This Sunday, on Sept. 25, The Denver Central Market will officially open its doors. Featuring 11 gourmet vendors, the 14,000-square-foot space packs a punch with some of the city’s heaviest hitters of the local culinary scene. But despite being an impressive show of talent, Central Market is not all flash. Spearheaded by Ken Wolf and restaurateur Jeff Osaka, the market is the next step in the evolution of the bustling RiNo neighborhood and aims to provide essential grocery items in a neighborhood that has long been considered a food desert.
“This is a new neighborhood,” said Wolf. “This isn’t like the Highlands that was a neighborhood that’s now coming back. We’re creating one. It was important to me that this square block not just have bars and restaurants.” Wolf, who is also planning on opening essential services like a dental office in RiNo, is not stopping with Central and will also develop the alley behind the market to become its own pedestrian-only street with plans to open businesses that face the alley. Currently, ideas for the walkway include an old-school pool hall and a restaurant that specializes in Nashville hot chicken.
The Central Market is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m — with the bar staying open until midnight on the weekends. It’ll be a one-stop-shop of specialty vendors items including artisan bread, chocolate, ice cream, coffee, meat and cheese, as well as convenience store items and produce. Below is a breakdown of all the participants and what they offer so you can explore the new Central Market with ease.
Who: Noah Price of Crema Coffee House
The Lowdown: Crema Bodega will be the first outpost of the iconic RiNo coffee shop of the same name. While offering a full espresso bar, including eight taps featuring cold brew coffee and kombucha, the bodega also has a convenient store element with items you can find at any bodega, including everything from pain relievers to bike tubes. “It’s what the neighborhood needs the most,” explained Price, noting that since the neighborhood doesn’t have a nearby grocery store it was important for them to provide the essentials as well as specialty goods. The free-standing bodega, which was built out of pallets by Price himself, also comes with two fridges decorated with local art from Mountain vs. Plains, Andi Todaro and Chris Hutf. Inside the fridges, you’ll also find dairy products such as milk, eggs, yogurt and sour cream. Crema will also use it as another retail outpost to feature bags of coffee from specialty roasters.
Don’t miss: The cold brew on tap.
High Point Creamery
Who: Erika Thomas and Chad Stutz of High Point Creamery
The Lowdown: Known for their ice creamery tucked away in the Hilltop neighborhood, High Point has long been a hidden gem for locals. But now, the husband-and-wife ran shop will be the first to bring ice cream to the RiNo neighborhood. Offering a full selection of ice cream — including their beloved ice cream flights — the shop will also highlight new specialty items specifically at the RiNo location. Items include old school sodas and egg creams with soda flavors ranging from chocolate to basil, as well as items that highlight various other vendors including affogatos with Crema coffee and an ice cream sandwich made with freshly baked Kouign-Amanns from Izzio bakery.
Don’t Miss: The Ice “Kouign” Sandwich made with a kouign-amann from Izzio bakery and High Point ice cream
Izzio Artisan Bakery
Who: Udi, Etai and Robin Baron of Izzio Artisan Bakery formerly known as Udi’s
The Lowdown: This will be the first retail store for the famed Colorado bakery, formerly known as Udi’s. Recognized primarily for their wholesale breads, the family-owned bakery only sold directly to consumers at farmer’s markets since 1998. Now that they’re located in RiNo, they will have a full-fledged bakery consisting mostly of pastries made in-house and breads from their Lousiville location. Only the brioche and one other specialty loaf will be made at Central. Robin Baron, whose father is Udi Baron, also crafted a menu of breakfast and lunch items ($6-11) ranging from specialty toasts to hearty dishes such as a shakshuka and a paleo bowl made with poached eggs, caramelized plantains and chorizo. The dessert menu comes from head pastry chef Jason Lebeau and features a key-lime tartlet, the Ice Kouign sandwich and a three-layer mousse.
Don’t Miss: The brioche that Etai Udi explained is “made with real butter,” stressing that many brioches are often actually challah (made with oil) and not true brioche made with butter.
Who: John Robbins of Bistro Barbès and Souk Shawarma in Avanti Food & Beverage
The Lowdown: Temper might be Robbins’ first venture into the world of chocolate, but as he explained, “It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.” The shop — which offers both boxes and individual chocolates ($1.50 – $4 per piece) — focuses on using fresh and unexpected ingredients. The current offerings include the Banana Stand made with banana ganache and roasted peanut filling, Geisha Gal with green apple yuzu and the Mint condition, which is meant to be a spin on a peppermint patty with a fresh mint flavor. “We use fresh ingredients, which becomes abundantly clear as you eat it,” said Robbins.
