On the heels of news about one of Portland, Oregon's hottest chefs, Carlo Lamagna, bringing a second location of his Filipino concept to RiNo next year, another big-name chef from out of state is making moves in the Mile High.
The upscale restaurant Church and Union will open a location at 1433 17th Street later this year, an arrival we've been anticipating since 2021. It will be the fourth outpost of the concept developed by South Carolina-based 5th Street Group, which has opened Church and Unions in North and South Carolina as well as Tennessee over the past decade.
"Church and Union is not a chain restaurant," assures chef and partner Jamie Lynch, who built his culinary reputation at New York's Le Cirque and Cafe Boulud; he has been named Charlotte Magazine's Best Chef five times and competed in two seasons of Top Chef.
Both the menu and the decor at the new addition will be Denver-specific, he adds. The dishes are built around local ingredients and will change regularly, with some staples available year-round. "We naturally cook with the seasons," notes Lynch. "It's part of our ethos."
At the Charleston location, the menu currently features a koji pork loin, handmade braided ravioli and a ribeye for two. In Nashville, Japanese fried chicken, duck gnocchi and the CU poke bowl are currently on offer. The Denver menu, which Lynch expects to include game, will be created by the local team, led by Adam Hodgson, with Lynch acting as a guide.
Hodgson has worked in local kitchens before, including The Fort in Morrison and the now-closed Katie Mullen's Irish Pub. He is currently vice president of culinary operations for 5th Street Group, and appeared on the show Beat Bobby Flay in 2020.
While 5th Street Group describes Church and Union as "New American," Lynch clarifies: "I would say our cooking style is modern American. The style includes classic French cooking, but we like to embrace the modern technology and sensibilities that allow us to experiment and play with our food."
The Denver outpost of Church and Union will include design elements that can be found in the other locations, including the entire text of Sun Tzu's The Art of War, which Charlotte artist Jon Norris has painted on the ceiling of each space. "When people walk in, they find an unexpected room," says Lynch, adding that guests are usually in awe of the ceiling and walk slowly as they stare up at it. "I called it the penguin walk," he laughs.
Another notable piece in each Church and Union location is a five-dollar bill painting, each of which includes features and notable figures from the locale's history. Lynch describes it as a "fun little artistic scavenger hunt." The work will be created by artists Matt Hooker and Rodney Raines, and research is underway to determine what will be on this edition of the mural, including the bill's centerpiece profile. (Our suggestion: Blucifer, the iconic, red-eyed mustang sculpture at DIA.)
The restaurant is opening in a historic space, built as part of the St. Elmo Hotel in 1896, and will seat 150 people. It will also have an outdoor patio with a large white concrete bar and space for about thirty guests.
5th Street Group signed the lease for Church and Union's Denver location a month or so before the pandemic hit. "We were hoping to be open by now," admits Lynch. But construction has finally begun and the group is aiming for a December debut. "I hope to be passing out Christmas gifts in Denver this year," he concludes.