, and it will be mirrored at St. Ellie."

Moreover, Burke will ensure continuity between the two by continuing to manage the upstairs space, frequently mixing drinks himself behind Colt & Gray's bar; he'll insist that his staff be willing and able to bartend in both locations, too.

Perkins is hoping to break ground on the new space in December or January. After that, he guesses it will take about six months to get everything up and running. "It's not a very complicated build-out," he says.

That puts the tentative opening date around June 2012.