Restaurant veterans Brandon Bortles and Barry Dobesh — known to their friends as "the Bs" — are putting their collective experience and collective nickname to use in a new restaurant called Abejas that they're opening in Golden later this summer. Abeja is Spanish for "bee," and although the restaurant won't have a Spanish or Mexican menu, Bortles explains that bees are a crucial link in the chain that leads from the field to the seasonally driven menu that will be the focus at Abejas.
Bortles's restaurant career began in Golden at his uncle's Woody's Wood Fired Pizza. He met Dobesh while the two were working at the Hilltop Cafe in the same town. His career as a front-of-house manager has taken him to New York City, where he opened Richard Sandoval's Pampano, and back to Denver, where he continued to work for Sandoval at Zengo before spending time at Infinite Monkey Theorem, Trillium and Bonanno Concepts.
But Golden called him back, in part because of cheaper rent than in central Denver, but also because he and Dobesh want to return something to Golden that they feel has been missing since the Hilltop closed many years ago. "It's time for me to do my own thing," Bortles explains. "We want to give Golden something community-driven and seasonally changing. It's our way of reinventing the Hilltop."
Abejas is being built from the bones of what was previously the Golden Skillet, but the transformation will be thorough, with the input of David Shike of Shike Design, who has also done work for Biju's Little Curry Shop, Duo and Corner House (before that spot became Amass). The dining room will be small — fifty seats or so — but will include a bar with community tables; Abejas will also have a patio with three or four tables. Bortles and Dobesh want to retain the historic features of the building, which at one time was a Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Elements recovered from a farm near Golden that belonged to Bortles's family will also be incorporated into the design.
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Dobesh (a graduate of the Art Institute of Colorado's culinary program) is a chef in Aspen and will have input on the menu while he continues working there, so chef Nicholas Ames will head the Abejas kitchen and round out the team. Bortles met Ames when the two were both at Spuntino several years ago; Ames was executive chef there and has also worked as sous chef at Colt & Gray. His kitchen won't have a fryer but will rely on immersion circulators for slow-cooking and a plancha for searing and grilling, along with a six-burner stove. Bortles says the menu will change frequently and will feature porchetta, sausage and other cured meats, house-made pastas and seasonal produce. The team hopes to build strong relationships with local farmers, brewers and other food suppliers to enhance the local, community theme of the restaurant.
When Abejas opens in late August, it will be open for lunch, dinner and brunch Tuesday through Sunday.