Los Angeles Knockout Dave’s Hot Chicken Opens First in Series of Front Range Offshoots

When something truly catches on in the fully-developed culinary cosmos that is Los Angeles dining, it’s often only a matter of time before the rest of the country has an opportunity to taste whatever it is Angelenos have been obsessing over. On Friday, April 30, Dave’s Hot Chicken opened its first Colorado outpost on South Broadway. Serving a simple menu that essentially acts as a vehicle for the seven proprietary spice blends, the concept has quickly transformed from a parking lot pop-up into a growing national chain. This will mark the 13th iteration and the third to appear outside the LA Metro. An Oregon location also just joined the roster, sharing the same opening day as Denver.

It’s been a rather meteoric rise for Dave’s. The project was conceived only as recently as 2017 when Gary Rubenyan, Tommy Rubenyan, Arman Oganesyan and David Kopushyan — the leading chef and restaurant’s namesake — began their quest to perfect the Nashville style for a local audience. From beneath what was then just a jury-rigged tent, long lines began to form — the tenders, sliders, fries and kale slaw delivering a potent reproduction of the ever more popular regional variety. The attention was well-deserved, with the group putting their energy into the bits that mattered most — a distinct set of spice levels and a signature sauce to tie it all together.

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The iron was hot, as was the chicken. By 2018, the crew had opened its first brick and mortar in East Hollywood, with more arriving quickly to meet the growing demand. In Southern California alone, spots popped up in Pacific Beach, Glendale, Koreatown, Fountain Valley and Culver City before Toronto entered the ring as the first international member of what is now a rapidly proliferating franchise.

Over the next five years, local franchisees Jason Beld and Marc Rogers plan to construct at least 10 additional Dave’s — most landing in the Denver Metro and Fort Collins, where the duo currently reside. “I’d say we’ll get there even sooner than that,” grinned Beld, clearly inspired by the product. No strangers to the game, both Beld and Rogers have been in the restaurant industry for over 30 years apiece, most recently handling the string of Fuzzy’s Taco Shops that have emerged across the state over the last decade. The duo owns a widespread set of 10 standalone Fuzzy’s, managing an additional six locations here in the city.

As for Dave’s, Jason’s son Tanner Beld will stay on as the onsite owner and operator of the already popular South Broadway location. A second is set to be added in The Circa Building as soon as August.

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The menu is exceedingly straightforward, with only three combos, sides, beverages and shakes keeping the process streamlined. The less is more approach that has been instrumental in creating this past decade’s new breed of giants — think Shake Shack — is certainly at play here. Combo 1 ($10.99) comes with two tenders and fries, Combo 2 ($12.99) with two sliders and fries and Combo 3 ($11.99) with one tender, one slider and fries. Single tenders ($3.85) and single sliders ($5.45) can be added, along with fries ($3.50), cheese fries ($5) and kale slaw ($3.50). It also bears mentioning that the sliders could easily be fooled for any standard-sized sandwich from all of the leading poultry purveyors.

The tenders themselves are prepared in the Halal fashion — not for any religious reasons but simply because after testing a variety of preparations the founders found the Halal tenders to be the best tasting. The bird is then brined, slurried and battered before receiving a wet and then a dry rub. Most of the seven heat levels succeed in favoring complexity over sheer heat flexing, though the top tier Reaper should be approached with some degree of caution or a milkshake near at hand. With sauce being a completely fundamental part of the cuisine, Dave’s house-made blend excels at being the cornerstone of the whole experience.

It’s been a big set of years for the expansion of new chefs trying their hand at the Tennessee-born heat, with Dave’s proving yet again that good chicken flies far.

Dave’s Hot Chicken is located at 99 South Broadway, Denver. It is open Monday – Wednesday from 11 a.m. – 11 p.m., Thursday – Saturday from 11 a.m. – 12 a.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.

All photography by Adrienne Thomas.