On April 26, the New York Times ran a Sunday travel story titled “Denver's Vintage Train Station Gets (Another) Update,” which raved about the $54 million renovation of Union Station, taking readers from the Great Hall – “a grand public foyer...unlike most bench-filled waiting rooms” – to the new commuter train out to Denver International Airport and back again.
But it turns out that there's yet another update of the station in the works, this one fine-tuning some of the restaurants in the Great Hall of Union Station — named our Best New Restaurant Neighborhood in the Best of Denver 2015. Just in time for the debut of the A Line to DIA, the Terminal B kiosk opened in back, near the doors to the trains; it serves drip coffee from Pigtrain Coffee (the shop near the front door) to busy commuters, as well as pastries, grab-and-go snacks, bottled beverages and a.m. cocktails in the morning; in the afternoon, Terminal B shifts to serving a collection of Colorado microbrews in cans, along with a small list of signature cocktails.
Across from Pig Train, Fresh eXchange, one of the original tenants, closed earlier this year when the Union Station Alliance bought out the lease. “We don't have a tenant yet,” says Joe Vostrejs, a partner in the project. “But it will be something really exciting.” That space is now under wraps.
Lon Symensma of ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro, who was brought on as culinary director for internal operations after the station opened, is exploring “a couple of areas of opportunity we identified,” explains Vostrejs (who's a partner in Symensma's Cho77). One of those is Acme Delicatessen, the replacement for Acme Burger & Brat, which closed last Friday in preparation for its transformation into “more of a classic delicatessen,” Vostrejs says, something that offers the wide range of fast, fresh, "somewhat healthy" items like salads and sandwiches requested by guests and the traveling public.
To decide what to do with the spot, the crew spent a couple of days in New York checking out all the delis – “I'm a big fan of the deli scene in New York City,” says Symensma – and coming up with plans for a Denver version that will serve breakfast complete with fresh bagels, homemade biscuits and house-smoked salmon, then move into quick-service at lunch and dinner. The Acme Delicatessen should open by mid-May. And there's more to come: The station has added a kitchen in the basement that will make other changes possible. The Cooper Lounge, our Best Classic Cocktail Bar in the Best of Denver 2016, will add a few menu items to its tableside service, and "now we'll have the ability to run specials as well," says Symensma. But the steak tartare is likely to remain the favorite in that spot.
There are changes in store for the patio in front of the station, too. "The Cooper is very French, the deli New York and Italian," notes Symensma. "Joe and I really enjoy the idea of a Germanic beer garden." So this month they're working on creating a little bar and kitchen right on the patio, which will work with the bigger back kitchen to offer "all our own brats, sausages and hand-rolled pretzels."
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The patio out front had been "underutilized," Vostrejs notes. "We really want to make it something different, something unique, create this great communal vibe out there that activates the area."
After the beer garden is finished — the target is the end of the month — they'll focus on changes that make the Terminal Bar at the front of the Great Hall more of a full-service spot — at least for those diners seated in the booths along the wall. Before, drinkers were able to order dishes from Acme Burger, which were delivered on trays; now diners can choose from a menu featuring both beer-hall items and dishes from the deli, which will be served by waiters.
"The changes are refinements we've figured out now that the station has been open for almost two years," Vostrejs says.