In Aurora, Colorado, there is a small haven where both Colorado classic dishes and popular Chicago flavors exist. It’s all wrapped up in a modern take on the traditional diner. Carm and Gia Metropolitan first opened in February 2020. With a tumultuous year, this family-owned restaurant continues to serve a collective menu of specialty burgers, French fries, hotdogs, Italian beef sandwiches and burritos. Owners Razz Cortés-Maceda and Tom Klein took inspiration from their home states and channeled Midwestern flavors when creating the menu.
Cortés-Maceda, originally from Illinois, noticed a lack of authentic Chicago food in Colorado. After being laid-off from her software engineering job in 2017, she chose to tap into those restaurant skills that have been with her since the age of 13. Klein on the other hand, is a Colorado native who really understands the state’s passion for green chile and Mexican inspired dishes.
“My husband and I have always wanted to own a restaurant. We always wanted to open it in an up and coming neighborhood and that’s how we settled on this location,” Cortés-Maceda said.
It wasn’t until March of 2018 when they finally completed the renovations. They had to completely redo the plumbing, electrical and redesigned it to look like a contemporary diner with midcentury modern décor.
“The initial concept was to bring Chicago style street food to a part of town that didn’t have it available. Then we decided to add what was popular and specific to Denver. Everyone loves burgers,” Cortés-Maceda said.
The menu offers Angus beef burgers with a surplus of toppings from Mexican chorizo and chicharrones to chipotle date relish and mango pineapple pico de gallo. Not only are these specialty burgers inspired by Colorado’s adopted flavors, but they are also named after familiar neighborhoods like Globeville, Montbello, Sunnyside and Park Hill.
The all-natural Vienna Beef hot dogs are no stranger to city inspired flavors as well. The Windy City is aptly named as the menu’s Chicago style classic while the Wrigleyville is topped with barbecue sauce, mustard, diced onion, bacon and fresh slaw.
The seemingly endless fare also includes various burritos filled with carnitas, carne asada, chicharrón, potatoes and French fries available morning, noon and night.
While diner food fits perfectly with a retro theme, it’s more of a way of life for the family enterprise. The name Carm and Gia are shortened versions of Klein and Cortés-Maceda’s adult children — Carmelo and Gabriella. A lot of the restaurant’s menu and décor was a team effort between all four family members. The midcentury modern design was inspired by the family’s love for old school cars. In fact, they own a 1961 Nash Metropolitan that one day will be on display at the restaurant.
Though the restaurant has been open since February, the team did not close during all COVID-19 related closures. They quickly pivoted to takeout and delivery.
“We offered online ordering and used employees for delivery services. None of knew how to respond to the new restrictions and guidelines but we made a commitment for the long haul. Every week we’ve learned something new,” Cortés-Maceda said.
As the team at Carm and Gia remain resilient, their community also rose to support them. They became a part of the Aurora Restaurant Program. This program came from a one-time allocation of funds from the City of Aurora to improve the cultural destination. The partnership between the city, property owners and tenants ensure the city’s investment in the area will remain a family-oriented hub.
“The City of Aurora set aside funds to help establish retail restaurants in the Aurora Cultural Arts District. The five projects include Lady Justice Brewing Company, Third Culture Bakery, Baba and Pop’s, Mason’s Dumpling Shop and Carm and Gia Metropolitan,” Andrea Amonick, City of Aurora development services manager said.
While each tenant is financially responsible for the décor and finishing touches of their restaurant like tables and chairs, these funds help aid in necessary items like grease traps, ventilation, bathrooms and ensuring ADA accessibility. These immovable items make it easy for the property owners to continue to rent out the space to future restaurants if an individual tenant should leave.
While the team at Carm and Gia Metropolitan already own their building, the program helped them pivot at the beginning of the COVID-19 related closures.
Since then, the restaurant has now included an enclosed back patio with bursts of color and greenery, making it an oasis in the city.It is located on 9598 E. Montview Blvd., Aurora. It’s open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and weekend brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
All Photography By Marla Keown