Brasserie Brixton has been tempting residents of the Cole neighborhood in north Denver for the past year and a half, as the restaurant at the corner of East 37th Avenue and Williams Street slowly took shape. Now co-owner Justin Morse says that the French eatery is finally ready to open.
In the spring of 2019, Morse — along with his girlfriend, Amy Keil, and their business partner, Matt Daniels — took over the 136-year-old building that had been a neighborhood market; construction began in earnest several months later. "We have full-time jobs, so I built this whole thing myself in my spare time," Morse explains.
A mechanical engineer, Morse had dined and worked abroad extensively, and was missing the kind of casual neighborhood restaurants he frequented in Quebec, Paris and London — eateries where the food was exceptional but the atmosphere wasn't stuffy or pretentious. "French cuisine is the inspiration," he notes. "I lived in Montreal for seven or eight years, including university and my first job there, and I've also spent a lot of time in France. Just because it's French, that doesn't mean it's white tablecloth or expensive or date-night only. Every restaurant in France is a French restaurant."
That's Morse's way of pointing out that France has casual restaurants, too. But for the most part, French restaurants in the United States have earned a reputation that scares weekday diners away. That's not the goal of Brasserie Brixton. "We want our menu to be fun, tongue-in-cheek," he explains. "If someone wants to wander in for a beer at 9 p.m., we want people to have that experience."
The menu is being handled by chef Nicholas Dalton, who has worked at Le Bilboquet and Mercantile Dining & Provisions, among other Denver restaurants. "I took Nick to France two years ago and took him to my favorite restaurants," Morse recalls. "It wasn't about how many stars a place had; it was just great food in fun neighborhoods. After that, he said he knew we had to be in a neighborhood, too."
And so the partners secured a spot in Cole, not far from where Morse and Keil live in the Whittier neighborhood. Brasserie Brixton was nearly ready to go in February, before the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to everything. And in the interim, some of Morse's opening plans have changed. "We initially didn't have any outdoor seating," he explains, noting that he since received the go-ahead from the city to add a patio. "And a good portion [inside] was a bar area that we won't be able to use," he adds.
Instead, the dining room and bar have been reconfigured to seat about 25 to 30 guests while maintaining social distancing, and the added patio will bring seating up to nearly the originally planned capacity. "We're lucky that we're on a corner and have big windows on the sides that accordion-open," Morse notes.
Morse and his partners are planning a soft opening for Brasserie Brixton, at 3701 Williams Street, starting on Thursday, July 23, and then will fully open on July 28. Hours will be from 4 p.m. to an as-yet-undetermined closing time Tuesday through Saturday. Future plans include adding a secondary to-go menu, expanding to seven days a week, and serving brunch.
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