We're all plagued by construction these days, with projects creating everything from road closures and traffic jams to the dust from a neighbor's scrape-and-build and noise bouncing off the concrete canyons downtown. But when you're trying to launch a new restaurant and the city tears up the sidewalks in front of the entrance four days before your planned opening date, the frustration can really mount.
Still, chef/restaurateur Troy Guard is a pro; he's taking things in stride, having opened ten previous eateries and experiencing all kinds of delays and setbacks along the way. And on Friday, December 1, FNG could be number eleven. "It's about fifty-fifty right now," Guard says of the odds that the restaurant at 3940 West 32nd Avenue will open as scheduled.
Other than the city's construction project outside (both sidewalks on the southeast corner of West 32nd and Perry Street have been torn up and are being re-poured this week), everything is in place: the permits, the liquor license, the kitchen and bar and, most important, the menu. Guard calls it comfort food; according to FNG executive chef Josh Elliott, who's been at Guard and Grace for the past two years, "It's a rock-and-roll restaurant with a meat focus."
A quick glance through the one-pager proves that both chefs are right. Grilled meatloaf, chicken-fried steak, rotisserie lamb and chicken and section of bratwursts and meat pies cover the comfort side of things. But in typical Troy Guard fashion, there are surprises and nostalgic flourishes that keep things "elevated," as he describes details like rabbit green chile (there's rabbit in the cheekily named hare pie, too), Colorado bison enchiladas and housemade pastas filled with duck confit and beef cheeks. If it's nostalgia you want, steer toward fried bologna sliders — here stacked with Elliott's own mortadella (one of the house salumi selections) and slathered in Thousand Island dressing — or a Monday-night special starring the old TV-tray standby, Salisbury steak.
"We have something for everyone in the family," Guard points out, whether Mom and Dad want to splurge on the cut or catch of the day or the kids want a reasonably priced quarter-pound burger. And for a big group looking to go all in, there's the Thursday special: a pork cut that encompasses the belly, loin and ribs (along with some crispy skin) that Guard has dubbed the "Pork Chop Royale."
While FNG certainly caters to all ages, the space definitely has an adult feel — just tell the kids that the eatery's initials stand for something other than "Fuckin' Good" or "Fuckin' New Guy" (the standard industry term for the rookie on the line, as the owner explains it). A bar outfitted with twenty local beers faces new windows on the west side of the space, while vintage album covers (some from ’80s-kid Guard's personal collection) decorate the walls, and hand-shaped sculptures in the dining room encourage guests to "rock on" à la Ronnie James Dio.
FNG occupies two prior restaurant locations; the corner spot was once a neighborhood Chinese joint, and the east side of the space was most recently Highland Pacific, which closed three years ago. In addition to knocking out a wall to create an open floor plan, Guard added new restrooms (the previous tenants shared bathrooms with Blue Pan Pizza next door).
FNG will — with any luck — open the doors at 4 p.m. on Friday. But if things don't work out as planned, Guard says he'll just have to apologize to the neighbors and try again on Monday. Either way, he plans to ease into full service, starting out from 4 p.m to 9-ish on weekdays (a little later on Friday and Saturday) and adding weekend brunch beginning in the new year and lunch in the spring.
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