On Sunday, October 4 Frank’s Food and Bodega opened in a largely residential section of Edgewater. Replacing the space formerly occupied by Happy Leaf Kombucha, Frank’s serves a range of pantry items, fresh produce, locally-produced wares, cheese, meats and hot and cold meals ready to eat either at home or onsite. By all outward appearances, Frank’s could easily be mistaken for a community grocery or food cooperative — blending an unmistakable Colorado nonchalance with inspiration from Mexican and New York bodegas. But the market is actually an extension of Blue Note Event Services, the exclusive caterer for essentially all of Denver’s most iconic venues several decades running. The project — particularly the many house-made items that fill the deli counter — is finally bringing to the public the food that has long fueled the local music industry. “It’s basically what we do for bands but for the community — cozy, convenient access to feel-good food,” said business development manager Katie Scotten.
Blue Note was founded over two decades ago by Irene Taras, an industry vet whose catering background dates back to the ’80s, where she once, at the request of The Grateful Dead, made granola for the entire Red Rocks audience from a batch of oats the band sent over. Blue Note has since grown to be the go-to company for both AEG and Live Nation, servicing bands, crews and production teams at all the major venues across the Denver area. Anyone dining backstage at Red Rocks, the 1STBANK Center, the Pepsi Center, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Mission Ballroom and Fiddler’s Green during the last decade has surely feasted on one of Taras’ banquets. The crack team has also been known to assemble fully-functioning temporary kitchens outside of Mile High Stadium and handled all the catering at Grandoozy and a range of annual one-offs. “What we do is music. That’s what we all live and die by,” said Scotten.
While Frank’s was certainly developed as a pivot for a company that usually spends its summers frantically granting the requests of nearly every major touring artist that touches down, Blue Note — with its adjoining offices — had been planning on converting the former kombucha house into a concept that at last served members of the audience. “We were interested in doing something with the space when we bought the building,” said Scotten. “We always knew it would be food-related,” she continued. Initially, the team considered forming a restaurant, though 2020’s uncompromising dictates compelled the group to alter its course. “A store would be a better way to offer what we do and a better way to serve the neighborhood,” said Scotten. Most of the employees have long been with the company, with Taras’ son Blake Elwell and his wife Jennifer managing onsite.
Frank’s is curated with a blend of thoughtfully-sourced local goods and an equally top-tier selection of the essentials brought in from far and wide. River Bear Meats and Tenderbelly are on display and not far off are jars of Tajin and cookies from Tate’s Bake Shop. Nick, Nora and Emily’s Toffee Corn — made in Nederland — shares the shelf with pie crusts from Kinnikinnick and Bob’s Red Mill. The integration between the local items and more recognizable brands is underscored by a general commitment to quality — upscale but free of pretense. “Local people get shelf priority around here,” grinned Blake. Even so, the reason to visit Frank’s is the house-made dishes.
While the menu changes regularly, there is a list of “Everything All the Time” selections that will always be available. The bacon-wrapped meatloaf ($3.95 a slice or $11.95 for dinner) is a good move there. On Wednesday, the team recreates menus requested by artists — with Phish, Ariana Grande, Big Gigantic and Adele having already been on display. The soups — including chicken noodle and cream of asparagus — are particularly liable to induce misty-eyed returns to whatever remembered kitchen love lives in. “All the recipes have rotated through our menu offerings a lot of times over the years. That’s a big part of our confidence, this food is not new. Thousands of people have eaten these dishes,” said Scotten.
It’s unsurprising — especially considering the insular world Blue Note has built behind the scenes — that Frank’s cuisine has all the reassuring familiarity of a friend who just recently reemerged from the woodwork. The posters that line the walls — Mac Miller, Rebelution, a signed photo of The Police — lend a warm reminder of a temporarily bygone era. And fortunately, even when concerts do return, the team says Frank’s is here to stay. “We just found a new group of people to feed,” smiled Scotten.
Frank’s Food and Bodega is located at 5700 West 25th Ave., Edgewater. It is open every day from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. A special Thanksgiving menu is available here. A link to its Christmas charity can also be found here.
All photography by Alden Bonecutter