Five years ago, metro Denver had exactly zero food halls, but now they're popping up in every suburb and neighborhood. Coming soon are Junction Food & Drink and the Boulder outpost of Avanti Food & Beverage. Here's what you can expect at each.
Junction Food & Drink will open with eleven food and beverage vendors, a forty-foot bar and more than 12,000 square feet of space inside (plus another 4,000 outside) at 2000 South Colorado Boulevard. It's part of a redevelopment project at the Colorado Center, which up until now has been known for Dave & Buster's, an IMAX movie theater and a light-rail station. But the nearby office towers, apartment buildings and commuters zipping past on I-25 make for a prime location for a culinary conglomeration that's expected to open this April.
The vendors range from Denver celebrity chefs to newcomers to nationally known restaurateurs. Representing Denver are Troy Guard (currently working on his own food hall in the Denver Tech Center), who's debuting Big Wave Taco Shop; Bill Espiricueta, who will offer a more streamlined version of his RiNo barbecue, Smok; François Saber, who will add another outpost of Lazo Empanadas (there are currently three); Soon Choi, former head chef at Sushi Den, who's opening Ebisu Ramen & Sushi; and Chase and Melissa Devitt, who are opening their second location of Mr. Miner's Meat & Cheese (the first is at Tributary Food Hall in Golden).
Washington, D.C., pizza chef Joel Mehr will add Pete’s-A-Pie of Denver, specializing in New Haven-style pizzas, while Dallas-based chef Yaser Khalaf will add Shawarma Shack. Other concepts include Bird on a Wire Southern Chick’n, Grind & Grill Burger, Paciugo Gelato and Sonder Coffee & Tea, a Denver original with its home base at 9731 East Iliff Avenue.
In Boulder, Avanti has been busy converting a vacant, three-story Cheesecake Factory at 14th Street on the Pearl Street Mall into a six-vendor food hall, three of which are now signed. Like its LoHi sibling, this version, slated to open in late spring, will serve as an incubator for new chefs as well as veterans looking to test new concepts.
Nicholas Kayser is leaving his three-year post as executive chef at Vesta (and the entire Secret Sauce restaurant group) to launch Rooted Craft American Kitchen, which will serve regional American cuisine with a market focus. "The whole classic Americana thing needs to be celebrated more," Kayser explains. "People tend to dumb it down, but there's a whole chef-driven aspect that can be highlighted. Paying attention to everything we source is a part of that."
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Kayser is a proponent of the Slow Food movement, noting that slowing down the whole process of producing food in a professional kitchen doesn't translate to slow service, especially since he'll be doing it in a food-hall setting. The chef will be looking for hyper-seasonal ingredients at farmers' markets and from local purveyors to bolster a menu that will be balanced between everyday classics (think fried chicken) and weekly specials, many of them vegan or vegetarian. Kayser also helped launch the Zero Proof Dinner Series, and he plans to add housemade, alcohol-free beverages to the Rooted menu.
Another executive chef won't have far to travel for his new project. Steve Redzikowski, chef/owner of Oak at Fourteenth (right across the mall from Avanti), will add New Yorkese, a pizzeria specializing in a hybrid of the New York and Neapolitan styles. The chef notes that his pies will have a blistered New York-style crust, but with the chew of a Naples-style pizza. While Redzikowski has worked at big-name eateries around the country, such as Jean-Georges in New York, Cyrus in Napa Valley and Frasca and the Little Nell here in Colorado, he says he's wanted to have his own pizzeria since he worked in one when he was fifteen.
Also coming is a counter-service version of Rye Society, the pastrami-heavy Jewish deli that got its start at 3090 Larimer Street in 2018. Rye Society was founded by chef Jerrod Rosen, whose family had run restaurants and markets in Denver as far back as the 1920s. Rosen says that he and operating partner Ross Goldberg (most recently of the Med, Brasserie Ten Ten and Via Perla) are looking forward to adding Rosen's updated family recipes to Boulder, which is currently lacking in classic deli fare.
Three slots have yet to be named at the upcoming Avanti, so more announcements, including a pinpointed opening date, are in the works.