It's been a long haul, but after months of construction and permitting delays, Syntax Physic Opera should finally open this weekend -- if it gets the green light from the city -- and start a new chapter as a restaurant/venue devoted to telling stories at the same time it serves food and features live music. "I want this all to point toward stories," says owner Jonathan Bitz, "from the back of the house with the food to the cocktails to the service, which we have put a big emphasis on." See also: Introducing Syntax Physics Opera, a venue and restaurant with an interesting theme Bitz, who ran Syntax magazine for a decade and worked for five years as a talent buyer at the Meadowlark, first started thinking about opening his own place about three years ago. After he and his wife, Joy, looked around RiNo and the Arts District on Santa Fe, they finally found the perfect spot when the Bar closed at 554 South Broadway last year: The divided space suited Bitz's vision: One half could be a music venue, the other half a restaurant/bar.
But almost nothing else went according to plan. "I'm incredibly lucky to have this chance to build something like this," Bitz says. "My father, my partner, gave me this chance because he saw the numbers and he believes in what's been created with Syntax. We've spent a lot of time and energy conceptualizing it and now we're implementing it -- just a lot slower than we all wanted."
Last fall's planned opening moved to spring, then summer. But the delays had their advantages. "We've really been able to refine the food menus," he says. "And the cocktail menus are hitting on something...drinks that had medicinal elements in them. It's a play on the old nostrums that they had at the medicine shows."
But the menu has some new twists, too. Last year Bitz was introduced to the Paleo Diet, and "that formed the core of how we approached food and what we wanted to share with people," he says. "Food became simple to me. It didn't become this complicated thing that everybody was doing. I started thinking about what do we here in Colorado. What kinds of things are idiosyncratic to Colorado?"
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For Bitz, the answers included not just Old West artifacts that adorn the walls, but trout, peaches, melons and berries; chef David Beckwith created a menu around those key ingredients. And while the kitchen will only offer a limited menu during opening weekend, the regular menu will include such dishes as rabbit-stuffed dates, Indian fry bread taco and elk jalapeno sausage, as well as soups, salads, cheese boards and panini in combos like trout gruyere and tomatillo capicola. Keep reading for more photos of Syntax Physic Opera. For more on Bitz's plans to present live music, see our Syntax Physical Opera story on Backbeat.