For anyone dining in Denver over the last 10 years, the names Snooze and Fruition are sure to ring some bells. During the course of over a decade, the fine-dining establishment and brunch empire have wedged themselves into the hearts and stomachs of the city’s diners with an enduring commitment to excellence and a fondness for creative menus and service. On Friday, December 7 chef Alex Seidel of Fruition and Mercantile Dining & Provision and Snooze’s Adam Schlegel will open their joint venture — a neighborhood chicken restaurant on South Pearl. Inspired by the two years Schlegel spent living in Melbourne, Australia, Chook Charcoal Chicken is an ode to the omnipresent corner poultry shops that line the metropolis’ streets.
Chook — the Australian word for chicken — is an upscale fast-casual spot with a family-friendly atmosphere and the kind of food you’d expect from a union between the two accomplished restaurateurs. Patrons order food and beverages — including alcohol — from the counter, which is then delivered wherever they choose to sit. Brightly-colored place cards with slogans like “Tasmania — The Switzerland of the South” indicate to servers where to drop off the goods. The list is a straightforward selection of chicken, salads, sandwiches, sides, desserts and a kid’s menu. There are no surprises, but that isn’t the point. The food is high quality — no artificial ingredients or preservatives — and the preparation is well-orchestrated, yielding elevated cuisine with a home-cooked feel.
The interior is clean — white walls and radiant hexagonal tile line much of the space. The precise layout insinuates a more polished Mod Market, the place giving a nod — accidental or not — to the chain it so elegantly piggybacks from. The open kitchen, with three spits hosting nearly a full roost, cements the back. The smell of charcoal and spices waft throughout as chefs expertly move the birds from tier to tier to achieve the perfect roast. A kid’s corner — complete with books, including an edition of the New Yorker — sits nearby with plentiful crayons, miniature chairs and an egg-shaped den where the youth can distract themselves as grown-folks indulge. Food is served on durable plate-ware and napkins and silverware occupy a bin on each table. Tables, high-tops and a three-person chef’s counter — for the true rotisserie-fans — give the place dimension. The interior is bright and vibrant, but where Chook really shines is in the food.
The showstopper is obviously the chicken cooked over coals. A whole bird will run you $20, with a half sitting at $13, a quarter of white $8 and a quarter of dark $6. The fowl is served with your choice of gravy, chimichurri or a vibrant piri-piri and while the sauces are exceptional it’s crucial to sample the bird unadorned. The charred mixed vegetables ($5) are also cooked over the coals — carrots, broccoli and cauliflower are roasted and served with lemon tahina and dukkah, the spices providing a backdrop for the singed flavor to sit front and center.
The roasted delicata squash ($5) comes with Fruition Farms feta, brown butter, almonds and parsley. The dish shines in its simplicity but for best result eat it quickly as the squash can harden fairly fast. One of the more innovative items on the menu is the booyah kit ($10). The innovative approach to addressing leftovers features broth, vegetables, grains and instructions for rehashing the remains of your meal into an ample stew whenever hunger strikes.
The drink menu is equally limited and well selected. The small listing consists of four batch-cocktails, four tap beers, three wines and a spatter of organic sodas, juices and teas. The cocktails, dubbed happy pots ($7) all come in small glass vessels with a foil lid reminiscent of a Martinelli’s apple juice. The beer is local — Avery, Odd13 and Ratio are all there — with the wine being from Attimo Wines in Italy. In true civilized fashion, the grape is served on tap. Everything from the decor, to the menu to the succinct mission statement is designed for simplicity, convenience and comfort.
With Fruition favoring a more upscale audience and Snooze catering to the boozy brunch crowd, Chook is a charming outlet allowing for the pair’s family and neighborhood-minded intentions to shine. Whether you are after a quick, healthy meal on the go or you’re looking to luxuriate with your nearest and dearest the place makes it easy and agreeable — expertly blending the many dining styles that make eating in Colorado great.
Chook Charcoal Chicken is located at 1300 South Pearl St., Denver. It is open everyday from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
All photography by Alden Bonecutter.