One of the main draws of a food hall is variety: You can pick from a vast variety of culinary offerings all under one roof. And at Street Feud, which opens inside Avanti Food & Beverage on Friday, August 9, you'll find variety within variety.
Chef/owner Merlin Verrier has created a menu of tacos, bao buns, flatbreads and quinoa bowls, so you won't even need to leave the Street Feud counter to have your pick of flavors from Mexico, Korea, Indonesia and the Mediterranean.
Verrier says the inspiration for his tacos comes from his upbringing in central California, where migrant farmworkers have shaped the food scene and culture. "I remember eating real Mexican food, where they were making their own tortillas and doing everything right," he recalls. "It wasn't so long ago that California was Mexico."
Tacos al pastor were among the chef's favorites, so pastor will be on Street Feud's menu. There will also be birria tacos made with slow-braised lamb. Verrier notes that tacos are the perfect vehicle for meats with bolder flavor like lamb. But he's also aware that not everyone eats meat, and that a great taco can be built with the flavors and textures of vegetables. His crispy mushroom tacos are made with oyster mushrooms that have been partially dried and fried until they're firm and crunchy, almost like chicharrones. A layer of black beans beneath the mushrooms gets a boost from huitlacoche, often called the Mexican truffle for its complex, earthy taste.
Just like the tacos, Street Feud's bao buns and flatbread (served flat but meant to be picked up and folded like pita) have vegan and meat-topped choices. The buns come with either crispy pork belly or chicken satay (Verrier's mom was born in Indonesia, so satay was a standard dinner item growing up), or with Korean barbecue jackfruit. Flatbreads lean Mediterranean, with either falafel or braised lamb with hummus and pickled beets, but there's also a Korean spiced pork belly flatbread with kimchi and jicama. And most of the meat and veggie toppings can also be served on quinoa in a bowl.
Loaded fries come in musical themes, with K-Pop Korean fries and Mariachi nacho-style fries; Verrier says he'll be expanding on the international music theme.
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Brian Gordon and Hal Reynolds are partners in the concept, and they're already actively looking for a brick-and-mortar location for Street Feud. That could easily take a year or more, Verrier says, but he's already looking forward to expanding the menu once a bigger kitchen is available. Also on the team is chef Chris Bennett, who previously worked with Verrier at Rioja, and has also done time at Bistro Vendôme and Ototo in Denver, and with Daniel Boloud's restaurant group outside of Colorado.
To keep his team sharp, Verrier is a believer in work/life balance and a focus on mental health. Staff will be versed in all positions and will spend three shifts on the line and two at the counter each week, and quarterly three-day weekends will be part of the program so that each employee can unplug and get away from restaurant life.
"I've been in the industry for 27 years, and I feel the frustrations — feeling like you're going to be replaced if you ever take a day off," the chef explains. He's also planning continuing education and trips to street-food meccas for managers.
Street Feud is located on the second floor of Avanti Food & Beverage at 3200 Pecos Street and will be open daily for lunch and dinner. It takes the place of BorraCho tacos, whose lease ended on July 31. Call 720-269-4778 for more details.