A First Look at Avanti Boulder, Opening This Week

When Avanti first opened in Denver in July of 2015, it was still something of a novelty. As part of the first wave of the now ubiquitous Colorado food halls, Avanti’s LoHi location — founded by Patrick O’Neill and Rob Hahn — helped pave the way with a model that favored relatively frequent turnover and a consistent willingness to support experimental concepts. Several of the city’s best-loved spots — including ventures from the teams behind Restaurant Olivia, Chicken Rebel and Bamboo Sushi —  all benefitted from their time blossoming in one of the space’s converted shipping containers. “We worked on it for about three years before opening,” said O’Neill.

On October 3, Avanti will open its second location on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder. Originally slated to be open in late spring or early winter of this year, the project is the culmination of two years of planning and development and clearly draws from all the best aspects of the original.

The new hall includes six concepts — two imports from Denver and four originals. Quiero Arepas — the first concept O’Neill ever signed — is currently the single crossover between the two cities. “We used one shipping container as an homage,” he said. Rye Society is seeing its second location, with Boychik, Pig and Tiger, Rooted Craft Kitchen and New Yorkese each debuting as part of a seriously talent-stacked roster. Method Coffee has been tapped to bring the brew.

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Of the six opening stalls, each has a lease ranging from one to three years, a much longer tenure than was initially introduced at the founding location. “Even in Denver, we’ve moved away from as much rotation as we had originally,” said O’Neill. Despite the longer durations speaking to a trend towards stability, Avanti Boulder will still act as an incubator. “We do want to get to that point where we get some new concepts annually,” he continued.

While the first Avanti seemed to be more of a testing ground, the selections at Avanti Boulder are clearly the result of deliberate curation. “A lot of the concepts reached out to me. We tasted a lot of concepts and a lot of great ones didn’t make it,” said O’Neill.

Even as the food is mostly comprised of new projects, Beverage Director Chris Stotts is hoping to mirror the drink programs between the two locations. “We’re the clubhouse in the Highlands, we want to be the clubhouse here,” said Stotts. Cocktails are set to remain identical all the way down to price point, with Stotts introducing a more robust wine program for Boulder’s grape-savvy clientele. He says that popular bottles will quickly pop up on the Denver menu.

Below is a quick rundown of what diners can expect to look forward to.

Boychik

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The Lowdown: Boychik is the new modern Middle Eastern eatery from Charlie Troup and Chase and Melissa Devitt. Being friends since childhood, Troup and Chase have enjoyed tangential careers, with Troup holding managerial positions at Vail’s Mountain Standard, Sage Restaurant Group, Dairy Block, Departure and most recently Safta. Chase followed an undergraduate at the University of Colorado Boulder with a four-year stretch as the kitchen manager at the Dark Horse before uprooting to attend culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Las Vegas. He’s since had multi-year stints cooking at Park Hyde in Beaver Creek and Oak at Fourteenth in Boulder and still acts as managing partner of Brider.

The menu itself was largely inspired by a culinary tour taken by Troup in Israel — organized by Safta to properly expose its employees to the cuisine and evidenced by the prominently displayed spice wrack.  Pita wraps, stacked hummus bowls and a selection of dips and salads are joined by smoothies — including tahini date and the utterly luscious pineapple mango. The fried cauliflower hummus ($12) — with ras el hanout, dates and mint — is as pleasing to the eyes as it is to the palate.

Pig and Tiger

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The Lowdown:  Pig and Tiger is the new Taiwanese concept from chefs Darren Chang and Travis Masar. Named after Chang and Masar’s respective signs in the Chinese Zodiac, the stall serves a selection of hand-cut noodles, Taiwanese buns, small plates, mixed rice dishes, dessert and drinks. Both chefs have impressive careers spanning kitchens in Colorado and Los Angeles. Chang worked under Carrie Baird at Brazen and Kevin Grossi at The Regional, citing a stage for Tommy Lee at Uncle being instrumental to getting his cooking career started. Masar — a Colorado native — graduated from Johnson and Wales in Denver before acting as the opening executive chef at Uncle, later competing in Season 11 of Top Chef in New Orleans. It wasn’t until the two met while working together under Shirley Chung at Ms Chi Cafe in Los Angeles that they hatched the scheme to open Pig and Tiger. Originally planned as a Denver-based brick and mortar, the two still hope to relocate whenever the opportunity is a bit more stable.

Buns are available with pork belly, Sichuan hot chicken or a seasonal veggie option. The pork belly (the O.G.) comes with pickled mustard greens and cilantro, the meat expertly prepared to gelatinous perfection. A vegetable dumpling will rotate monthly, the opening edition is filled with finely chopped fai lan, spinach and lemon then garnished with watermelon radish. The cold sesame noodles — with housemade sesame sauce, mixed seasonal vegetables, pickles, cilantro and the house-made chili crisp — is one of the most inspired items on the menu, the blend readily encouraging greedy slurping. The brown sugar milk tea — a popular Taiwanese play on the classic — is available with or without boba. Deserts include mochi doughnuts, a corn popsicle with miso syrup and a Fortune Krispie — with crushed fortune cookie, Rice Krispie, marshmallow, brown butter and fortunes that draw wisdom from modern sages including Ron Swanson.

