Openings and Closings

Lea Jane's Hot Chicken Takes Over Biju's Space in RiNo

Nashville-style hot chicken is coming to RiNo.
Nashville-style hot chicken is coming to RiNo. Mark Antonation
Lea Jane's Hot Chicken debuted at Avanti Food & Beverage a year ago, giving chef/owner Nick Graves barely a month to make a splash with his Nashville-style hot chicken sandwiches and other Southern fare before the pandemic shut down dining rooms across Colorado. But Graves stuck it out with takeout and delivery until Avanti reopened at partial capacity, and now that he's had a chance to give Denver a taste of his cooking, he's expanding Lea Jane's wingspan.

A second location of Lea Jane's will soon open at 1441 26th Street in RiNo, taking over the former home of Biju's Little Curry Shop, which closed in fall 2019. "We've had our eye on the spot for a long time, but COVID kind of shut everything down," Graves says.

The restaurant isn't large, but it will allow the chef enough space to bring over the staples from his Avanti menu, as well as launch several new dishes that will rotate regularly based on available ingredients and his team's creativity. "It's to have fun, by giving our chefs and me a chance to explore new things," he explains.

Graves was born and raised in South Carolina and has worked in several Southern cities known for their culinary traditions, including New Orleans, where he did time at Commander's Palace, and Nashville, where he worked at Husk, as well as in his home state. While in Nashville, he explored the variations on hot chicken, starting with Prince's, the originator of the style. Graves's hot chicken adheres to tradition by using a blend of fats, cayenne pepper and other seasonings to amp up the heat after the chicken comes out of the fryer.


Graves also operates Graves Good Burger at Zeppelin Station; he says he'll keep the two concepts separate but doesn't rule out the possibility of a burger occasionally showing up on the chicken shop's menu. Otherwise, expect Lea Jane's fried chicken deviled eggs, hot chicken sandwiches, fried chicken on the bone and, with any luck, the waffle cone filled with chicken bites and mac and cheese. The chef is also working on a beer and wine license.

The dining room at Biju's was decked out in bold colors and images from South India, but it's currently getting a makeover. Graves says he hired a graffiti artist to come up with a new theme and gave the artist creative license, so he's not even sure what the finished result will look like.

When Lea Jane's opens, expect counter service, indoor and outdoor seating and food that works well for takeout if you're on the go. An exact date hasn't been chosen, but mid- to late March is likely. For now, you can get hot chicken from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily at Avanti Food & Beverage, 3200 Pecos Street.
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation