Brian and Katy Vaughn have been running restaurants in Steamboat Springs for a number of years: first with Bistro CV, which opened in 2007, and then with Low Country Kitchen, a tribute to the couple's Southern roots that opened in 2014. Now they're bringing that Southern charm to Denver with a second Low Country Kitchen, which opens on Monday, February 27, in the space vacated by Vita at 1575 Boulder Street.
Brian grew up in New Orleans and Kentucky, and Katy is a native of Tennessee. Since getting married, the two have traveled and lived throughout the South, including the Carolinas. Low Country Kitchen takes its inspiration mostly from the coastal area of South Carolina and northern Georgia known as the Lowcountry, but also touches on other regions with modern takes on classic dishes. "It's our interpretation of our favorites from childhood," says Brian, the chef of the duo. He previously worked under trailblazing Florida chef Norman van Aken, so his mentor's influences are also felt on Low's menu.
The Vaughns closed Bistro CV last summer to focus on expanding Low Country Kitchen, with the Front Range as a primary target. When the Vita space became available, Brian says he knew it was the right spot. He's been spending most of his time planning the new restaurant and training staff, so hasn't had as much time for cooking. "I'm excited about the opening because I'm going to be able to spend the next three to five months with our guys in the kitchen," he adds.
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Katy, who has a master's degree in architecture, handles front-of-house and marketing responsibilities and keeps an eye on the overall look and feel of the couple's eateries. They'll be spending about 80 percent of their time in Denver initially; Brian says his culinary team is well prepared to keep things running smoothly without his daily presence in Steamboat.
Much of the new location's opening menu will match that of its older sibling, with favorites like fried chicken and 48-hour barbecued pork ribs; the kitchen relies heavily on local farms for meat and produce. Differences between the fare at the Steamboat and Denver locations will begin to sharpen as the seasons change and available product diverges in the two very different regions of the state. But the restaurants also go beyond state lines: Clams, mussels, oysters, shrimp and catfish come from Atlantic estuaries and the Gulf Coast, with Southern staples like buttermilk biscuits, hush puppies, grits and boiled peanuts also making appearances. While a few dishes are rich and heavy, Brian says he likes to prepare lighter versions of his favorites, using acidic finishes like vinegars and citrus juices to liven up each bite.
The restaurant should be a welcome addition for Highland residents missing their Southern cuisine since Jezebel's closed last fall. Low Country Kitchen will be open for dinner seven days a week, starting at 4:30 p.m. with happy hour. A weekend brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. will roll right into an early happy hour.