Food News

The Ten Biggest Food Stories of 2017

Concourse was one of several restaurants to open in Stapleton in 2017.
Concourse was one of several restaurants to open in Stapleton in 2017. Danielle Lirette

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Tavernetta opened on September 16, but closed a week later because of a fire.
Danielle Lirette
6. Tavernetta is on fire.
Frasca Food and Wine founders Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson unveiled their new Italian eatery behind Union Station on September 13 to a Denver crowd that had all but clawed down the doors in anticipation. But just a week later, a fire broke out during dinner service that cleared out the dining room (fortunately, nobody was injured) and required intervention from the Denver Fire Department. The damage from smoke and water was extensive enough that portions of the flooring and walls, along with upholstery and other interior decorations, needed to be replaced. It took until November 9 for Tavernetta to reopen — with a new drink on the cocktail menu called "Fire in the Wall" to commemorate the blaze.

7. Frank Bonanno plans to open Milk Market downtown.
Restaurateur Frank Bonanno maintains a diverse collection of eateries scattered around central Denver, from Mizuna (the flagship), Luca and Bones in Governor's Park to Green Russell, Russell's Smokehouse and Osteria Marco in Larimer Square. He currently runs ten establishments under the Bonanno Concepts umbrella, but the chef plans to blow that number out of the water in 2018 with his upcoming Milk Market food hall. Announced in October, the project will encompass fifteen different food and beverage stations, including those offering fried chicken, crepes, Hawaiian-style poke, sandwiches, pizza and salads, along with a wine bar and a Colorado-themed taproom. Denver has seen several consolidated food-and-drink halls and courts open recently (see Denver Central Market, Avanti Food & Beverage, Stanley Marketplace and the upcoming Zeppelin Station as examples), but this is the first where everything will be managed by one operator. Start saving your milk money!

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After nearly 25 years, founder Steve Ells will no longer be Chipotle's CEO.
Anthony Camera
8. Steve Ells plans to step down as CEO of Chipotle.
Without Steve Ells, there would be no Chipotle. As a young chef, Ells launched the fast-casual burrito company as a single outlet on East Evans Avenue in 1993. At first he rolled every burrito himself, but he quickly grew the chain beyond Colorado borders and guided the company's growth, attempting to adhere to the motto "food with integrity" along the way. But with several health scares and shrinking stock prices, Ells announced in November that he'd be stepping down as CEO to make way for new leadership; he'll stay on as executive chairman of the board after a new CEO is named. One of the biggest restaurant groups ever to emerge from Denver, Chipotle will soon be under new guidance for the first time ever.

9. Highland Tap & Burger founder takes over the Wazee Supper Club.
The Wazee Supper Club has changed hands several times over the decades but has always maintained its identity as a pizza joint and watering hole, even as the menu has become less and less of a draw. But November marked the end of the road for the Wazee as we've known it for more than forty years. Roadhouse Hospitality Group, which purchased a majority stake in the eatery three years ago, sold to Culinary Creative, a team that includes Highland Tap & Burger founders Juan Padro and Katie O'Shea and chef Max MacKissock, who helped launch Bar Dough and Señor Bear. The new owners will reopen the space in 2018 as a  French "bistronomy" (a phrase that's been used to describe a Parisian food movement since the late 1990s) restaurant called Morin. The Wazee Supper Club will remain open until late January.

Canadian craft brewer Red Truck is taking over Fort Collins Brewing.
Red Truck Facebook page
10. Craft breweries consolidate.
The brewery bubble keeps expanding, with many new craft-beer makers expected to enter the fray in 2018. Closings have been few and far between, but 2017 marked the sale and/or consolidation of several Colorado breweries. In Boulder, Boulder Beer Company took over the old Walnut Brewing Space, while the Post Brewing Company bought the Shine Restaurant & Gathering Space location, where Shine had also brewed beer. In Denver, North Carolina's Thirsty Monk bought out Deep Draft Brewing on East 17th Avenue, and Wit's End closed up its west Denver brewhouse and taproom to shack up with Strange Craft Beer, where both companies will produce beers on the same system. In Fort Collins, Canadian brewer Red Truck bought out Fort Collins Brewing and will reopen the expansive restaurant and taproom under the Red Truck name in 2018.
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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