Chef Mary Nguyen Is Closing P17 to Focus on Growth of Olive & Finch

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Chef/restaurateur Mary Nguyen has ushered P17 through eleven years and a theme change (the restaurant was originally Parallel 17), helping the Uptown eatery evolve to meet the dining needs of guests. In 2013, she opened Olive & Finch just a scone's throw away to provide a more casual, all-day stop for breakfast, lunch, dinner and takeout needs. Now Nguyen has decided that it's time to move on from P17; she's closing the restaurant on May 22.

"When I opened P17, it was my baby, but like anything else, there comes a time to move on," Nguyen says. But there's also positive news from the chef's changing restaurant family: Nguyen is in the process of opening a second Olive & Finch in Cherry Creek, with a goal of expanding to several of the fast-casual market/restaurants in the coming years.  The new location will be at 3390 East First Avenue (at Cook Street), in a new building on the fast-growing east side of Cherry Creek North.

When Nguyen opened the original Olive & Finch, she didn't do so with plans to expand to more than one location. "It was originally created because I saw a need in the community," she explains. At the time, a casual but chef-driven eatery open for breakfast and lunch as well as dinner — like those Nguyen loved in visits to Europe — seemed like a forward-thinking concept for Denver, but many others have since followed suit. Her inspiration was based on the need for an inexpensive but healthy meal that didn't require the time commitment of standard full-service restaurants.

"About a year ago, I realized I needed to decide what my focus should be," she adds. Nguyen recently had twin babies, which made being in the kitchen at P17 more difficult. Her growing family, combined with customer requests for Olive & Finch outposts in their neighborhoods, gave Nguyen the idea to grow that concept.

The new Olive & Finch will feature an expanded menu with flatbreads, more entree options (steak, chicken, salmon and pasta, for example) along with the sandwiches and skillets currently on offer. Fresh-baked pastries will continue to draw customers in the morning hours, so Olive & Finch will have a commissary kitchen to provide baked goods for all future locations. And the same pantry-style market up front will also be part of the program.

Nguyen hopes to open three more branches of Olive & Finch and has looked at downtown, Stapleton, the Baker neighborhood, Boulder and Fort Collins as potential candidates for expansion.

"We're closing a chapter, but we're doing it on a high note — and opening a new chapter," Nguyen explains. Beginning tomorrow, P17 is launching an eight-course tasting menu comprising old favorites from past menus — like Nguyen's Hanoi curry, tuna taro tacos and Vietnamese coffee-braised short ribs. The menu can be enjoyed prix fixe for $55 or dishes can be ordered individually. Bottles of wine will also be available for half price on Monday and Tuesday nights.

Lunch service will be discontinued after today, but the restaurant will open at 3 p.m. for happy hour, and brunch will be served this weekend. And on Sunday, May 22, a final brunch party will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a buffet and bottomless mimosas for $45 per person.

New owners of the corner eatery have already been named: Steve Lockton and Lindsay Donnelly will open Jack's Uptown Grill later this year. "They're someone committed to the neighborhood but who will put their own stamp on the space," Nguyen says.

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