Cafe Society

Big Lots on Broadway to become a big bowling alley and 24/7 diner, courtesy of Argyll's Robert Thompson

You know the boarded up Big Lots on First and Broadway -- the behemoth, 23,000-square-foot space that was reportedly going to be a Sunflower Farmers' Market, then a Staples store and, most recently, an auto body garage?

Yeah, well, it's not not going to be any of those things.

It's going to be something much, much better.

And Robert Thompson, owner of Argyll, the Cherry Creek gastropub at 2700 East Third Avenue, is the guy behind the momentum.

Later next year, Thompson is unleashing the Punch Bowl and Baker 24, a joint concept that will be part bowling alley and part 24/7 upscale '60s diner. And Thompson, who was cruising up to Vail when I got him on the phone, is so ridiculously charged about his new venture that he had to pull over. To breathe.

"This is unequivocally the best deal I've ever put together, and I'm more excited about this project than you can possibly imagine," says Thompson, who's signing the lease this week. "The Baker neighborhood has a ton of successful bars and restaurants, and what we're opening will have both -- plus a bowling alley -- which I think will have a lot of appeal." And the fact that the diner will dole out grub around the clock, seven days a week, will no doubt make drunken disciples all over Denver knock back a shot or six in celebration.

The design for the diner, explains Thompson, will mimic a 1960s home with various rooms, including a den, a Herman Miller-inspired living room with bubble lights, a kitchen complete with old appliances and, says Thompson, "bad wallpaper," plus a master bedroom and kids' bedroom bedecked with Roy Rogers memorabilia. "This is going to be pure 1960s mid-mod, where all the architectural lines are the same as the 1950s mid-mod, but the materials will be more elegant -- think wood instead of hard plastic -- and the color palette will be dark rather than bright."

The breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, all of which Sergio Romero, the current exec chef of Argyll, plans to oversee, will be "dressed up diner food," according to Thompson. "We're still developing the menu, but it'll be representative of the country's culinary landscape, whereby we'll reach into all regions and offer things like grits from the South and, as a nod to Colorado, a buffalo meatloaf." And, where possible, everything will be made in-house. "We're going to do for diner food what we've done for pub food at Argyll."

If everything goes according to plan, Thompson will open both the diner and the bowling alley in August. "A project of this size is going to take a year to get done," he estimates. "We're gutting the space down to the bare bones of the building, but when it's finished...just wait."

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson