What began as a friendship between winemaker and chef has morphed into a business partnership between Infinite Monkey Theorem winemaker Ben Parsons and Masterpiece Deli executive chef Justin Brunson. The two met not long after Parsons moved from Palisade to Denver last spring to open his urban winery in the Santa Fe Arts District. "Justin was one of the first people I met when I moved here, and he began helping me do winemaker dinners at the winery. We started hanging out a lot, got to be good friends and now we've created a great partnership," explains Parsons.
That partnership that will soon result in Lechon, a new restaurant at 17th and Central Streets that the two plan to open between July and October of next year. Lechon, Spanish for a roasted suckling pig (Tony Bourdain proclaimed the slow-roasted lechlon the best damn pig he's ever had), will be part of a new luxury apartment and retail development in LoHi, just around the corner from Masterpiece Deli. "We looked for a space for three or four months, and when we found this, we knew we'd found what we were looking for," says Parsons. The 3,500-square-foot, 80-seat restaurant, with an additional 40 seats on the patio, will occupy one half of one floor. "The location is fantastic, with direct, unobstructed views that go on forever," reveals Parsons.
As for the board, he admits that it'll be pork-centric, but not entirely. "We don't want to pigeonhole ourselves," he says, "so Justin, who's an extremely talented young chef, will also have several fish dishes and vegetarian options on the menu." Which isn't to say that charcuterie won't play a big role. "It will," Parsons promises. In fact, one of their goals is to install a visible walk-in cooler so that pig-headed, voyeuristic diners can view Brunson and his crew butchering and curing meats.
Parsons will oversee the beverage program: "This is really Justin's baby, but I will be helping him out with the wines -- wines that people actually want to drink." He'll dot the book with a few favorites from his own winery, but the Monkey label is not what this is about. "My whole deal is having a young winemaker and chef do really great things in a young and up-and-coming city," he explains, nothing that the beverage program will include a ten- to fifteen-wine keg program, along with craft beers and eclectic cocktails.
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"This isn't going to be a stuffy kind of restaurant where you're afraid to drop your knife or fork on the floor," Parsons predicts. Instead, it will be just the opposite -- the kind of place where you can drop your fork, make noise, drink a lot and have a ball. "We're going to have a lot of fun," he says, "and the menu, wine list and atmosphere are going to reflect that."