Food News

Chef Kyle Mendenhall Joins Big Red F, Takes on Zolo Grill

Zolo Grill's new chilled cucumber soup with tri-color Colorado quinoa.
Zolo Grill's new chilled cucumber soup with tri-color Colorado quinoa. Mark Antonation
Zolo Grill's chicken enchiladas and banana cream pie have become fixtures in the Boulder dining scene since chef/restaurateur Dave Query opened the Southwestern eatery 25 years ago. But with Zolo's silver anniversary comes change — though it's the kind of change that honors the past while embracing creativity.

Query recently hired Kyle Mendenhall, previously of Arcana and the Kitchen, as culinary director over several of Big Red F's eateries, including Zolo Grill, West End Tavern and Centro Mexican Kitchen. Mendenhall's first order of business has been bringing back some farm freshness to Zolo Grill. He explains that Query has always relied on small Boulder County farms for inspiration and ingredients, and back in 1994, stopping at farms or letting farmers in through the kitchen door were an inexpensive way to add color, flavor and value to a plate.

Today, specialty ingredients and hyper-seasonal produce add even more options, as evidenced by the chilled cucumber soup Mendenhall recently added to Zolo's summer slate. The velvety blend of cucumber, bell pepper and jicama presents as a bright-green version of gazpacho, but a mound of tri-color quinoa in the shallow bowl  grounds the chilled Spanish soup in Colorado. "After Peru, Colorado is one of the top quinoa growers in the world," the chef explained at a recent farm dinner to debut his new dishes.
click to enlarge Chef Kyle Mendenhall celebrates Zolo's 25th anniversary at a farm dinner in Boulder County. - MARK ANTONATION
Chef Kyle Mendenhall celebrates Zolo's 25th anniversary at a farm dinner in Boulder County.
Mark Antonation

With squash blossoms coming into season, Mendenhall plans to add the delicate flowers, battered in blue corn meal, to the menu while they last. The blue corn meal (also used in the restaurant's cornbread), as well as all of Zolo's beans, come from the Western Slope; the chef sources his beans from Adobe Mills in Dove Creek, in the very southwestern corner of the state.

Another prominent Colorado ingredient is Kermit Krantz's Frontier Trout Ranch trout, which Mendenhall says is the best farmed fish he's ever had. You can order the trout dredged in a masa-Voodoo Spice blend sided with summer succotash, serrano tartar sauce and charred lemon. Other recent additions include carrot chorizo tacos, roasted chile and cheese tamales, an ancho New York steak with duck-fat fried potatoes, and Colorado lamb with a side of those Adobe Mills Anasazi beans in a marinated bean salad.

Despite the changes, the chicken enchiladas and banana cream pie aren't going anywhere; Boulder just wouldn't feel the same without them.

Zolo Grill is located at 2525 Arapahoe Avenue in Boulder and is open daily, with lunch served weekdays staring at 11 a.m. and brunch on Saturday and Sunday served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call 303-449-0444 or visit the restaurant's website for more details.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation