A towering elm rises high above a stone wall at 4132 West 38th Avenue. The ancient tree is the inspiration for American Elm, a new eatery from restaurateur Bob Reiter and chef Brent Turnipseede.
Reiter took over the restaurant space from the owners of the Way Back, which closed two years ago and reopened several months later at 3963 Tennyson Street. At the time, the building didn't even have a kitchen (the Way Back cooked out of a food truck parked...way in the back), so Reiter's first order of business was adding a 1,000-square-foot kitchen to the footprint, sacrificing a small portion of the shady patio.
Turnipseede, who previously worked for the TAG Restaurant Group, notes that he now has more space to cook than at his last gig at Guard and Grace. His new kitchen will turn out what Reiter describes as "classic American bistro food, but with an elevated menu...with thoughtful, technical execution."
Reiter moved to Denver from Brooklyn, where he honed his hospitality skills in restaurants and music venues before taking the plunge into ownership. "American Elm is born of the places my wife and I frequented when we lived in Williamsburg," he explains.
After completing most of the construction at the restaurant, Reiter hired Turnipseede to design the menu and head the kitchen. "In talking to Brent, his personality, his approach and his connection to the neighborhood were all really in alignment," the restaurateur notes.
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"Everything about the American Elm idea just felt right," Turnipseede says of his new employer. "I'm from the South, and part of my approach is taking flavors we all grew up with and putting them in a new light."
The menu, he adds, won't be specifically Southern, but will include a roster of creative bar snacks for neighbors who want to pop in for a quick bite and drink, as well as entrees that nod toward familiar regional dishes. The chef says he'll also listen to feedback from customers to tailor the menu to their needs.
At the bar, Jesse Torres, most recently of Poka Lola Social Club, will pour a selection of "well-executed classics," according to Reiter, as well as a robust wine list, a few beers on tap and some beer-and-shot specials. "We want to create something that takes all of the needs of the neighborhood into account," the owner states.
After the August 22 debut, American Elm will be open daily from 4 to 10 p.m., and possibly later on Fridays and Saturdays. There will also be brunch beginning at 11 a.m. served every weekend.