Lance Barto departs Linger to open The Social in Castle Pines

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Lance Barto, the opening chef of Central Bistro & Bar, and, most recently, part of the kitchen crew at Linger, is leaving the bright lights of the city behind to open The Social, a new restaurant at 872 West Happy Canyon Road, in Castle Pines Village.

See also: - Central Bistro and Bar opening in Highland with Lance Barto behind the line - Executive chef Lance Barto gets "pushed out" from Central Bistro & Bar - Central Bistro & Bar redefines what a neighborhood restaurant can be

Barto, who stepped away from Linger's line last week, says that the leap to the 'burbs is a welcome challenge, especially given the proliferation of chain restaurants that litter the suburban landscape. "Linger took awesome care of me -- they're like family -- but this is a management opportunity with a lot of creative opportunities, and there's definitely a need to bring more independent restaurants to this community," explains Barto, who will share the kitchen with sous chef Joel Cline, formerly of the Fat Frog and Castle Pines Golf Club.

The space, which was most recently Rodney's, is currently undergoing an interior remodel, and the changes will be indicative of the name, says Miles Ogea, who co-owns The Social with his wife, Liz. "We want people to sit down and enjoy dinner with friends and strangers and share food with each other in a communal gathering place," he says, adding that community tables will be a focal point.

Barto's menu, which he describes as "seasonal, local and approachable social food that starts -- and ends -- with high-quality ingredients" is compact, with vegetables playing a big part in his repertoire. "I'm focusing on a produce-driven menu that will evolve organically, and while we're serving everything from foie gras and pork belly to duck ravioli and steak, this isn't a meat-fest," he insists, noting that much of the menu is "Paleo-friendly."

Mark Sandusky, who spent several years as the wine director at Luca d'Italia -- and later consulted at Central -- will take on the opening beverage consulting role at The Social, says Barto, who reveals that the wine program will lay claim to sixty to seventy bottles, plus a dozen pours by the glass. In addition, a dozen beers are slated for tap handles, many of which are brewed in Colorado, and a formidable craft-cocktail list is in the works, too. "We have such great access to amazing beers and craft distilleries, so we're definitely going to take advantage of that," says Barto, adding that the cocktails will lean toward the classics. "We're going to make a killer Tom Collins, Manhattan and old-fashioned," he promises.

A opening date hasn't been solidified, but Barto is leaning toward the third or fourth week in July. "I'm a dishwasher away from having my kitchen staff completed, we start staff training at the end of this week, then we'll do some soft openings and hopefully open soon after that," he tells me.

And soon can't come enough for Barto. "I'm so excited to be behind the wheel again, and I'm super-stoked to see what the potential is like down here," he says. "I'm really looking forward to building a passionate family culture in this restaurant, especially from the ground up, and I'm excited to make this a restaurant that's a place for people to gather and break bread."

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