If you haven’t noticed the massive 1,500 pound, stainless-steel, wood-fired churrasco at Avanti Food & Beverage yet, you will surely notice the smell of smoke as it fires up for the first time this morning. The oak-burning, Brazilian-style rotisserie is the centerpiece for “The Rotary” — a micro-kitchen from the mind of a Colorado-grown chef that focuses on locally sourced, seasonal ingredients and a customizable ordering experience. The new spot opens today at 11 a.m. and we got the lowdown on what you should expect.
Chef and co-owner Don Gragg will head the kitchen with the help of his lifelong friends Scott and Brian Boyd. The trio met each other working in the restaurant industry in Evergreen while in junior high school. They had always talked of running a restaurant together but life sent the three young men on their own individual paths to success. While Scott went on to pursue music management, then eventually study psychotherapy and open his own practice in Boulder — Gragg pursued his career as a professional chef from the get-go. With a total of 25 years under his belt today, he has a wealth food knowledge to offer.
Gragg began his culinary journey at Denver’s acclaimed Barolo Grill before expanding his reach beyond Colorado to work under some of the world’s leading culinary minds. Gragg spent time in L.A. working under Alice Waters at Chez Panisse before heading to the east coast to work with Tom Colicchio at Gramercy Tavern just to drop a few names. Following his work in fine dining restaurants, Gragg spent multiple years as a personal chef cooking for a family in the south of France. Over the time spent in France, he developed a love for an open hearth and a wood-burning grill — which ultimately acted as the inspiration for The Rotary. After 12 years of flying overseas working as a personal chef, Gragg found himself back in the Mile High leading the kitchen at Chow Morso before it eventually graduated to its own brick and mortar location that is now Chow Morso Osteria.
“After observing the guests and ambiance at Avanti over the last few years, I believe our concept [The Rotary] is a perfect fit. Grilling meats over a wood-fired rotisserie bring out the best flavors and we are excited to be able to offer this at one of Denver’s most popular food halls,” said Gragg
The churrasco slowly spins chicken thighs, sirloin, pork roast and cauliflower over smoldering oak to coax distinctive, caramelized, wood burning flavor from the meats as they rotate on display for the dining room. Orders are lifted from the fire, pulled from the spear and hand cut to order. While the churrasco offers a Brazilian style rotisserie method, the flavors at The Rotary have nothing else to do with Brazilian cuisine. The offerings focus around a concise list of composed sandwiches and salads as well as an option to pair your own flavors by creating a rotisserie plate.
“I wanted to combine Spanish, Italian and moroccan influences together, but do it all off of Brazilian rotisserie… we really like to do addicting food. You know, the stuff that you can’t take just one bite of,” said Gragg
The most addicting thing on the menu is the house-made potato chips ($5). Shaved thin and stacked high, these spuds come drizzled in brown butter garlic topped with hand-shaved parmesan and plated with a lemon slice for squeezing. The slow roasted pork sandwich ($13) is a beast between ciabatta buns and is served with fresh, peppery arugula and house chimichurri. The baby kale salad ($8) is gentle and finessed combining apple, toasted sunflower seeds, fennel, chunks of ricotta salata and a puckering lemon sherry vinaigrette
We recommend building your own rotisserie plate ($14 – $15) and customizing the flavors on your plate. A choice of protein, a sauce and two side dishes let guests play around with combinations and create their own interactive plate. On our visit, we chose Chicken Thighs plated with Aji Verde dipping sauce, herbed jasmine rice and grilled broccolini ($14). A crispy skin creates crunch while simultaneously keeping the bird moist, thanks to the Churrasco. The broccolini (a la carte $6) is charred to perfection and plated with fried garlic and chili — the Aji Verde dipping sauce supplemented everything on the plate with fresh spicy heat that really excites the savory. If the idea of pairing your own flavors scares you, don’t worry — chef designed every element of the rotisserie plate to coincide with one another. In other words, you really can’t create a bad combo.
Like the other vendors at Avanti, The Rotary looks to beverage director Sean Ryan when it comes to pairing food with drink. Although asking for a drink pairing may not come naturally when placing an order over the counter at Avanti, Ryan has combed through his liquor inventory to devise a drink pairing for every item on the menu. When you order the house-made chips ask the bartender for an Avanti Black Manhattan ( $10). The addition of Amaro Averna to the classic Manhattan ingredients really adds a herbal spice to the traditional cocktail that sets off the savory brown butter on the chips. A somewhat unusual cocktail that got our attention was the Lo-Hi Body Shop ($10) which came paired with our slow roasted pork sandwich. The cocktail combines Espolon tequila and Talbots Western Slope Cider to create an unsuspecting, seasonally sweet tequila martini.
The Rotary opens to the public today October 11 and will serve food from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Sunday – Wednesday, and 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Thursday – Saturday.
All Photography by Rebecca Grant.