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At least 128 bars and restaurants opened on Metro Denver in the first six months of 2021 – compared to nearly 200 in all of 2020. As the food restrictions for the pandemic were lifted, workers returned to the office and the crowds took to the streets return, there is a high probability that we will see even more than 128 more vacancies in the last six months of the year. In fact, we already know a few along the way.
With everything from new locations to old favorites (like Little India, which opens an outpost in Central Park in August, and Sushi Rama, which opens another location in Broomfield) to chain expansion (Jet’s Pizza opens on Colorado Boulevard and Local brand Birdcall will add more numbers five and six in Cherry Hills Village and Boulder) the culinary action doesn’t seem to be waning.
But a couple of upcoming openings really get people talking. So excited: burgers are coming! Big names are coming! Another food hall is in the works!
Here are the most anticipated additions for the remainder of 2021, in order of their expected opening dates:
Lucy’s burger bar
4018 Tennyson Street
Opening: late July / early August
Minnesota-born and friends Michelle “Meesh” McGlone and Nate Collis have touring backgrounds – McGlone as aerialist and Collis as longtime guitarist for Atmosphere. But now they’re taking root with a new burger joint that specializes in a regional favorite from their home state, Juicy Lucy, with a progressive social mission. Lucy’s Burger Bar will be open seven days a week (a bonus for a street where most restaurants are closed on Mondays) and will be a place to have a casual burger with or without cheese all day and eventually late into the night to be enjoyed with fries and alcoholic drinks. But while the menu is small, McGlone dreams big when it comes to building a community spot where everyone can feel safe and welcome. “Do you know in an 80s movie where rich developers come into town to demolish a special place and a group of kids get together to figure out how to take the businessmen by surprise?” She asks. “I want Lucy to be the place where they meet and make their plans.”
Opening: late July / early August
If you’ve been to RiNo this summer, you’ve likely noticed construction on the corner of Larimer and 29th Streets next to Finn’s Manor. Soon, you can step right up and order a tequila shot in an ice glass, then toss the glass at a bell hanging over a fire pit. The “Ring the Bell” special is the trademark of Federales, a Chicago-based open-air tequila and taco concept known as a boisterous party venue.
6575 Greenwood Plaza Boulevard, Greenwood Village
Troy Guard is having a pretty busy 2021 year so far, and it gets even busier as he and his team at TAG Restaurant Group prepare to open a food hall in the new Arapahoe Entertainment District, which is home to the bowling / games / food / liquor -Complex Pindustry recently debuted. Grange Hall will mark Guard’s entry into the beer game with Little Dry Creek Brewery. He will also lead several food concepts, including a Bubu outpost and two new concepts around pizza and burgers. The latest Grange Hall news: Crack Shack, which originally opened in San Diego in 2015 and has since expanded and built a cult following for its fried chicken, was recently touted as one of the non-guard food options in the new hall.
One thing that is definitely on the A5’s menu: steak.
1600 15th Street
Opening: September 1st
The place, which was the Wazee Supper Club for decades before becoming the French-inspired Morin restaurant, will see a fresh start when the Culinary Creative Group, led by restaurateur Juan Padró and head chef Max MacKissock, opens the doors to Denver’s newest steakhouse. The team is behind popular eateries like Bar Dough, Señor Bear, Mister Oso, and more, so expectations are high for their “fun and funky” steakhouse, which is “seasonally driven” and which MacKissock says is “different” becomes what’s out there “. In addition to steaks and other playful plans that the Culinary Creative Group has up its sleeve, the oyster guy is supposed to lead the raw bar in the city of Oyster Wulff.
1520 16th Street
Opening: late summer
Earlier this year, Chef Lon Symensma’s Cho 77 closed after six years on the 16th Street Mall; He also recently announced the temporary closure of Le Roux to “freshen up”, according to an Instagram post. But there won’t be much downtime, because his ChoLon Restaurant Concepts team is also planning a new dumpling and noodle bar in the former Cho 77 called YumCha. At the forefront of menu development on the dumpling side is Michelle Xiao, who was known as one of the top dumpling makers in New York City before joining Symensma’s team, and we can’t wait to try what she has planned.
7111 East Lowry Boulevard
Opening: late summer
The team behind one of Denver’s best sushi restaurants, Sushi Ronin, originally opened Izakaya Ronin in the Industry building on Brighton Boulevard in 2017. But this place of seemingly endless construction proved difficult and the team finalized the concept in 2019. Now it’s making a comeback in a completely different neighborhood. Like the original Izakaya Ronin, Ronin Lowry will have ramen (and hopefully some of the other Izakaya Ronin favorites) along with sushi and sashimi.
The future home of Three Saints Revival.
Resurrection of the Three Saints
1801 Wewatta Street
North Union Station is another neighborhood that has been under construction forever, which may be one reason Hearth & Dram at the Indigo Hotel never really got going – at least not enough to survive the pandemic closings. But now long-time Denver restaurateur Robert Thompson, who stepped down as CEO of the “eatertainment” concept Punch Bowl Social that he had started in August 2020, is hoping to revive the Hearth & Dram area with a dream-inspired tapas restaurant. “Everything that touches the Mediterranean” – from Spain and Greece to Egypt and Israel – is on the table, says Thompson.
Root & Spring
When Top Chef shot its fifteenth season in Denver, Judge Tom Colicchio must have made a good impression, as it was recently revealed that Mile High (alongside Washington, DC and Philadelphia) is one of the first three cities he is planning to open in a new fast-casual concept that makes it easier for medical staff, patients and hospital visitors to access high-quality, healthy options. Colicchio is no stranger to the fast-casual food business – his witchcraft was one of the first to have a well-known chef behind him. The first Root & Spring location opened on July 6th at the Children’s National Innovation and Research Center.
Church and Union
Location still open
The only evidence that Church and Union – another big name mystery related to the top chef behind it – will come to Denver is a post on Twitter and another on Instagram by Alejandro Torio, one of the three owners of the 5th Street Group. a restaurant crew based in Charlotte, North Carolina. The other two names behind the project: Patrick Whalen and Jamie Lynch, a chef whose background included Le Cirque, Aureole and Café Boulud, as well as an appearance in the fourteenth season of Top Chef and the seventeenth season of Top Chef All Stars. The team is currently opening one location of the concept billed as a new American restaurant in Nashville, with more planned in Charlotte, Charleston and Atlanta. Most fascinating: why this group with southern roots and ambitions chose Denver in the first place.
2622 West 32nd Avenue
Restaurants rarely hit scheduled opening dates, so it remains to be seen whether Sonny’s will actually debut before the end of the year. But whenever it opens we’ll be there to try it out. David Schloss’s Mediterranean concept won’t be the only place serving hummus, pita, and falafel in LoHi – Ash’kara and Ali Baba Grill are close by – but we’re excited to see what this Safta kitchen alum is for the neighborhood has planned its first foray into the solo restaurant owner.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Corey Baker is no longer associated with Sushi Ronin.
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Molly Martin is Westword’s Food & Drink Editor. She has been writing about the Denver dining scene since 2013 and has eaten her way around town long before that. She enjoys long walks to the nearest burrito place and spends the nights sipping cocktails on Colfax.