Dave Query, the founder of Big Red F, the Boulder-based restaurant group that encompasses the West End Tavern, Zolo Southwestern Grill, Centro Latin Kitchen & Refreshment Palace, a trio of Jax Fish Houses, the Bitter Bar and Lola, is one of the most successful restaurateurs in Colorado. A successful restaurateur who knows when to dump a concept that doesn't float the boat of its clientele, that is -- a concept like Happy, which Query closed earlier this month.
When Happy, the second half of the Bitter Bar, opened a few years ago in the People's Republic, the cuisine was Asian fusion, which, Query admits, never really took off. "The challenge for us was to get the food dialed in during the first six months, and while the food was good, our customers weren't satisfied with the overall package -- they didn't want to commit -- and the food fanfare wasn't blowing people away, so we dropped the Asian-fusion thing entirely," he says.
And on Saturday night, Happy reopened with a new menu, a makeover and one name: the Bitter Bar. This time, promises Query, "it's all about the food that we love to eat and cook -- and food that pairs really well with our cocktail program, which has been strong from day one." Mark Stoddard, who has been with the Bitter Bar for years, will continue to whip up cocktails, as will Michael Cerretani, who's the new bar manager.
As for the food, Query calls it "eclectic bar grub," zigzagging between charcoal burgers and bratwurst to gnocchi and rabbit ravioli. "It's a delicious menu of small plates," he says. In addition, Query reveals that both he and Jamey Fader, Big Red F's culinary director and the chef at Lola, will be spending significant time in the kitchen alongside chef Sam Proia. "Jamey and I will be in the kitchen for a long time to come to make sure that the food gets to where it should be," notes Query.
And, he says, the board will be elevated by a large sugar-based syllabus from renowned pastry chef Jenn Bush, whose sweets garnered her ink in Food & Wine magazine, which called her creations "seriously rich desserts."
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"She has great abilities in the kitchen, and she's really, really talented," says Query, adding that Bitter Bar will hustle between ten and twelve desserts each night. He also invested in a cappuccino maker to complement Bush's pastries.
And the space, Query tells me, is conducive to kicking back with chocolate and coffee, or cocktails and a burger. "It's really comfortable, cozy and inviting," he says, adding, too, that there's now a stage for live music acts. "There are a lot of talented musicians in Boulder without a place to play beyond the big venues, and we want to give those great musicians a place to throw down for a couple of hours."
The Bitter Bar is open Tuesday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to midnight, and on Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.