Quiero Arepas

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The Lowdown:  Quiero Arepas — the  Venezuelan concept from husband and wife team Igor and Beckie Panasewicz — began selling arepas in the farmers’ markets of Denver 10 years ago, opening as a food truck in 2011 and following with its original stall at Avanti in 2015. “We can’t believe this is our third shop,” the duo said, clearly thrilled to see the business get this far. “I’m not a chef, I’m not a businessman, I’m just a dude,” smiled Igor. Serving arepas in the style of “Caracas in the ’80s” Quiero delivers traditional fare from Igor’s native Venezuela.

Thick arepas are made from corn flour from Producto Alimenticio Nacional, a brand that is quintessential to the Venezualan classics and has since been outlawed in the country under Maduro over political disputes. “If it’s not this dough, I don’t make arepas,” said Igor. The pabellon ($12.99) — with stewed and shredded beef, muenster cheese, black beans, fried plantains and guasacaca —  is the national dish of Venezuala, though Igor says it never really was used as filling for arepas until arepa-makers emigrated, combining the two as an homage to the homeland. More classic styles with chicken, queso and ham and cheese are also available alongside fresh seasonal juices.

Rooted Craft Kitchen

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The Lowdown:  Hot on the trail of Vesta‘s closure, former executive chef Nick Kayser is debuting Rooted Craft Kitchen, focusing on local and seasonal produce and sustainably sourced meats. “We want a very simple and straightforward approach to food,” said Kayser. “I’m a huge proponent of the Slow Food movement. But I’m a very firm believer that the movement doesn’t have to be slow,” he continued. Sourcing from Cure, Kilt Farms and Acres at Warren Technical College, Kayser is also excited to be stationed just blocks from the Boulder Farmers’ Market. This will be just the first Rooted — with plans on opening in Del Mar, Scottsdale and Austin in the coming year.

The menu is divided into both market and craft, with the market favoring rotating veggie-forward dishes and the craft comprising a more consistent list of American staples. The baby heirloom caprese ($8) comes with pistachio pesto and cashew ricotta and might be the most beautifully-plated item in the entire food hall. The Dirty South Fried Chicken ($17) comes with white and dark heirloom chicken, Brussels slaw, sweet corn elote and jalapeno barbecue sauce.

Kayser also founded the Zero Proof Dinner Series, an ongoing project meant to spread awareness about the connection between mental health and drinking in the service industry. The series went on to present the first non-alcoholic dinner ever hosted at the Beard House. Three rotating zero-proof concoctions complete the menu, with the Straw-N-Peppa ($6) — with strawberry-black pepper shrub and Fever-Tree club soda — and the My Cherry Amore ($6) — with stone fruit shrub, cherry and Fever Tree club soda — providing a delicious alternative for anyone seeking a sophisticated beverage sans booze.

Rye Society

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The Lowdown:   Rye Society opened its first location in Rino two years ago, with co-owners Jerrod Rosen and Josh Golberg and culinary director Ken Bell giving the neighborhood its first taste of a real Jewish deli. Rosen — a Boulder native — has been relishing the opportunity to open in his home town. While Rye Society favors traditional fare, the execution reflects Rosen’s culinary resume — which includes graduating from the  French Culinary Institute, a tenure at Per Se in New York and opening Colt and Gray as general manager.

Most of the menu is identical to the one in Denver. Sandwiches including the 18 +1 ($15.50) — with steamed pastrami, slaw, Russian dressing and swiss — and the Rye Reuben ($15.50) — with seemed corned beef, swiss, kraut and Russian dressing — are present. Rosen noted that the two popular sandwiches make up roughly 70% of the original location’s business. Of the few new items, the Jewish Nachos ($9) — with bagel chips, pastrami, melted swiss, pickled red onions, slaw and Russian dressing — are one of the most unmissable items in the whole hall. On the healthier side, Dr. Rosen’s Feel Good Bowl ($13) — designed by Rosen’s medical professional sister — comes with roasted sweet potatoes, curry-roasted cauliflower, mushrooms, kale, avocado, quinoa, toasted pumpkin seeds and a tamari carrot vinaigrette.

New Yorkese

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The Lowdown:  New Yorkese is the new pizza joint from Steven Redzikowski — the owner of Oak at Fourteenth and former chef at the now-shuttered Acorn at the Source. While the other stalls all share the first floor, New Yorkese is situated on the fourth-floor rooftop — the crown-jewel of the entire redevelopment and arguably one the finest rooftops in the city. Originally planning a brick and mortar, Redzikowski switched gears after seeing the space.

The menu is short and sweet — small plates, a range of burrata and pizza are joined by just one dessert. Combining influences from both Neopolitan and New York-style pies, the restaurant acts as something of a homecoming for a chef mostly known for his fine-dining ventures. “My first gig was pizza,” he said. The crust is a combination of King Arthur bread flour, and rye and spelt flours milled by nearby Dry Storage every week. Ingredients from Red Wagon Farms and River Bear Meats continue the locavore trend. Burrata ($10) is available with pistachio and basil pesto, Calabrian chili and piquillo peppers, oven-roasted tomato and basil or olive oil and Castelvetrano olive. Pizzas range from $10 – 15 and are best enjoyed by one to two people. The Della ($14) — with mozzarella, mortadella and pistachio pesto — reflects the strength of the whole concept, gleaming with well-executed simplicity.

Avanti Boulder is located at 1401 Pearl St., Boulder. It will be open every day from 11 a.m. – 11 p.m., with plans to extend the hours to 1 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday when safety regulations allow.

All photography by Alden Bonecutter.

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