Food News

Zeppelin Station Reboots With Five New Food Concepts

Zeppelin Station's food offerings have gotten an overhaul.
Zeppelin Station's food offerings have gotten an overhaul. Danielle Lirette
In late August, developer Kyle Zeppelin sold the Source, Denver's first food hall, as well as the attached hotel that was added in 2018, to Los Angeles-based Stockdale Capital Partners for $70 million. While his plans are to focus on several developments in the mountains, Zeppelin still owns another RiNo food hall, Zeppelin Station, at 3501 Wazee Street.

When Zeppelin Station first opened in 2018, the concept included stalls with food concepts offering a variety of global cuisine from different operators. In the summer of 2020, that approach began to shift when three concepts from the Austin-based FAM Hospitality Group opened: Thai Kun, Soy Pinoy and Graves Good Burger. FAM's managing partners are Johnny Hoang and celebrity chef Paul Qui, who gained national acclaim after rising through the ranks at Uchiko, the sister restaurant of the original Uchi. Qui went on to win the ninth season of Top Chef and a James Beard award for Best Chef Southwest in 2012, opening several successful restaurants in Austin, including East Side King, Thai Kun and fine-dining eatery Qui.

But in 2016, Qui was arrested and charged with assault after a night filled with cocaine, Xanax, marijuana and alcohol ended in a domestic-violence incident involving his then-girlfriend. The charges were eventually dropped, but the incident made headlines, and when it was announced that Qui was planning to open concepts at Avanti Denver in 2019, there was some serious backlash.
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Zeppelin Station's downstairs bar, Kiss + Ride, is the only concept remaining the same in the latest round of changes.
Danielle Lirette
He landed at Zeppelin Station instead, and last year added the fine-dining omakase concept Koko Ni in the upstairs space at the food hall. At the time, he told Westword that the concept was "just intended to be the space where it would be good for my creative soul as a chef."

But now, all the FAM Hospitality concepts, including Koko Ni, have cleared out of Zeppelin Station, making way for five new businesses to move in, all of which are expected to be open by September 16.

FAM still operates Lea Jane’s Hot Chicken and Johnny Good Burger at new Arvada food hall Freedom Street Social, and recently announced that Koko Ni 2.0 will reopen in Lea Jane's former space at 1441 26th Street this fall. Its second iteration is described as "a farm-driven restaurant featuring a Japanese and French-inspired ten-course tasting menu, with produce exclusively from Colorado farms and a strong focus on sustainable American seafood," under director of operations David Grossman, chef de cuisine James Gnizak, and Qui, who is cited as the restaurant’s consultant and curator.

"What [Zeppelin Station] is transitioning over to is a really good thing," says Andrew Harris, owner of Rock N Lobster Roll, one of the hall's new tenants. "Everyone has their own identity and space, and it's creating a really awesome energy and vibe."
Rock N Lobster Roll is one of five new food concepts at Zeppelin Station.
Rock N Lobster Roll/Facebook
Harris started his concept as a food truck in 2017 and moved into Edgewater Public Market in early 2020, but the pandemic quickly put an end to that run. He's been back at it in the truck for the past year, and was getting ready to close up for the winter when he was contacted about the Zeppelin Station space. The unexpected opportunity to join another food hall felt like a "second chance," he says, "so we went for it."

As did Blake Blacksberg, owner of Soi Kowboi, which has been operating out of RiNo bar Gold Point since May. "It felt like crashing on someone's couch," he explains. Now he'll have a built-in flat top, fryer, range, storage — "an actual kitchen," he says.

The Gold Point setup was always meant to be temporary, and Zeppelin Station is another great stepping stone on the way to opening a brick-and-mortar, where Blacksberg envisions a dive bar with late-night food. His opening menu of "Southeast Asian Flavors on White Trash Vessels" includes burgers like the Smasharoonie along with Thai hot fried chicken sandwiches and "tendies," jumbo wings, tots with furikake and Thai basil ranch, and more.
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Soi Kowboi's Smasharoonie burger.
Andrew Miller
Rounding out the new additions are two other Denver-based concepts, Gyros King and taco spot Purisima. Miami-based Pesto Italian Cuisine has also joined the lineup.

"It's a nice mix of food; no one's competing with each other," Blacksberg notes. After meeting all of the other owners, he says that the group is "very familial; everybody's looking to help each other."

He's also excited to help usher in a new energy at Zeppelin Station. "It's more fun, whimsical," he promises. "Party vibes."

Zeppelin Station is located at 3501 Wazee Street and is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. For more information, visit zeppelinstation.com.
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Molly Martin is the Westword Food & Drink editor. She’s been writing about the dining scene in Denver since 2013, and was eating her way around the city long before that. She enjoys long walks to the nearest burrito joint and nights spent sipping cocktails on Colfax.
Contact: Molly Martin