In early May, Pete Turner, the founder of Illegal Pete’s, said that he planned to double the number of restaurants in his homegrown chain over the next four years, from the current 11 to 25. But while he’s looking at opening more locations of the Mission burrito-inspired restaurant concept outside of Colorado (there are already two in Arizona), he’s not forgetting Denver: Next May, a new spot will open at West Colfax Avenue and Utica Street, right next to the Little Man Ice Cream Factory that officially debuted on July 6 at 4411 West Colfax.
And what a spot! “We’re excited to join a prominent corner in the Sloan’s Lake neighborhood that has so much history,” says Turner. “With Little Man Ice Cream, we look forward to activating a shared courtyard between us as an engaging space for families to play in, shared events and other fun interactions.”
The fun will carry over into the physical space of this Illegal Pete’s. As the company has taken on very different buildings around Denver — the former Mama's Cafe at 2001 East Colfax, an old gas station at 270 South Broadway — it's adapted its concept to the existing realities of those addresses. And this reconfiguration might be the most fabulous yet.
Designed by architects Rob Paulus of Tucson and Michael Koch of Denver, the existing building will sport a roof that dips in a butterfly shape that looks mid-century modern, an homage to the motels that once lined the Fabulous 40 Strip, as this stretch of Colfax was once known. Garage doors by the bar on the ground floor will open to a big patio, while stadium seating inside will ascend to a second bar and stage at the top, where there will also be four large party booths for private rentals.
And with any luck, drinks will be transported from the bar on the first level to the second via a gondola or train, much like buckets of ice cream are transported on overhead conveyor belts from the kitchen to a “flight deck” at the Little Man Factory, a place so fun that it makes Willy Wonka look like a candy ass, as Mark Antonation reported.
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More than design inspiration will spill over from the Factory in what promises to be a sweet collaboration. “We see so many opportunities for working with Little Man,” Turner adds. “Illegal Pete’s sopapillas with a scoop of Little Man Ice Cream, boozy shakes and more.”
We’ll drink to that.
And we’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so: Illegal Pete’s, which is known almost as much for its good works as for the good times at its eateries, will celebrate its 25th anniversary in August 2020. You can expect the communities served by Illegal Pete's to get the real gifts, though; Turner promises "really cool stuff" in store next year.
Starting with this West Colfax outpost.