"What a spectacular building," says Tony Montero, CEO of Hai Hospitality, the parent company of Austin-born sushi restaurant Uchi and its sister concept, Uchiko. He's talking about 299 Fillmore Street, a space that's hard to miss, with its black exterior sticking out from the tree-lined streets of Cherry Creek North. In the 1980s, the space became the Ginny Williams Gallery; now it's set to become the home of Denver's first Uchiko — but not until 2024.
Ginny Williams was an art collector and philanthropist who had a huge impact on Denver's art scene
. She passed away in 2019 at the age of 92, and in 2020, a Sotheby's auction sold the first eighteen lots of 450 pieces from her estate for a staggering amount: over $59 million
. Those pieces were originally meant to be the cornerstones for a museum she intended to open at her gallery space on Fillmore; at the time of her death, it housed the Ginny Williams Foundation.
Now, instead of a small contemporary art museum, it will become a restaurant. "The building is already super cool," Montero notes. "If we didn't have to some add some square footage — and put in a kitchen — it wouldn't need much."
Uchi sibling concept Uchiko will open a Cherry Creek North location in 2024.
Hai Hospitality first landed in Denver in 2018 when it opened Uchi
at 2500 Lawrence Street. "Once we saw that guests were really accepting what we do [at Uchi], we always thought we'd put an Uchiko in Denver," Montero recalls.
Like Uchi, Uchiko is a sushi-focused concept, but with the addition of a live-fire, post-oak grill. "It's still the Uchi classics with a Japanese flair," Montero explains, "but with this balance of flavors infused with smoke and charcoal." Expect steak, lobster and other "fun surprises," he adds.
Why will Uchiko take so long to appear? Montero says that on the heels of opening Loro in Houston, which is in a converted church, Hai Hospitality has learned that the timeline on projects like this simply needs more of a buffer. "We really want to make sure it looks beautiful, and permitting to add square footage takes time," he explains, adding that construction alone could require up to a year.
Uchiko isn't the only new addition coming to Cherry Creek — and you won't have to wait as long for the others. Here are three more spots set to open before 2024:
Cocktail bar from the Culinary Creative group
248 Detroit Street
Projected opening: Fall 2022
Juan Padró's Culinary Creative group is behind some of Denver's top restaurants, including A5, Bar Dough and Señor Bear. It also opened cocktail bar Forget Me Not
in Cherry Creek last March. Now, Padró and his team are going for round two with another yet-to-be-named cocktail bar — this one with a Mediterranean theme. Like Forget Me Not, it will be cocktail-focused but will also offer a selection of snacks.
Location to be announced
Projected opening: Late 2022
Anthony and Anna Nguyen began selling Vietnamese food from a cart in Longmont before moving on to pop-ups in the Denver area. Now the husband and wife duo are working on opening their first brick-and-mortar place. Read more about their story and what to expect
255 Fillmore Street
Projected opening: 2023
BMC Investments just broke ground on a seven-story building that's projected to be completed in fifteen months — and the plans include a new restaurant from the same co-owner who's behind Le Bilboquet's Cherry Creek location, which opened almost three years ago. Like Le Bilboquet, Le Colonial originally launched in New York (though that location shuttered in 2019). Now it operates in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston and San Francisco. It serves French-influenced Vietnamese fare — a concept that garnered criticism from San Francisco Chronicle critic Soleil Ho in 2019