Are food halls risky business during the pandemic, or are they just what's needed? Sure, most of them are built for crowds — the kinds of crowds that are off-limits right now. But the addition of multiple food vendors to one neighborhood also brings with it plenty of new patio dining and takeout options. Such is the case with Junction Food & Drink, which opens Wednesday, October 7, at 2000 South Colorado Boulevard.
Junction broke ground two years ago at the Colorado Center, right across the plaza from Dave & Buster's and the Regal UA & IMAX movie theater complex, back before the words "coronavirus" and "COVID-19" were part of our everyday vocabulary. With a teeming development of office towers, nightlife attractions and new apartments, all fed by light rail, I-25 and Colorado Boulevard, a multi-vendor eating and drinking destination seemed like a perfect fit for the area.
"This is an area that's been underserved," says Junction general manager Neill Blackwood, who points out that despite sporadic traffic to the Colorado Center because fewer people are working in the office buildings, there are still plenty of folks coming and going during the day. "And the University of Denver is just a mile away," he adds.
The food hall's 12,000 square feet of indoor space are spread out on either side of a central bar, with eleven other kitchens offering something from morning through last call. The bar itself opens onto the patio as well as the dining area, so even though current restrictions forbid bar seating inside the hall, guests can sit outside, since the seats are more than six feet from taps, wells and other customers. Well-spaced bar tables inside provide seating for those looking for a bar-like experience.
Junction Food & Drink will initially be open Wednesday through Sunday, with limited indoor seating and patio seating on the north, east and west sides of the building. For to-go business, the food hall will rely on third-party delivery services, and there will also be three curbside pick-up stations to make it easier for customers grabbing food on the run. Most of the vendors will be open from 11 a.m until 9 p.m.
In addition to the central bar, seven counters will open on October 7, while the remaining four will debut once capacity limits can be increased. Here's what you can expect:
Sonder Coffee and Tea
This is the second location for Sonder, which runs its flagship cafe and roasting facility at 9731 East Iliff Avenue. Sonder serves batch and pour-over black coffee, espresso drinks, cold brew on tap and other hot and cold beverages beginning at 7 a.m.
Ebisu Ramen & Sushi
Chef Soon Choi bring several years of experience as head chef at Sushi Den to Junction Hall. He'll be serving several styles of ramen, including lesser-known Nagoya mazamen and Nagasaki champon (a type of seafood ramen), as well as salads, small plates, sashimi and sushi rolls.
Sushi Big Wave Taco
Chef Troy Guard is already known for his tacos at Los Chingones, but his new concept, Big Wave, will focus on Pacific-coast, Baja-style eats, including battered fish tacos.
Restaurateur Yaser Khalaf is part of Junction's leadership group at National Food Hall Solutions, and he's also overseeing Shawarma Shack, where lamb and chicken will be roasted on vertical spits for sandwiches and bowls.
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New Haven, Connecticut, has its own style of pizza, which Washington, D.C. pie maker Joel Mehr is bringing to Denver.
Paciugo Gelato Caffe
Paciugo's Junction location is the second in metro Denver for the nationwide gelato chain; the first is at 7181 West Alaska Drive in Lakewood.
Mr. Miner's Meat and Cheese
Chef Chase Devitt opened his first charcuterie and sandwich shop, Mr. Miner's, inside Golden's Tributary Food Hall last year. The deli counter will serve hot and cold sandwiches, salads, soups and meat and cheese boards.
The other food counters that will open later include Denver favorites Smok Barbecue and Lazo Empanadas, as well as Bird on a Wire (fried chicken sandwiches) and Grind & Grill Burgers, two unique vendors from the Junction team.