They've played the menu details of exactly what that means close to the vest, announcing only that they'd brought on Patrick Kelly, a chef with serious Bay Area cooking credentials who originally moved to Denver to take on the executive-chef gig at Panzano last year. When Wayward opens tonight, Kelly will unleash his initial menu, which is indeed an echo of the Way Back while venturing into new territory.
Kelly says he drew on the connections that partners George, Kade Gianinetti and Jared Schwartz, plus chefs Sam Charles and Marcus Eng, made over at the Way Back, taking into account the scale of the project in building his board. "These guys had the vision to connect all the dots and do a local, sustainable restaurant, which is the way I’ve been cooking for a long time in the Bay Area," he says. "It was enlightening to talk to the chefs and learn how accessible and far-reaching it could be. What they’d built for the last year and half was a huge asset to me."
Wayward's opening menu — divided into bites, small plates, large plates and pastas and grains — is rife with local, end-of-summer ingredients. Smoked fairytale eggplant, heirloom tomatoes and baby carrots with watermelon all make the list, as does a platter of chicken sourced entirely from Colorado; the birds comes from Eastern Plains Poultry, which Kelly describes as "truly free-range, protected by yaks and alpacas." On the same platter is a bread pudding built with the Rolling Pin's bread, plus locally grown mushrooms and tomato jam. Other eye-catching dishes include a Hatch-chile seafood stew, agnolotti with lamb tongue and sweet corn, and a squash-and-cucumber salad with Korean chile and labne. There's also a Wayward burger topped with giardiniera and served on ciabatta.
Cocktails will follow the lead of the kitchen; bar pro Alex Flower's menu is built on seasonal ingredients and simple combinations, and the list pays homage to classics while offering a number of original creations. If you're waffling, consider the whiskey sour; $1 from every sale of that drink will go to Protect Our Winters, a nonprofit organization that confronts climate change. If you want something non-alcoholic, consider the agua de jamaica, made with hibiscus flowers.
The space itself establishes Wayward as distinct from the Way Back, with a design by Raw Creative that pulls influence from Colorado's desert and mountain landscapes but also feels like a cozy family room. Antique knickknacks on shelves are meant to recall "your living room," says Gianinetti, and cacti potted in a collection of antique beer cans have a more personal meaning: The cans belonged to Gianinetti's friend's father, who passed away several years ago.
Not coming online with the opening is brunch; general manager Peter Gordon says it will start in approximately eight weeks. Nor will the former La Güera space next door be utilized; it's currently being converting into a daytime option that will fuel commuters and Confluence Park visitors with breakfast and lunch. Bringing more people to the park is a focus, the partners say. "We want to activate this place between LoHi and downtown, which is underserved and underutilized," George says. To that end, the grab-and-go space, when it opens, will offer picnic lunches; the team is aiming for a January launch. Before that rolls out, the space will house a Christmas-themed bar from Thanksgiving until December 25. The pop-up, done in partnership with Cocktail Kingdom, will be "over-the-top Christmas-themed, like Santa Claus threw up in there," says George.
moving the currently closed Way Back from its 38th Avenue digs into a space on Tennyson Street, where, George says, they'll have "the opportunity to differentiate what’s the bar and what’s the dining room." Schwartz adds that the dining component there may go the tasting-menu route.
Wayward is open 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 4 to 11 p.m. Friday, 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday and 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday.