Denver is a city that loves local, but as the food scene continues to grow, this has become a popular market for chains looking to expand their reach. In fact, the proliferation of out-of-state concepts coming to the Mile High was one of the biggest food stories of 2021, and that trend continues to gather steam.
While some concepts, such as Water Grill, which opened its Denver outpost this month, specialize in fine dining, many new-to-the-state fast-casual options are slated to debut this year.
In addition to popular chains like Halal Guys, In-N-Out, Shake Shack and, most recently, Whataburger (whose first Colorado location since the 1970s opened on February 23 in Colorado Springs), here are five fast-casual brands that will soon have locations along the Front Range:
Founded in South Philadelphia in 1992, PrimoHoagies is making its first moves west of the Mississippi with new franchise agreements across four states, including Colorado. Five locations are planned for the Denver area, with most slated to open this year. The chain offers dozens of hot and cold hoagie options, including its most popular: the Italian.
Billed as "the nation's first taquito-focused franchise," Roll-Em-Up is based in California and currently has three locations there. It was founded in 2019 by the Usrey family, inspired by "Mama Karen's" beloved taquito recipe. The brand's expansion plans are big: 451 outposts are currently in various stages of development, including fifteen slated for the Denver area as part of a development deal with franchise owners Robert and Igor L. Barskyl, who eventually plan to open fifty locations across the state. The menu includes five different taquitos (braised shredded beef, shredded chicken, potato, cheese and avocado) as well as items like street corn, bacon beans and churro doughnuts drizzled with caramel sauce.
This brand made its debut in Las Vegas in 2013 and has since expanded to five locations in Nevada and one in Salt Lake City. The menu is split between #LiveHealthy and #LiveHappy options, which cater to all dietary needs and preferences, with shareables, bowls, tacos, sandwiches and more. There's also a not-so-secret secret menu with items like the Chickawaffadopolis (its take on chicken and waffles) and the Happymess: truffles fries loaded with steak, blue cheese and pico de gallo. SkinnyFATS is planning ten locations in Colorado; the first will open in Denver later this year.
Technically, this brand already made a splash in Colorado when it opened a stall at Troy Guard's Grange Hall last September, but that location has a limited menu. The Southern California-born fried chicken hit will truly swoop into the state this year with two locations serving the brand's full menu, which includes bone-in fried chicken along with sandwiches and sides. One outpost will be near Park Meadows mall, while the other will open in RiNo. Both will have dog-friendly outdoor patios.
Chicken Salad Chick
While it's not yet venturing within Denver city limits, this Alabama-born chain will soon start scooping up north. Founded in 2008 by Stacy Brown, who began by selling chicken salad door-to-door, it's now a popular chain in the Southeast with 200 locations. Greeley residents David and Jessica Zumbrun have signed an agreement for five Colorado outposts — possible locations for the first spot include Greeley, Fort Collins, Loveland, Longmont, Johnstown and Windsor — with more to follow in 2023.