Sometimes a new food and beverage "concept" is more difficult to describe than it is to experience. Such is the case with Beckon|Call, a new dual-identity cafe and restaurant at 2845 Larimer Street.
After poking your head inside Call, the white cottage on the right half of the property (Beckon is the slate-gray one on the left), you'd probably feel comfortable saying, "Oh, I can get a sandwich and a coffee here. What's the big deal?"
And, really, it's not a big deal, but it is a warm and lively spot to grab some breakfast or lunch, at least for now. Call opened this morning serving coffee, tea, juices, housemade pastries, grab-and-go sandwiches and salads, and made-to-order dishes like mackerel tartine, chicken-and-rice soup, and yogurt with fresh-made granola. It will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through December, but then things will get a little more interesting. The whole project, launched by Craig Lieberman, the founder of cracker company 34 Degrees, will come together in mid-January, when Beckon opens as a chef's-counter restaurant, at which point a joint liquor license for the entire property will be activated and Call will also extend hours to serve as a more casual counterpart to its upscale neighbor.
Sound complicated? Let's return to that first peek inside Call. With a layout that's almost entirely an open kitchen and coffee counter, the feel is more like being in a friend's home kitchen as they prepare for a party. A narrow counter along one wall is a good spot for a cup of java and a quick bite to eat, while stacked bleacher seats along the front window provide a sunny perch where you can hang out a little longer.
Lieberman (whose 34 Degrees office is right next door on Larimer Street) says that he wanted the neighborhood to have an option for well-made grab-and-go food that could transition into a low-key bistro at dinnertime, in the same way that European cafes serve an all-day function. He also compares his vision to eateries he discovered on trips to Japan and Hong Kong, where hole-in-the-wall lunch and dinner counters feel ultra-casual but offer exceptional food.
To that end, the owner hired chef/restaurateur Kelly Whitaker, owner of Basta in Boulder, as a restaurant consultant to hammer out the details, kitchen layout and scope during the planning process. Whitaker was also on the original opening team of Cart-Driver, so Lieberman was confident in the chef's ability to come up with a great plan for the two small spaces that make up Beckon|Call. Next up was hiring a permanent culinary director and executive chef, so Lieberman turned to Duncan Holmes, a California native who spent the past two and a half years at Frasca Food and Wine. Before that, he was the chef de cuisine at Sons & Daughters in San Francisco when the restaurant earned its first Michelin star.
While Holmes will oversee the kitchen at Call, he'll have a chance to really shine once Beckon opens. There will be no tables or dining room, just a seventeen-seat chef's counter where tasting dinners will be served in two seatings a night. Guests will all arrive and be seated together, and a small crew will provide service. Also on board is Allison Anderson, who served as bar manager for seven years at Frasca.
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Don't expect the kind of overly serious and somber atmosphere that have earned multi-course tasting menus a reputation for being ponderous and overwrought at some of the country's gustatory temples. Anderson says it will be more like a dinner party. "We do think about it in terms of theater," she explains. "It will be heightened because it's fine dining, but it will also be warm and loving."
"I felt like there is still an opportunity to fly a flag around something small and intimate and experiential," Lieberman adds. And Beckon will definitely be something new for Denver, where chef's tasting menus are a rarity and a restaurant that's entirely a chef's counter — almost like a sushi bar — will be unique.
Once Beckon opens and the entire property is under one liquor license, there will also be a backyard patio for guests to spill out onto after dinner (or enjoy drinks on beforehand), and there's also a private lounge built from a former detached garage that groups can reserve for special events. Call sports a spacious patio between the sidewalk and the front door, with a mural on one side painted by artist Stella Maria Baer. On January 30, Lieberman is planning a Full Moon party to officially introduce the artist and her work to the neighborhood.