Two years ago -- long before all that crazy drama at Wild Catch -- Justin Brunson, the owner and chef of Masterpiece Deli, was all set to open Lechon at 17th and Central streets with Ben Parsons, who owns the Infinite Monkey Theorem.
The deal eventually fell apart, but Brunson, despite a short stay at Wild Catch that resulted in his abrupt departure, never stopped looking for a space to open a swine-centric food temple, and after nearly three years of searching, he just inked a deal on a space at 3316 Tejon Street, directly across the pavement from the old Squeaky Bean (which will re-sprout downtown in June), which he's calling Old Major, after the boar in George Orwell's Animal Farm.
"I actually started looking for a space three years ago, and I'm pretty sure I looked at just about every space in Denver, but I either couldn't afford them or they just weren't right for what we wanted to do, but this space -- this space is exactly what I was looking for," says Brunson, who partnered with several investors, including Parsons and Juan Pedro and Katie O'Shea, who own Highland Tap & Burger, to make Old Major come to fruition. "It's been three years in the making, and I'm really excited for this project, and it's awesome that I finally have a great group of human beings to support what I want to do."
And what Brunson has planned is a swine-and-seafood-centric bistro. "I have a chubby for the pig, and we're going to focus on Heritage-breed meats, but it's going to be super-seafood-y, too." His fish, he stresses, will be as "sustainable as possible," and the animals, he insists, will be "properly raised and humanely slaughtered."
Once the site of a roller rink, the 3,000-square-foot quarters, which have been vacant for decades, will boast garage doors, a barrel ceiling, exposed brick walls, an 800-square-foot open kitchen and an in-house curing program that Brunson says will be front and center in the dining room. "Everyone should be curing their own meats -- it's not that difficult -- and we're ready to work with the health department to do it right. I have nothing to hide, and I want a curing room that's visible to the public," he adds.
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Brunson notes that he'll open Old Major with a tidy menu -- six appetizers, three salads, six entrees and five desserts. "As we get more comfortable, we'll see where we can take the menu, but to start with, it'll be a small board with lots of pork and lots of seafood," explains Brunson, who notes, too, that his entire team of "main players" from Wild Catch, including Jonathan Greschler, who's currently behind the bar at Fuel, will join him. "Jonathan will be our GM, and Galen Kennemer, who's been with me for years, will be our chef de cuisine."
In addition, says Brunson, who hopes to open in November, Old Major will parade an "awesome cocktail program," along with tap wines from Infinite Monkey Theorem. "Ben will be making a house red and house white for us, which we're really excited about," reveals Brunson. When he unleashes the space, he'll be open seven nights a week for dinner, and eventually Brunson will add a bar menu, happy-hour specials five nights a week, brunch, and, last but not least, lunch.
"I think this is a restaurant that's going to be great for Highland," Brunson predicts. "This is where my career really took off, and I think there's a need for high-end bistro fare up here. It's been a long time coming, and the space is nothing short of awesome."