And now Hess is ready to open a solo restaurant in Denver: The Ginger Pig is taking over the space at 4262 Lowell Boulevard, which was recently vacated by Scratch Burrito & Happy Tap after a seven-year run there. "Our goal has always been to get to this point," the chef says of the brick-and-mortar plans, "but we didn't think we'd get here this soon."
The new restaurant owner says that the 2,000-square-foot space is mostly turnkey, but she's working with a design team to convert the dining room into something more fitting for her concept, so she's aiming for a September or October opening. In the meantime, she's planning to set up the original Ginger Pig truck in the parking lot as soon as she can get licensed in Denver (her current food truck license only covers Boulder County). "Having the truck in front of the restaurant will be fun for our team and for the community," Hess explains, adding that she'll be focusing on online ordering and payment to make grabbing food from the truck as safe and easy as possible.
"We have a lot of dishes that we love that we want to showcase, and I'm looking forward to trying more new things," she adds.
So along with the top-selling char siu pork, the street-food Bangkok Balls (deep-fried red curry rice balls) and the Chinese smashed cucumber salad, there will be more fish, Sichuan-style eggplant (which Hess has been working on for five years to get it perfect for the menu), and even Sunday brunch with Japanese soufflé pancakes, karaage and waffles, Shibuya honey toast and different styles of congee.
Since this will be the first full-scale restaurant for the Ginger Pig, Hess says she's relying on some industry pros to help her with a bar and cocktail program, as well as other aspects of running a business beyond just cooking good food. "The food hall made me a better chef but a worse entrepreneur, so I'm looking forward to being an entrepreneur again and coming up with creative ideas for us and the community. It's really about the location being good, the food being good and the team being good. It felt like everything came together at the right time."