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The Budlong Hot Chicken is landing at Zeppelin Station.
The Budlong Hot Chicken is landing at Zeppelin Station.
Linnea Covington

Budlong Hot Chicken and Icelandic Pop-Up Come to Zeppelin Station

The Budlong Hot Chicken, chef Jared Leonard's chicken-sandwich project that now numbers five locations in Chicago, came to Denver as a food truck last spring. "We've had a good run with the food truck, but the goal has always been a brick-and-mortar," Leonard explains.

An independent brick-and-mortar location isn't happening yet, but the chef has found a place for the Budlong to roost. Starting March 4, he's taking over the slot at Zeppelin Station (at 3501 Wazee Street) vacated by Namkeen, the South Indian eatery that closed at the end of January. And while we'll miss the unique offerings of Namkeen, Zeppelin Station director of hospitality Justin Anderson says tenants in the business offices that make up the bulk of the Zeppelin Station building were clamoring for some regional American cuisine to balance out the food hall's international offerings, which currently include Vietnamese sandwiches, Italian gelato, Montreal brisket, Korean bowls and Hawaiian poke.

Leonard, who's the brains behind that Montreal brisket at Au Feu, says he's looking forward to making hot chicken "in the same place every day." And having two food counters in one building will make things more efficient, since he'll be able to cross-train employees and utilize raw ingredients at both concepts. He's also expanding the menu from the stripped-down version of the food truck, so customers will be able to order collard greens and mac and cheese, for example, as well as the Budlong's buttermilk biscuits, which have achieved cult status in Chicago. Since Zeppelin Station's breakfast offerings are currently limited, Leonard will offer chicken biscuits at the Budlong and brisket biscuits at Au Feu for breakfast.

The Budlong Hot Chicken concept started in Chicago.
The Budlong Hot Chicken concept started in Chicago.
Stone Soup Collective

Anderson points out that the hot-chicken counter is just one of the changes coming at Zeppelin Station. He's been heading up a rotating "Made in the City" series that showcases artists and creators from one city at a time. So far, the program has focused on Montreal and Portland, Oregon, but starting today, Reykjavik, Iceland will be the star. And this will be the first "Made in the City" installation that will also have a food component — from Skal, an eatery in Iceland that just earned Iceland's first Michelin Bib Gourmand award, which recognizes excellent cuisine at lower price points than typical Michelin-starred destination.

So from today until mid-April (and possibly into May), you'll be able to experience Michelin-rated food at fast-casual prices, and you'll also be able so see what Icelandic cuisine is all about. New murals, a retail shop and art are also part of the installation.

"We're going to keep growing this," Anderson explains, so he's already working on lining up a new "Made in the City" program for June.

As for Leonard, he's been working hard to introduce his cooking to his new home (he and his family live here now); in addition to the Budlong, he just launched AJ's Pit Bar-B-Q, a spinoff of his Chicago-based BBQ Supply Co., at 2180 South Delaware Street.

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