Most restaurant closings are not good news. But when City, O' City closed its doors on Sunday night, it was a cause for celebration. "In a mescal-induced dance-party frenzy, we knocked the wall down between the existing space and the new space," reports Dan Landes, president of City, O' City and its older sibling, WaterCourse Foods. "My general contractor was not thrilled, but he did mention he was impressed that we were able to identify and knock down the correct wall."
The wall had to come down because City, O' City, the town's Best Vegetarian Restaurant in the Best of Denver 2011, is doubling in size, going up to 140 seats -- and Landes and his contractor hope to get the massive project done in just a month, so the restaurant will be closed all of August.
When it reopens -- they're shooting for September 1 -- City, O' City will have a huge open kitchen with seven bar seats, the perfect spot to watch chef Brendon Doyle work his magic on a new, veggie-centric menu.
Many of the ingredients for that menu come from the one-acre microfarm that Landes and his wife have in Lakewood, just a half a block from Davies Chuck Wagon Diner, which is currently pulling in about 150 pounds of produce a day. "We're getting these huge harvests out of the farm," Landes says. "The season is short here. Everyone's talking about local produce, and that's great until October 1 -- but then what do you do?" If you're Doyle and Rachel Kesley, the chef at WaterCourse, you start a pickling, preserving and canning program, turning mounds of bok choy into kimchi that can be used all year. When you're doing vegetarian/vegan food, Landes notes, "you focus on all the great ways to use these vegetables. It forces creative choices. It instills creativity. It's such a nice niche."
Speaking of nice niches, City, O' City will have a patio along 13th Avenue and Sherman Street, where Sandi Calistro, the tattoo artist and owner of Kaze Gallery, has already started painting a huge mural. Artists Sabin Aell and Randy Rushton, husband-and-wife owners of Hinterland Gallery, have worked on the restaurant's interior, using upcycled materials. The food bar and barista bar, for example, are from the trailer of a 1937 tractor/trailer. "Our customers will walk into a work of art," Landes promises.
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And Dave Zahradnick, formerly of Steuben's and Vesta Dipping Grill, has been hired to consult on staffing; the restaurant was hiring on Monday and Tuesday and plans to add forty employees. Landes and Zahradnick have talked about the difference in cultures between restaurants in the two-restaurant group, and are anticipating what might emerge at the new City, O' City.
"Because of the volume that WaterCourse does, and the space they're in, there's a lot more structure, a lot more hands-on management," Landes explains. "City, O' City has more of a bohemian vibe -- sort of organized chaos." And even if organization trumps chaos when the restaurant reopens, Landes knows that City, O' City will keep its edge.
"We're really trying to rep Capitol Hill in a big way," he vows.
A version of this story was included in Cafe Bites, our weekly e-mail newsletter that goes out early every Wednesday. If you don't yet subscribe, find out how here.