The restaurant scene on Old South Pearl is getting quite a shakeup. Chicken specialist Chook launches today, December 7; a few blocks south, Makan Malaysian Cafe will be closing up shop on December 22, to be replaced by Quiero Arepas next spring. And earlier this fall, Tokyo Premium Bakery opened in a new retail space on the ground floor of the parking structure owned by Sushi Den founders Toshi and Yasu Kizaki.
Amid all the activity, a cozy little breakfast and lunch eatery called Hoja hung out its shingle earlier this week, welcoming neighbors at 1284 South Pearl Street (the former home of Aiko Pops). Owner Ben Susnick describes Hoja as a "garden cafe," and points out that most of the menu is vegetarian; many dishes are vegan or can easily be made so.
Susnick developed the menu for his new cafe as the founder of Base Camp Provisions, a Denver food truck that has been serving up similar fare for more than three years. The Pearl Street Farmers' Market had been one of his favorite spots for the truck, he says, so he feels that the Platt Park neighborhood is already familiar with his mission.
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Hoja (pronounced "oh-ha," the Spanish word for "leaf") serves a short roster of breakfast burritos (a $5 grab-and-go wrap as well as a larger, plated version for $8), bowls, salads, soups and snacks. Both the red chili and green chili are made without meat, so they're great for plant-based eaters; the red chili even comes topped with cashew crema. Susnick's matzoh-ball chicken noodle soup is the only menu item that always contains meat. Other dishes have options to add antibiotic-free pork or poached eggs, while the burritos can be made with scrambled tofu instead of eggs.
The owner says that he will continue to operate Base Camp Provisions during the food-truck season, but now will be able to use Hoja as his commissary kitchen.
The tiny cafe space has received some upgrades since Susnick took over, with new banquet seating along one wall, a bright-white paint job, and a newly poured back patio that will open with the return of warmer weather. Prickly pear cactus paddles decorate the walls (more will be added), and terra cotta pots on windowsills will soon be filled with live plants.
Hoja is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and is also available for catering. Call 303-777-1509 or visit Hoja's website for more details.