Highland Tap and Burger Owner Teams With Former Squeaky Bean Chef as Bar Dough Takes Shape

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Juan Padró and Katie O’Shea Padró, owners of Highland Tap and Burger, and Max MacKissock, former executive chef at the Squeaky Bean, have teamed up to convert a former convenience store into a wood-fired Italian eatery and bar that will be called Bar Dough. The space is right next door to Highland Tap and Burger and is currently gutted down to the beams, but Juan Padró says that construction on the small space could be done by early- to mid-September.

A life as an active restaurant owner wasn't part of Padró's plan when he and Katie moved to Denver a little more than five years ago. At the time they invested in the burger bar, they were living in Boston, with a plan to move to Puerto Rico. But Denver was closer to family and a visit during one of those warm, sunny January weeks won them over, so they moved here instead, taking a more hands-on role in the restaurant than they initially planned.

Padró says he met MacKissock on the day that the Tap opened in 2010 (the Squeaky Bean had yet to move from LoHi to downtown); "Every one of those guys would come in after shifts or between doubles," he notes.

Since Padró and MacKissock both grew up on the east coast, they bonded over the food and culture of their childhood homes. "Us New England kids all stick together," says Padró.

Now that they're working together to open Bar Dough, he says that "the priority is bringing people together over food." And although an Italian wood-burning pizza oven will be a centerpiece of the kitchen, he adds: "We're not going to have Max in the kitchen just for pizza."

Instead, the menu will cover hand-made pasta, small plates and Italian-influenced dishes that will pair well with the bar program, which will be less focused on beer than Highland Tap, but will still have eight to ten draft handles and another dozen beers by the bottle, as well as at least 50 wines — four of which will also be on tap. Padró adds that he has two level-two ciccerones on his staff at Highland Tap who will put their expertise to work to make sure the beers are up to par with MacKissock's food at Bar Dough.

While construction is under way at the new restaurant, Padró says that he's making employee training a priority and that "our plan is to grow the Tap brand."

Of his first restaurant's overwhelming success in LoHi, he says: "It's embarrassing how lucky we are." Luck may explain the timing of opening a beer and burger joint just as the neighborhood was ready to boom, but an eye to consistent quality has earned the bar it's reputation. The burgers won Highland Tap a spot on our list of the top ten burgers in Denver and we've also acknowledged the Tap's happy hour, French fries and sports bar grub in our Best Of Denver awards. Add MacKissock, who won our Best Chef award in 2011 while at the Squeaky Bean, to the mix and Bar Dough could be set to rise to new heights in LoHi.

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