This fall, when I chatted with Amerigo chef-owner Iain Chisholm for my weekly Chef and Tell interview, he described Amerigo, a craft-Italian restaurant on Upper Larimer, as "my stepping stone to set up the prototype for other concepts in the same vein -- small, neighborhood restaurants that I can build with my own hands." Opening a bar, he added, was on his wish list, too. "I'd love to do a bar next, and if I could find somewhere in this neighborhood, I'd jump on it," Chisholm told me. Earlier this month, he turned that desire into a reality. Next year, Chisholm will open DADA Art Bar, an artist's gallery, bar and java joint, all conveniently located directly behind Amerigo.
Dadaism, explains Chisholm, was an international art movement resulting from negative reaction to the atrocities of World War I, and the evolution of that movement involved everything from anti-war poetry and theater to graphic design and abstract art. And says, Chisholm, "The whole premise of DADA Art Bar is to feature art from artists that aren't well known" -- starving artists, to to speak -- and the gallery will showcase not just paintings, photographs and drawings, but performance art, statues, live music and poetry readings. "We want to make this a social hub in RINO," says Chisholm, adding that every first Friday of the month, he'll launch a new artist collection -- and everything he spotlights will be available for purchase at price tags that will rarely, if ever, exceed $1,500. "We're capping what the piece -- or pieces -- of art are sold at so that we make it accessible to everyone's budget," he explains.
And the curating process, which will be oversee by Chisholm's sister, Coco, who's an artist in Brooklyn (and painted all the wall art at Amerigo) won't gauge the artists. Artists can submit their original pieces online, and if they're selected for a show, only 10 percent of the sale price of each piece will fall into the hands of Chisholm. "The 10 percent is simply to cover the curating costs, and we manage the sales and cut the artists a check," says Chisholm.
The one caveat, he continues, is that every artist whose works are represented must agree to give Chisholm and his sister reproduction rights. "We'll sell prints of the original pieces on our website -- customers can choose from poster, canvas or cotton -- and the reproductions will be priced at 10 percent of what the originals sold for, plus printing costs," he notes.
The second part of Chisholm's new endeavor is a bar and, after he opens, a curing room. The kitchen, says Chisholm, is simplified with just a pantry, refrigeration and an induction burner, but a full spectrum of cheeses from around the globe, along with charcuterie and salumi, including sausages, duck breast prosciutto, coppa and soppressata, will grace the plates. And while the meats will be initially imported, once Chisholm's curing room is up and running, they'll come from his own hands. A tick-off menu, where guests can choose their meats and cheese -- Chisholm estimates that he'll offer ten different meats and the same number of cheeses -- will take the place of a standard menu.
All the walls will be fringed with art surrounding a horseshoe-shaped bar that will seat twenty; garage doors will open to two separate patios. Chisholm, who designed all the furnishings inside Amerigo with his bare hands, will do the same at DADA. The bar, which he'll build using two-by-four blocks of plywood, will eventually emerge as glossy angled tiles, the floors will be concrete and he'll construct the tables, benches and chairs from raw materials.
He'll feature state-of-the-art coffee equipment (java, says Chisholm, will be a big draw during the day), pour four to six local craft beers, offer a small wine list and take advantage of the mixology skills of Ian Cohen, a server at Amerigo who will oversee DADA's bar program. "Ian will do lots of specialty cocktails, and there will be a big focus on mixology and infusions," says Chisholm.
And ultimately, when DADA opens in the spring of next year (Chisholm is targeting April), Chisholm hopes that it will serve as the gateway to RINO. "This is the first place in RINO that's going to connect an art gallery with a restaurant and nightlife, and my hope is that it's going to be a community-driven space for people to start -- and end -- their night," says Chisholm, adding that he's going for an "edgy, vibrant and youthful vibe that's not pretentious or stuffy."
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