Leo Goto's Riverfront: a closer look

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Last week, we noted that old-school restaurateur Leo Goto was back in the biz with a restaurant and events center in Littleton. This week we took a closer look at his new digs, poked around the kitchen, caught up with executive chef Andrea McGrath -- who is about to have a baby -- and spent some time with Goto himself, who describes the restaurant as "a neighborhood gathering place with great signature food, stuff people can't get anywhere else."

Take a peek:

restaurant, located at 2852 West Bowles Avenue in Littleton on the banks of the Platte River, used to be the Riverfront Events Center. Goto hints that he snagged the 12,000-square-foot space and one-and-a-half acre property for a song. "It's a great location and there's potential to do a lot of business here. It just hit me between the eyes," he says.

The spacious main dining room has about fifteen tables. According to restaurant manager Veronica Valle, some of the art on the walls -- which includes two pieces signed by decorated French chef Paul Bocuse -- is from Leo's Place, Goto's Denver legendary restaurant of the 1960s and '70s. A smaller, private dining area flanks the main dining room.

The restaurant has what McGrath calls a "scratch" kitchen, and save churning its own butter and slaughtering its own animals, makes nearly everything by hand, with an emphasis on locally grown and organic ingredients and products.

McGrath, a graduate of Johnson and Wales, has also studied in Thailand and Singapore and brings Asian-inspired sensibilities to her cuisine. Sous chef Andrew Midori will be filling in for McGrath when she goes on maternity leave.

A take on bruschetta, McGrath's eight-ounce Angus burger features a hot tomato jam, Thai basil and mozzarella, and comes with hand-cut sweet potato fries and organic baby arugula. McGrath's menu features quite a few small plates, among them the hoisin pulled pork wonton tacos, which come with edamame salsa and house-made Asian slaw. The restaurant, which launched dinner service this week, has "nightly features" that currently include a 14-ounce ribeye, which comes topped with candied, fried leeks and garlic herb butter, along with sun-dried tomatoes and steak fries.

Goto mentions several times how much fun he's having with the new restaurant. He has a plan to transfer ownership to employees after a few years by allowing them to buy in, and views the restaurant as a way to transfer some of his skills to the younger generations. "We've got some really wonderful kids working for us," he says. "It's fun."

Leo Goto's Riverfront is currently open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m, with plans to extend hours by the end of the month and open seven days a week by the end of the summer. For more information or to make reservations, call 303-865-8500.

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