Must-Try: The Mint Condition made with dark chocolate and a fresh mint filling
Silva’s Fish Market
Who: Jesus Silva and Jeff Osaka of Osaka Ramen and Sushi-rama
The Lowdown: Located smack dab in the middle of Central is Silva’s — a fish market that was one of the original concepts to sign on to the project. Offering a range of sashimi-grade fish — including King and Scottish salmon, hamachi halibut, mahi-mahi, octopus and more — Silvia will be the place to get all your seafood delights. South American and Mexican ceviches, as well as oysters on the half shell, will be ready to eat in-store, but if you want any sushi you’ll have to hop down to Sushi-Rama, where Silva and Osaka will provide all the fish for the restaurant. “We get our fish from all over the world,” said Silva, elaborating that they also work with many local vendors, including True World Food and Seattle Fish Co.
Must-try: The Blue Fin tuna, which will be available every Thursday
Culture Meat + Cheese
Who: Justin Brunson of Old Major and Master Piece Delicatessen
The Lowdown: Dishing up everything from breakfast sandwiches to charcuterie and fine specialty cheese, Culture is best described by Brunson as “a meat and cheese palace of fun.” Here you can get salumi from Old Major, as well as, food from other national cheese and meat vendors such as West Loop from Chicago and Avalanche from Colorado. Sandwiches are meant to be quick, grab-n-go style, but that doesn’t mean they skimped on the ingredients. “We’re using the best ingredients possible. Our butter is cultured butter from Vermont and it’s $.40 an ounce,” said Brunson. Fun Fact: The meat and cheese bar was made with floor boards of John Wayne’s childhood home in Iowa. Designed by Evan Jones of Elevation Design, Brunson, who is from Iowa, said it’s meant to be a connection to his home state.
Must-Try: The breakfast sandwiches made with Izzio’s brioche
Who: Andrea Frizzi of Il Posto
The Lowdown: Meaning “True Italian,” Vero Italian offers simple and freshly-made, in-house pasta and pizzas made. Using quality ingredients, Frizzi explained his vision for Vero as a way to “express the Italian-ity of who I am in a dynamic and simple and beautiful way.” Vero will also have fresh-made pasta and house-made sauces to purchase to go.
Must-Try: The margherita pizza topped with arugula and prosciutto
Who: Sean Kelly of Desmond formerly of Aubergine Cafe and Barolo Grill
The Lowdown: SK Provisions will primarily focus on rotisserie meats, including roasted chicken and even a porchetta that Kelly has been working to perfect. “I hope to do the best, most authentic porchetta in the city,” said Kelly. “It’s not easy to find the right meat and where it’s going to come from. It’s been months — almost a year — working on this one piece of meat.”
Must-Try: The porchetta (not yet available)
The Local Butcher Shop
Who: Justin Herd
The Lowdown: Even though he is one of the only brand-new business owners in the market, Herd’s Local Butcher will play a vital role in Central. Supplying many of the other vendors with their meats, the shop offers a wide range of local goods, including reasonably-priced ground beef all the way up to specialty dry-aged cuts. They’ll also have 20 rotating selections of sausages and Boulder Natural Chicken. “Eighty percent of our meats are from Colorado,” said Herd. Formerly in finance, Herd used to work in a Westminster butcher shop where he fell in love with butchery. “I fell in love cutting meats, but I love the problem-solving aspect of helping people figure out which cut and how to cook it,” said Herd. The shop will also offer two sandwiches, including a meatball sandwich, also on Izzio bread and an Italian beef sandwich.
Must-Try: The meatball sandwich
Curio Cocktail Bar
Who: Katsumi Yuso Ruiz and Stephen Julia of Cure All Bitters
The Lowdown: Taking over most of the street-side wall of Central is Curio. The swanky cocktail bar comes from Ruiz and Julia, another husband-and-wife duo. Ruiz, who began as a small-batch bitters maker in Mexico City, will showcase her craft cocktail skills through a menu filled with classic cocktails ($8-9) from Old Fashioneds and Manhattans to Curio cocktails ($9-10) — including the Spring Shrink made with Cabez tequila, ginger, syrup, lemon juice and spiced and molé house bitters. Curio also offers fourteen wines (by the glass and bottle, $7-40) and local beers on draft ($4-7). There is also a selection of non-alcoholic mocktails and sodas ($2-6) and brunch cocktails ($8-11) such as mimosas for the weekend morning crowd. Happy Hour is Monday through Friday 3 to 6 p.m. and you can get a $5 glass of wine, $6 classic cocktail or a Genesee Cream Ale for $3.
Must-Try: The Bourbon on the Rose ($10) made with Buffalo Trace, Capelletti, lemon juice, syrup, and root beer house bitters
Green Seed Grocery
Who: Katsumi Yuso Ruiz
The Lowdown: With an aim to make Central as dynamic and useful as possible, Green Seed offers your typical grocery store selection of produce, including fruits and veggies such as bananas, apples, peaches and much more.
Denver Central Market is located at 2669 Larimer Street, Denver, Colorado and is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The bar is open Sunday through Thursday until 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday until 12 a.m.
All photos by Lucy Beaugard.