Summer is flying by, and in a city that loves outdoor dining, local ingredients and seasonal menus, there are plenty of new restaurants to try before the season ends.
Whether you’re sticking with takeout or ready to go to a restaurant (while social distancing, of course), it’s an important time to eat local, and these spots are eager to welcome guests. Across the board, restaurant owners and chefs spoke to the challenges of opening a new restaurant in the coronavirus pandemic, but they’ve double- and triple-checked safety protocols, and they’re pushing ahead to give Denver residents something new.
Four of the most recent restaurants to open are Knockabout Burgers, the newest addition to Avanti; Sweetgreen, a popular national chain for salads and other healthy options; Sullivan Scrap Kitchen, a casual eatery focused on reducing food waste; and Local Jones, a modern bar and restaurant in Cherry Creek.
Here’s what you can expect at each of these new spots:
Located in Cherry Creek at the Halcyon Hotel, Local Jones is focusing on modern American dining with sustainable ingredients, what Justin Fields calls “elevated simplicity.” Fields is the senior vice president of restaurants, bars and retail at Makeready, the parent company of Local Jones.
The restaurant opened on July 7 for breakfast, dinner and weekend brunch. Fields told The Denver Post that he aimed to create a neighborhood restaurant with a comfortable space, a committed team and a consistent menu so diners keep coming back.
Executive chef Josh Sutcliff spent the past seven years in Dallas, where he won critical acclaim at the posh Mirador restaurant. One of his favorite dishes on the menu is the trout schnitzel, served with a yogurt and potato gribiche and a cucumber herb salad. Sutcliff’s from the South, so he loves fried fish as comfort food, but he also drew inspiration from German cuisine for the “schnitzel.”
He sources his greens from Rebel Farms in Denver; the trout, of course, is from Colorado.
“The food is familiar to people, but when they taste it, we want it to pop,” Sutcliff told The Denver Post last week. “We want the food to be fresh, vibrant, exciting. I come from a farm-to-table background, so we want to put as many local products on the menu as possible.”
Local Jones, 249 Columbine St., 720-772-5022; serving breakfast, dinner and weekend brunch. (There are plans to expand to lunch service later this summer.) localjones.com
Sullivan Scrap Kitchen
Sullivan Scrap Kitchen is owner Terence Rogers’ second food operation in Denver, an offshoot from his catering company, TBD Foods. The casual eatery focuses on repurposing leftovers from the catering company to reduce waste and promote sustainability.
The restaurant started serving lunch only for takeout service on July 7. Rogers said he plans to welcome customers for patio dining later this summer and hopes to expand to breakfast and dinner.
“The whole idea behind the Scrap is to eliminate food waste but also extract cool flavors into each dish before it eventually ends up in the compost,” Rogers said in an interview.
It’s been a wild ride for Rogers, who planned to open the restaurant in March but ended up waiting for the summer. And with catering gigs canceling, he found himself in a nervewracking position. But with his new restaurant open for business, he’s back on track.
Rogers said the menu will change more often than other casual dining places with his emphasis on using fresh ingredients from his catering business. But customers can expect a seasonal lamb dish, a burger, a salad, a grilled cheese on house-made sourdough, and a vegetarian option. Right now, the veggie sandwich is served on house-made focaccia with grilled Palisade peaches, locally sourced goat cheese, and a tahini-style spread, made from grinding the leftover stems from beets, sunflower seeds and balsamic vinegar.
Sullivan Scrap Kitchen, 1740 E. 17th Ave., 720-242-6292. Open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. sullivanscrapkitchen.com
Knockabout Burgers opened on July 2 at Avanti Food and Beverage in LoHi. Co-owners Brandon Spain and Kaitlyn Peot both said they couldn’t have started the restaurant without Avanti’s support and space.
“I’m excited to be entering this new scene,” Peot said. “(We get) to learn from the chefs around us, and we’re learning a lot of stuff from Avanti as well.”
Spain and Peot moved from Fort Collins, where Spain co-owned the popular food truck The Tramp About. Peot had worked for New Belgium Brewing.
For the menu, chef Spain decided to focus on what he does best: burgers and fries. Given the coronavirus pandemic, he and Peot paired down the offerings to start, but they plan to add salads and other sides as they get off the ground. Spain said his personal favorite is the “messy and delicious” chorizo queso burger. He’s added some of his experience in TexMex cooking, as well as Asian influences from his mother, who is Chinese.
“We have our classic burger and that’s some people’s go-to for playing it safe, and then we have some riskier burgers that are kind of fun,” Spain said.
They’re getting their meat locally, from both Lasater Grasslands Beef in Madison and River Bear Meats in Denver. For sweet treats, they’re serving Mary’s Mountain Cookies, a Fort Collins favorite.
Knockabout Burgers is at Avanti Food and Beverage, 3200 Pecos St., 720-269-4778; avantifandb.com
The popular chain with more than 100 locations nationwide opened its second Denver restaurant in LoDo on June 26, following Cherry Creek, which opened on June 11. To celebrate, it donated 14,001 meals to health care workers for each purchase on both opening days.
Sweetgreen is known for its focus on fresh, healthy options with lots of salads, grain bowls and plates with chicken, tofu and fish. Co-founder Nic Jammet said in an email that the Denver location sources from local farms for ingredients like honey and cheese. The company also decided to get an alcohol license to sell local beers and ciders in Colorado.
“We had been eyeing Denver as our next market for awhile,” Jammet wrote. “The Denver community has such a strong connection to real food, sourcing and sustainability, which are all aspects that are important to Sweetgreen and align with our food ethos.”
Sweetgreen LoDo, 1750 Wewatta St., 720-730-7650; open daily 10:30-8 p.m. Sweetgreen Cherry Creek, 275 St. Paul St., 720- 730-7750; open every day 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Check website for changes to hours of operation. sweetgreen.com
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