Where do you head for a meal when you don't feel like cooking and just need to get out of the house? A restaurant, of course — one of those places with fancy amenities like tables, chairs and plates. But chefs in Denver are getting creative with where they're serving food as well as what they're cooking, whether it's a walk-up window, an old warehouse or a private event designed just for you. Here are five eateries that have opened in 2018 that have turned away from standard dining rooms to give you a different kind of culinary experience.
BBQ Supply Co.
2180 South Delaware Street
Chef Jared Leonard made a name for himself in Chicago with fried-chicken sandwiches and Texas-style barbecue before taking aim at Denver. Not content to simply lease restaurant space and serve food traditionally in a new city, Leonard first unveiled Au Feu, a lunch and dinner counter dishing up Montreal-style brisket sandwiches and poutine inside Zeppelin Station. Then he launched the Budlong Hot Chicken, a mobile spinoff of his sit-down joint named after the Budlong Woods neighborhood in Chicago. But BBQ Supply Co. is his most unusual venture: It's a Saturday-only smokehouse serving meats slow-roasted in a smoker bolted onto the back of an old farm truck. While BBQ Supply Co. has an actual street address, food is served inside a commissary kitchen with enough dining space for long rows of table, and it's only served from 11 a.m. to when the food runs out. And once a month, Leonard throws a special "pit-to-plate" dinner on Friday night during which he serves whole roast pig and other specialties he'd never be able to pull off on a daily basis in a traditional restaurant. Check BBQ Supply Co.'s Facebook page for upcoming dinners.
Famous Original J's Pizza
715 East 26th Avenue
Five Points is one of Denver's best neighborhoods for scouting out something uncommon, whether great soul food or Caribbean cuisine. There's nothing too unusual about pizza, but the setup at Famous Original J's definitely connects modern Denver to Welton Street's past. The pizzeria is nothing more than a walk-up window serving New York-style slices and whole pies as well as thick-crust, rectangular "grandma" pizza. Josh Pollack, the founder of Rosenberg's Deli next door, took over the space after it had been vacant for years. The last tenant was Zona's Tamales, which served tamales and pig ear sandwiches from the corner eatery for more than forty years before shutting down in 2010. Pollack continues the street-food tradition, but if you're looking to take a load off, you can grab a seat on one of the picnic benches on a patio shared with the 715 Club; a floppy slice of pizza and a cold beer makes for a cheap night out in Five Points. Famous Original J's is open from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 5 to 10 p.m. on Sundays. famousoriginaljs.com
2556 15th Street
Chef Jerome Skaggs cures and smokes his own pastrami; he bakes rye bread from scratch and pickles vegetables for tangy sides to his rich and satisfying deli sandwiches. But he's not doing it in some fancy kitchen fronted by a gleaming counter; Gorgeous Deli is nothing more than a half-door on the side of the Truffle Table in LoHi, where Skaggs leans out to take your order and disappears for a minute or two, only to return with lunch worthy of Denver's finest sandwich shops. Gorgeous Deli is only open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, but Skaggs also sets up a stand every Friday from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Hogshead Brewery in West Highland. If meat isn't your thing, don't miss the chef's smoked-beet sandwich. gorgeousfoods.com
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New food trucks spring up almost every day in Denver, making the rounds of the brewery, festival and truck-rally circuit. Tracking down your favorite can be tricky, so chef Nick Shankland took some of the guesswork out of the equation for mobile food followers by staying put in one place. Two things make Gypsy Q unique: Shankland sets up for lunch served out of a converted party bus parked inside an abandoned warehouse on Brighton Boulevard, and he combines traditional smoked brisket, pork and chicken with Asian ingredients and presentations, so you can get sliced brisket in a banh mi sandwich, pulled pork over springy noodles, and sides like kimchi mac and cheese or coconut-milk sweet-potato mash. For a mind-blowing combo, ask about the shredded pork shoulder served on top of the kimchi mac. Check Gypsy Q's Facebook page for regular updates on when the truck will be at its usual location and when it can be found at nearby breweries. eatgypsyq.com
Chefs John Willis and Andrew Kirsch have proven they can turn out stellar restaurant cuisine in a traditional setting; the two had a combined twelve years of experience cooking at Barolo Grill before setting out on their new catering venture, Via Alba. Their takeaways from the experience: a deep understanding of handmade pasta, a love of exploring Italy's tiny towns and regional dishes, and an urge to serve creative food while drawing from the traditions of Italian cuisine. Kirsch and Willis launched what can best be described as a catering company, but with a personalized approach that puts the chefs at the front of the experience for dinner guests. They specialize in small groups — you can even hire them for an intimate dinner for two — and they fit each dinner to the customer's specific needs, adding wine pairings based on knowledge of Italian wines and professional connections with sommeliers and wine importers. There's no restaurant with Via Alba, but each dinner or event feels like the best restaurant experience. viaalba.com