Openings and Closings

Montreal-Inspired Au Feu to Replace Budlong Hot Chicken in Wash Park December 14

Montreal-Inspired Au Feu to Replace Budlong Hot Chicken in Wash Park December 14
Courtesy of Au Feu
In early 2018, restaurateur Jared Leonard introduced a brand-new concept at the brand-new Zeppelin Station: Au Feu. Leonard had already found success in Chicago with his hot-chicken joint, Budlong, as well as two locations of BBQ Supply Co. Au Feu married Leonard's passion for smoked meats with his wife's Canadian roots; it specialized in smoked Montreal-style brisket and poutine. But the concept flopped in the food-hall setting, and Leonard replaced it with a more American-style deli in 2019.

Leonard had intended to return to Chicago after he opened Au Feu, but he and his family fell in love with Colorado. They made their move here permanent, and in March 2019, Leonard added his Budlong Hot Chicken to Zeppelin Station's lineup.

Since then, he's moved out of the food hall altogether and opened several more restaurants, including AJ's Pit Bar-B-Q at 2180 South Delaware Street, Grabowski's Pizzeria at the Source, and, most recently, Campfire in Evergreen — a second location of which is slated to open in 2022 in Lakewood. Budlong moved into its own brick-and-mortar at 81 South Pennsylvania Street in 2020.

But now Leonard is ready to let Budlong fly the coop, leaving the town's many other hot chicken-centric eateries to handle that trend. "We like to be creative, and to be doing something different than everyone else," he notes. So Budlong's last service will be December 4; ten days later, the space will reopen as the resurrected Au Feu. (Fans of the Budlong hot chicken sandwich can still enjoy it at Campfire.)
click to enlarge A sampling of the food Au Feu served at Zeppelin Station. The new menu will be more dinner-centric. - COURTESY AU FEU
A sampling of the food Au Feu served at Zeppelin Station. The new menu will be more dinner-centric.
Courtesy Au Feu
"We always wanted to allow [Au Feu] to have its own legs," Leonard says. "This gives us the opportunity to do that in a storefront in Wash Park. I think the neighborhood is sophisticated, and there's definitely a dinner vibe on that block."

Au Feu will be open from 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and will serve French-Canadian fare, including the Montreal-style smoked brisket and poutine that were at the original Zeppelin Station outpost. The expanded menu will also include items like charcuterie, steak frites, grilled oysters and the double-patty Beouf Burger with smoked Dijonnaise, house pickles and onions. 

Operations director/partner Ben Markham, who went to culinary school in Paris and is a level-one sommelier, developed the beverage program, which is centered on classic cocktails and French-inspired wines.

In the ten days that the space will be closed for the transition, Leonard and his team will do a cosmetic overhaul of the interior, adding leather-tufted banquette seating, antique brass finishes, oversized mirrors and dim lighting. "We want to create a brasserie experience for people," he explains. "So when they come in the doors, they're leaving Denver and are transported to downtown Montreal."

This second go for Au Feu will give Leonard the chance to fully realize the concept he developed back in 2017. "The brand was always really good," he notes. "A food hall was just the wrong placement for it. Wash Park will be a good home."
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Molly Martin is the Westword Food & Drink editor. She’s been writing about the dining scene in Denver since 2013, and was eating her way around the city long before that. She enjoys long walks to the nearest burrito joint and nights spent sipping cocktails on Colfax.
Contact: Molly Martin