Hamlin's Cafe served the Berkeley neighborhood for more than three decades, and if Andrea Knight has her way, The Noshery, the community-focused cafe she opened this month at 4994 Lowell Boulevard, will have just as long a run. "It's kind of like riding a bike," Knight says. "You just get on, and hopefully you don't fall. If you do, you get back up."
Knight got her start in the culinary world early: She's been in the food-service business since she was twelve. After an injury put an end to her dreams of becoming a professional skier, she turned to a different kind of competition: her high school's ProStart cooking team for students interested in getting into the restaurant business. After that team won second in the national competition, Knight earned a scholarship to follow her passion and get a degree in culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University. She's been cooking here in Denver ever since, at places ranging from D Bar to the Wooden Spoon.
But Knight always had the idea of opening her own place. "I knew I always loved baking, and cooking and cakes," she remembers, "so I was like, that's the new dream and I'm going to do it."
After she met current business partner Mike Alvarez while they both were chefs at Whole Foods, that dream became concrete. She pushed through some design ideas -- including the mint-colored walls of the Noshery -- over her parents' protests. The brainstorming process for naming the place was less meticulous, however. Knight's solution to the challenge of finding a fitting name for her long-anticipaed cafe was to drink whiskey on the porch and figure it out.
"Within ten minutes, we were like, Noshery," Knight explains. "It means informal restaurant, and we're totally informal people who do really delicious, fun, simple and straightforward food."
The next step was finding the right location. Knight lives in north Denver and knew that the Noshery belonged in that up-and-coming neighborhood. She started her search on nearby Tennyson Street, but right before she was going to sign a lease, she decided the space didn't feel right. "I wanted more of a neighborhood, more of a community," she says.
She found it right across the street from Regis University. A friend who lived near Hamlin's suggested she talk to the owner, Dave Hamlin. Although there were several people vying for the coveted corner spot, Hamlin thought Knight was the right woman for the job. Hamlin's has occupied the building for thirty years, and Knight says she told Hamlin that she wanted the Noshery to have the same legacy, and be part of the small-town feel of north Denver. "I think that sold him," Knight says.
From its origins to its ambiance, the Noshery is a true neighborhood cafe. The space is airy and light, with that mint-green paint job and bright white accents, including reclaimed wooden doors embellishing one of the walls.
The pastries in its case -- cheesecake brownies, buttery scones -- have a wide range of inspirations: some are Knight's grandma's recipes, while others come from her long history as a chef in local restaurants. "We make all of our own bread," she adds. "Everything is made from scratch in-house. All of the pastries are baked fresh every day." Knight likes to put her own twists on classic items, such as roasting the bananas in her banana bread before baking, providing a richer, more flavorful slice.
In addition to baked goods, the Noshery offers more substantial options, including biscuits and gravy or waffles for breakfast and a choice of sandwiches, salads and even mac and cheese at lunch.
The Noshery has been open for a few weeks, but will celebrate its grand opening on Saturday, June 21, with free coffee and snacks, live music from noon to 3 p.m. and a raffle giveaway including Rockies and Broncos tickets throughout the day. After that, the regular hours will be from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.
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