Rooted Craft American Kitchen Opens in Former FNG Space May 19 | Westword
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First Look: Rooted Craft American Kitchen Is Ready to Revive the FNG Space

The new neighborhood eatery opening May 19 is former Vesta chef Nicholas Kayser's first brick-and-mortar.
Rooted is set to open on May 19.
Rooted is set to open on May 19. Lucy Beaugard
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What: Rooted Craft American Kitchen

Where: 3490 West 32nd Avenue

When: Open from 3 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 3 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday starting May 19; brunch, lunch and happy hour will be added in the coming weeks.

For more info: Visit rootedcraftktichen.com
click to enlarge a restaurant filled with diners and staff
The former FNG space has been brightened up.
Lucy Beaugard
What we saw: A brighter, more open interior with a greenery installation that brings a pop of color to the ceiling awaits diners at Rooted Craft American Kitchen, which opens in the former FNG space on May 19.

That eatery, owned by Troy Guard, debuted in 2017 and underwent a refresh in 2021, but ultimately shuttered in January. "This came available, and we really wanted to jump on it. We really poured our heart into this one," says chef/co-owner Nicholas Kayser, who also lives in the area. "It's a great space; it's a great neighborhood. We're very, very excited about it."

Kayser, who was the executive chef at longtime Denver favorite Vesta from 2016 until it closed in 2020, met Rooted co-owner/beverage director Scott Ericson through that gig. Since then, the two have been focused on developing this restaurant concept at their two food hall stalls, Rooted at Avanti Boulder and the now-closed Del Mar by Rooted, which was located inside Avanti Denver.

At the new brick-and-mortar, Kayser and Ericson's first, the space is decked out with garage doors that, when open, give the whole place a welcoming, indoor/outdoor feel. There's also a bar that opens to a side patio which is ideal for those with four-legged friends — they'll be allowed on the outside of the patio fence. "Everybody's been coming by with their dogs — it's very exciting," says general manager Luke Emerson.

"Every fifteen seconds, we've got someone popping their heads in the door and saying hi with their dogs and their kids," Kayser adds.
click to enlarge sveral white dishes filled with food on a white table
Local sourcing is key at Rooted.
Lucy Beaugard
The goal here is to be a true neighborhood spot, and that's reflected in the thoughtful food and drink menus as well as the design. On the beverage side, which includes a short but smart selection of beer, cider and wine, Ericson has split the offerings between low-ABV sippers and classic cocktails with names that are nods to song titles ($10-$14).

Among the twelve options are a light and minty julep made with Grüner Veltliner instead of bourbon; a Campari and soda; and two sherry cocktails — a spirit that Ericson "absolutely loves," he says. "People think that it's just the dusty bottle that was on top of your grandma's shelf that you cooked with." To break that stereotype, he recommends trying the Fino and Tonic. "Fino is the driest of the sherries," he notes.

On the food side, Rooted is "ingredient-driven, highlighting what we can find, what we cook at home, what we love and what farmers' markets are selling," Kayser says. "We firmly believe in slow food done fast."
click to enlarge a frisee salad and a grilled cheese sandwich with jam
The grilled cheese sandwich is supremely craveable.
Lucy Beaugard
What surprised us: How craveable the food is. With a name like Rooted and a lot of talk about farmers' markets, some might get the impression that this spot serves more vegetable-forward, light fare. And there is some of that — there's a lineup of four salads ($11-$14), and fresh, seasonal produce plays an important role in many dishes, like the Gnocchette Primavera ($23), which combines pasta from local pasta brand Sfoglina with fresh peas, roasted carrots and lightly pickled squash, zucchini and onions.

But what Rooted does really well is elevate comfort food into something that feels special — but also just downright delicious. A prime example of this is the Royal With Cheese ($14), which is basically a grown-up grilled cheese.

Thick slices of Grateful Bread sourdough that's toasted with a bit of honey for extra crunch is the base for this truly decadent sandwich. Inside are Taleggio, goat cheese and Brie, a combination that Kayser accurately describes as "creamy, melty, funky, rich." The whole thing is punched up with berry compote that has a savory edge thanks to the addition of caramelized onions and thyme.

Brie, in whipped form, also stars in an appetizer dubbed Brie and Peas ($15) that comes with fresh English peas, shaved heirloom carrots, bits of housemade granola for crunch and honeycomb from Boulder. The cheesy starter is served with a mini baguette from Grateful Bread because, with the pandemic in the rearview, "it's time to break bread again," Kayser says.

The menu offers a wide variety without being overwhelming, from wood-grilled oysters and falafel to cold smoked, roasted salmon, beef tenderloin, and a burger made with Snake River Farms wagyu beef on a brioche bun.

While Kayser, Ericson and their team have put a lot of thought into every facet of the concept, nothing about it seems like they're trying too hard. This is the kind of place I'd love to have in my own neighborhood, — and, if all goes well, there could be more Rooted locations taking root around Denver in the near future. 
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