Chef Goose Sorensen is ending his sixteen-year run with Solera at the end of next month, but he doesn't regret the move. "I couldn't be more thrilled," he told us earlier this week when we talked to him about the closure. "I didn't want to be fifty years old and still slinging calamari on East Colfax." He's got plans to do some work on his family's property in Wyoming and is looking forward to spending more time in the mountains.
But he's not cutting all ties to the building at 5410 East Colfax Avenue, where Solera currently resides. Sorensen owns the property and is leasing the space to Christopher Nicki, who will open Hank's Texas Barbecue later this summer.
Nicki currently works as a chef at Old Major — a good proving ground for someone with meaty aspirations. Growing up in Texas, he was a fan of barbecue; he later moved to Chicago and worked as a paramedic for six years. But three years ago he relocated to Colorado and began drawing up a business plan to open a barbecue food truck that would eventually segue into a full-fledged restaurant.
"My original plan was to build a smoker on the back of a food truck, but that started to get more and more expensive," he explains. "So I talked to my dad, and he said, 'Why not just open the restaurant?'"
After a year of searching and walking away from several near-deals, Nicki wasn't much closer to achieving his goal...until Old Major's chef/owner, Justin Brunson, put him in touch with Sorensen and the two came to terms on a lease. Nicki liked the location because of its expansive patio (where he'll put his smoker) and a small garden plot where he'll be able to supplement the menu at Hank's with fresh-grown produce.
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"We'll be focusing on brisket and hot links," he says, but notes that the menu will include other smoked meats, too. "We'll be a fast-casual, family-friendly place."
Once Nicki takes over the space, he plans on knocking out a wall to create an open kitchen and redoing the decor to fit the style of a smokehouse. He's aiming for an opening in June or July, just in time to take advantage of summer days on the patio.
And who's Hank? "Oh, he's my dog — he's a miniature dachshund," Nicki explains. "He'll be on the sign out front, and under him it will say 'Lower and slower.'"
Words to live by, whether you're a barbecue cook or a wiener dog.