On Friday afternoon, I got the text: "Heeeeey! I sold the Pinyon -- going to make the move to Denver. Kablammo!" read the message from Theo Adley, the exec chef-owner of the Pinyon in Boulder, a restaurant he opened in late 2010 on the East End of the Pearl Street Mall that quickly generated accolades for its food-nerd fried chicken, barrel-aged maple syrup, pig trotters and earnest, unpretentious farm-to-table approach to Rocky Mountain cuisine.
But after Easter brunch service yesterday, Adley served his last meal, and last night, he and his killer staff threw a food-and-drink-fueled bash for industry peeps, guests and friends, who packed the house and feasted on everything from molasses- and bourbon-brined chicken wings fried in duck fat and clarified butter to brisket to smoked sous-vide turkey legs, roughly the size of Bobby Flay's ego. "I'm really grateful for the opportunity that I've been given here, and I can't thank everyone enough for their support over the past two years," Adley, who has no ego, shouted to onlookers while standing on a chair in the packed room, which included Bobby Stuckey, sommelier and co-owner of Frasca Food and Wine, Tyler Nemkov, who was just named exec chef of Mateo and Michael Cerretani of the Bitter Bar.
But come Tuesday, the keys to the Pinyon will be handed over to the owners of H Burger CO, a Denver-based burger-dome that expanded last year to include Little H Burger CO. "It all happened really quickly, and the deal was signed on Friday," says Adley, who's cooked in numerous illustrious kitchens, including Frasca Food and Wine, Radda Trattoria, the Little Nell and the Flagstaff House. Josh Dinar, a partner in Dining Out magazine as well as H Burger CO, came into the Pinyon a month ago, recalls Adley, and the two of them sat down and talked about a potential deal. "Josh came in and said they wanted to expand to Boulder, and that he was interested in the space. The deal was fast and aggressive," says Adley, who was was ready to sell.
"Boulder is a great community that goes way beyond its chefs, but the truth is that I want to be in Denver. I want to cook -- and get better as a chef -- in a bigger city with more people and more diversity, and I fucking love the spectrum of awesome restaurants, mixologists, chefs and restaurateurs in Denver," says Adley, who divulged exclusively that he's looking seriously at a space in Highland, along with a few more properties in neighborhoods that aren't nearly as high profile. "I've got some potentially serious shit in the pipes for Denver, and I'm super-stoked, and while I definitely have my eye on a space in Highland, I've been driving down Alameda, Colfax and Federal and looking at a bunch of old, run-down Chinese food restaurants," he says, noting that he's particularly tempted by the duck ovens. "Those are perfect for the kind of wood-fired cooking that I like to do."
But before Adley inks a deal, he'll take some time off to stage in New York and Montreal. "I've got a few events in Boulder that I'm doing and then I'm going to disappear for a while, take a few trips and hopefully stage at as many fucking cool places as I can," he tells me. "There's a great vibe in Montreal, and I'm really inspired by the chefs up there; I just want to go hang out with them, chill and kick it."
And soon, we'll be hanging out with him in Denver. "I'd like to have something open -- a low-key joint that's very chef-driven, food-focused and beer-centric -- by the fall or winter," he says.
Adley also has plans to do a series of pop-up dinners and beer events this spring and summer, starting with a collaborative pop-up beer and wine dinner at Cured on Monday, April 23, which will also include dishes from Kelly Whitaker, chef-owner of Pizzeria Basta in Boulder. The multi-course dinner, a benefit for the Growe Foundation, is $100 per person, and tickets are available by calling 720-389-8096.
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