Openings and Closings

James Beard Award Winner Alex Seidel Debuts Mercantile at DIA

Mercantile's DIA location celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon cutting on August 15.
Mercantile's DIA location celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon cutting on August 15. Courtesy of Denver International Airport
It was nearly a decade ago that Denver restaurateur Justin Cucci opened a location of his trendy restaurant Root Down at Denver International Airport, giving travelers in the know reason to show up at the airport early just to have a meal. "Kudos to them — they paved the way," says Alex Seidel, who celebrated the grand opening of the airport outpost of his Union Station eatery, Mercantile Dining & Provision, on August 15.

An award-winning chef who's built his reputation over a 35-year-long career, Seidel took his time deciding to bring his brand to the airport. "I had my first interaction with DIA probably ten to twelve years ago," Seidel recalls. "They came to me at Fruition, and I was probably too naive to understand what it meant to go in there."

Over the years, he learned a lot more about the process — and the importance of having the right concessionaire to partner with to make it work. "I walked away from a deal with a concessionaire six years ago," he admits. "It just didn't feel right. I had the opportunity to make a lot of money, and they couldn't understand why I said no."

But waiting it out for the right partner, which he found in Tastes on the Fly, which operates 25 restaurants in five of North America’s busiest airports, has paid off. "For me, it's not just about giving up your brand," Seidel explains. "It's worth it in the end to find someone who wants to jump through those hoops with me, and we're aligned that way."
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Mercantile at DIA has an open kitchen.
Courtesy of Denver International Airport
For Mercantile at DIA, Seidel says he wanted to "create a restaurant in the airport, not an airport restaurant." Working with a concessionaire and moving into such a high-volume operation is a big change for someone who is used to having much more control, he admits, adding that "it's certainly always been a fear" that an airport location might not live up to the standards of the original Mercantile. But training an enthusiastic staff, many of whom are airport vets, and having the expertise of Tastes on the Fly gives him confidence in the endeavor, he says.

Thanks to access to a large commissary kitchen in the basement, the eatery is able to make much of its food on site — something not all airport food vendors are able to do. Mercantile at DIA has a grab-and-go counter with options like sandwiches and salads, as well as a fifteen-seat chef's counter and plenty of sit-down seating as well.

The menu includes many Mercantile staples, such as the Turkish eggs, pork belly biscuit and Dutch pancake. While the offerings at the original location at Union Station change often — sometimes even weekly as the team gets in new seasonal items — the airport outpost's menu will stay more consistent.

According to Seidel, one of the biggest challenges is the logistics of getting supplies to the airport. The new eatery is currently using different beef for its burgers, for example, as the team figures out how to execute Mercantile's beef program at the airport, where security clearance and other requirements must be met in order to allow vendors to deliver. "A lot of that is out of your control," Seidel says. "You do your best to connect the dots."

But even though some details are being ironed out, the ribbon-cutting marked a "crazy celebration" for Seidel, who's been waiting over four years to see this project come to reality after the pandemic delayed construction progress in 2020.

He's not the only big-name Denver restaurateur who will soon be opening a new airport eatery. A packed lineup of new food and drink options are slated to debut at DIA through the end of next year. Notable names include Rosenberg's Bagels, Uncle, the Bindery, Maria Empanada, Tocabe, Williams & Graham, D Bar, Bagel Deli, Tacos Tequila Whiskey, Mizu Izakaya and Sushi, El Chingon, Bar Dough, Señor Bear, ChoLon and Marczyk Fine Foods.

Mercantile Dining & Provision is located in the center of Concourse A at Denver International Airport, where it is open from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. daily. For more information, visit flydenver.com/enjoy_relax/dine.
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Molly Martin is the Westword Food & Drink editor. She’s been writing about the dining scene in Denver since 2013, and was eating her way around the city long before that. She enjoys long walks to the nearest burrito joint and nights spent sipping cocktails on Colfax.
Contact: Molly Martin