The Preservery packs a bar, dining room, small music stage, deli counter and gourmet market into a lofty, airy space with a big kitchen in the back for turning out baked goods, grab-and-go items and plated dinners from chef de cuisine Brendan Russell, most recently of Frasca Food & Wine.
For the grand opening, the restaurant will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday evening, and then full service will start on Tuesday, April 5, with breakfast beginning at 9 a.m. and lunch at 11 a.m. (The place will be closed on Sundays and Mondays.)
Whitney Ariss explains that the couple's plans began to come together in the summer of 2014, when they took a business-plan-writing class through the Metro Denver Small Business Development Center. Once they had their plan together, they scouted locations for another nine months before finding the Backyard on Blake. "Our goals were just so in line with Fiona Arnold, the property owner," she recalls.
Those goals include becoming a community-oriented business (with a "food, music, community" tagline) with more to offer than just food. Ariss says the Backyard is planning neighborhood events like a mini farmers' market and vendor fairs. And Arnold offered rooftop space to the Preservery for an herb and vegetable garden.
"We are also dedicated to taking care of our staff," Ariss explains. That means that instead of a standard restaurant tipping model, the Preservery will build the amount customers would normally pay in tips into the menu pricing. Guests will order at the counter, but service will extend into the dining room, with cooks and other kitchen staff delivering food and interacting with diners. This model will allow the Arisses to offer higher wages, full benefits and mobility within the company. For example, even starting positions like dishwashers are cross-trained in food prep so that they can easily move up if they show desire and skill.
With Obe's background in nonprofit development, the Arisses consider charitable giving and working with community organizations part of their business model. "That means more than just donating money," Whitney explains. "We consider ourselves a social enterprise." The couple plans to build partnerships with specific organizations and use in-house events — like booze-and-food pairing dinners and demonstrations with local farms on how to use their ingredients in different ways — to build relationships and raise awareness.
The kitchen will focus on scratch-made items, with baked goods like eclairs and kouign amann in the morning, sandwiches made on fresh-baked bread for lunch, and farm-centered fare with Mediterranean influences for dinner — think eggplant and zucchini moussaka; halibut in saffron broth with cippolini onions; and braised chuck rib with smoked polenta and Parmesan.
Bar manager Albert Broker is in charge of house cocktails, wines and a small list of local beers that will change with the seasons. One of the first on tap will be a Belgian-style strong golden ale that was developed in conjunction with CO-Brew, a homebrew shop and beer bar on Broadway. Entertainment will be limited to Fridays and Saturdays at first, but the Arisses hope to eventually fill the stage with acoustic jazz, classical and popular music five nights a week.
Keep reading for more photos of the Preservery.