Three years ago, in 2007, Jeffrey and Zach Chodorow, the father and son partners behind Big Game, which opened three weeks ago at 1631 Wazee Street in the long-vacant Il Fornaio space, toured the country in search of markets where they could expand their restaurant empire.
"Denver was on our list -- it should be on anyone's list," says Jeffrey, who was introduced to the Big Game space by Denver developer Dana Crawford. "She walked us through it, we loved it and while we looked in other cities -- Dallas, Austin, Milwaukee, Chicago -- we agreed that, of everything we saw on our trip, we liked Denver and the Denver space the best," explains Jeffrey, who was in town this week to celebrate the grand opening of Big Game, a concept, says Zach, that's a "female-friendly American brasserie with sociable, sharable food and sports viewing."
Jeffrey, the CEO of TurnTable Restaurant Group, the company that operates Big Game, and the head of China Grill Management, a multi-million dollar company, whose restaurants include China Grill, Red Square, Asia de Cuba, Mix and a whole raft of others, had originally slated the space for a steakhouse, but the economy, along with other factors, made him -- and Zach -- reconsider. "We realized that steakhouses were opening all across the country, that it was a fight for market share and that the steakhouse concept was no longer interesting," explains Zach, who, along with business partner Dan Smith, are the collaborative brains behind Big Game.
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"We had a food vision that was simple, but with big, bold, creative flavors -- a fun American joint that offered more than just a burger," says Zach. The sports concept, he adds, was Smith's idea. "This is an intersection of eating and watching sports, which are two of America's favorite pastimes," notes Zach.
At the Denver Active 20/30 Children's Foundation benefit party at Big Game on Wednesday night, Jeffrey was enamored with the response to the restaurant. "I've never felt as welcomed as I have here in Denver," he said. "I love it here." So much so, that he and Zach are looking to open several more restaurants in the Mile High City. "If we do one restaurant here, why shouldn't we do more?" asks Zach.
His dad agrees: "It's much more efficient to have three or four restaurants in a single city," says Jeffrey. "We definitely would like to open a China Grill, which is the natural thing to do, but it'll be an updated version with smaller portions, lower prices, a lot of dim sum and more sushi." They're also looking at bringing El Scorpion Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar, a Mexican cantina that debuted in April in Miami, to Denver. "It's a great place to drink a lot of tequila, have fun and eat down and dirty Mexican food made with great ingredients," says Zach.
We'll drink to that.