Southern Concepts, the franchise group that operates three Southern Hospitality restaurants along the Front Range, just launched a new fast-casual concept, Carve Barbecue. Carve opened at 11 a.m. today with a soft opening; the South Colorado Boulevard smokehouse, located in the space that was previously Bruxie (a Belgian waffle eatery), will hold its grand opening tomorrow, with giveaways and plenty of hickory-smoked meats. Southern Concepts CEO Mitch Roth says the first 25 customers tomorrow will receive a year's worth of free barbecue (in the form of 52 free entree cards), and promises there will be plenty of other free swag from Carve's partners and vendors.
Although Carve is run by the same franchise group that brought Southern Hospitality to Colorado from New York City, the food and execution are exclusive to Carve. "We're using all-new recipes," explains executive chef Jeff Gebott, "even down to the dry rub."
Roth says that the menu offers "barbecue without boundaries," meaning that instead of sticking with one regional style, Carve showcases the country's top barbecue regions, with Carolina-style pulled pork, Memphis-style ribs and Texas-style brisket. The restaurant also smokes chicken, turkey, Kansas City-style brisket burnt ends and two kinds of links from local grinders Polidori Sausage.
"More important than the type of protein is the quality," Roth notes. He says that Carve is committed to responsibly raised meats, including chicken from Redbird Farms and beef and pork from Creekstone Farms, the same source used by the world-famous Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas.
"It's a responsibility that the restaurant industry is starting to embrace," Roth notes. "It makes you proud of the product you make," adds Gebott, who has been with Southern Concepts for nearly two years.
That pride extends to everything on the menu, they say, but really shows in the burnt ends and the barbecue tacos. The tacos are just one option when you enter the line at the front of the restaurant; you can also opt for a sandwich, a salad or a "naked" pile of your choice of meat. The taco option is served on three steamed corn tortillas, and there are plenty of fresh and colorful toppings to choose from to spice things up. "Finding really, really good burnt ends is next to impossible, especially here in Denver," Roth states.
The South Colorado Boulevard Carve is the first in what will be several new stores within the next couple of years. Southern Concepts has already committed to a second location at 601 Broadway, which Roth expects to open in about eighteen months on the ground floor of the new Denver Health facility that's currently under construction.
Roth is focused on more than just barbecue. "I think we are revolutionizing the way barbecue is perceived and consumed," he says, "First of all, we want to put out a product we can be proud of, but we want to be a premium employer in town, too."
Giveaways at tomorrow's grand opening will include merchandise from Teakoe teas, Maine Root sodas, Redbird Farms and Creekstone Farms — all of which provide food and beverages on Carve's menu. In addition, 10 percent of sales that day will be donated to the Denver Rescue Mission.
The first Southern Hospitality was opened in New York City with Justin Timberlake as one of the founders. Gary Tedder, father of Colorado musician Ryan Tedder, helped found Southern Concepts in Colorado and is currently a senior vice president, while Ryan Tedder is a company shareholder.
Keep reading for more photos of Carve Barbecue.