If you've lived and dined in Denver for any length of time, you'll understand that Denver native and chef Don Gragg's résumé reads like a history of the city's restaurants. He was in the kitchen when Barolo Grill opened, and also worked at Mel's Bar & Grill, Starfish, Kevin Taylor restaurants, Sacre Bleu and Matteo in Boulder. He's also done a little globe-trotting, spending time at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Gramercy Tavern in New York City, and in southern France as a personal chef.
The chef, along with partners Scott and Brian Boyd (all friends since junior high school), is putting all that experience into a new project at Avanti Food & Beverage called the Rotary, a wood-fired-rotisserie kitchen that will serve sandwiches, plates of roasted meats and other dishes.
Gragg explains that the Rotary's meats are cooked in the Brazilian churrasco style, which means that smaller cuts of chicken, beef and pork are cooked with minimal seasoning so that the flavors of charcoal and oak come through. Chicken thighs and picanha (beef sirloin) receive only sea salt, while the pork gets a light brine before roasting. And there's also a whole roasted cauliflower that can be ordered in a sandwich or as a side.
Sandwiches will be served on Hinman's Bakery ciabatta and include a chicken sandwich with harissa aioli and pickled red onions, a steak sandwich with horseradish crème fraîche, and a roast pork sandwich with chimichurri. The chef's skills are in evidence even in the housemade potato chips, which are tossed with brown butter, garlic, parsley and Parmesan after they come out of the fryer. Lighter options include a grilled romaine Caesar salad, smashed baby potatoes and herbed jasmine rice.
If you prefer a plated meal over a sandwich, the Rotary offers a meat and two sides, with a choice of three sauces: a spicy peri peri, a bright and garlicky aji verde or an herbal chimichurri.
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"While we're not specifically a gluten-free or paleo restaurant, if you happen to eat that way you'll be pleasantly surprised," adds Scott Boyd.
Also of note is that the Rotary is one of the first customers of Altius Farms, the greenhouse farm above the brand-new Uchi at 25th and Lawrence streets. "Sally Herbert [the founder of Altius] is an old family friend," Gragg explains.
The chef says that, in keeping with Avanti's mission as a restaurant incubator, he plans on opening a brick-and-mortar version of the Rotary; he envisions a fast-casual setup with several locations.
The Rotary opens on the ground floor of Avanti F &B at 3200 Pecos Street on Thursday, October 11, with hours from 11 a.m to 9 p.m. (10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays). It takes the place of Chow Morso, which Gragg helped launch and which just opened as a full-service restaurant at 1550 Wynkoop Street under the ownership of Ryan Fletter, who also runs Barolo Grill.