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Bright early



Randy Price is a smart man. In just over a decade, he's built the successful Rocky Mountain Restaurant Group and its three Salsa Brava locations, Sonterra Innovative Southwest Grill and now Over Easy, a daytime eatery, which replaces Slayton's Tejon Street Grill in the group's portfolio.

Price not only knows when (and has the chutzpah) to scrap a flagging concept, but he knows when to borrow one as well. And with Over Easy, he's tapped into a culinary zeitgeist with some starkly simple principles.

It rightly believes that eaters can't resist the allure of posh pancake flights ($8.99/add $1 for gluten-free) laced with sugary accents like streusel topping and liqueur-infused berries; a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar ($8); or a host of "better-than-Benedict" plates ($9.50 to $11) that pair fresh meats and veggies with perfectly poached eggs and velvety hollandaise caps.

Also perfectly of the moment: mascarpone-stuffed brioche French toast ($8.99) that eats like a dolled-up toasted marshmallow, so sweet from crème anglaise, caramel, maple syrup and whipped cream that it could easily moonlight as bread pudding. Then there's the superfood quinoa ($6.99), a clever substitute for oatmeal, baked in coconut milk and coconut cream and topped in blueberries and walnuts and garnishes of Colorado honey, cinnamon and brown sugar.

Taking in the sights, scents and a free, delightful, fair-trade Barista coffee while you wait (and you will) for a table, you'll feel that breakfast's exciting again, in a way that diner food isn't and your sad home omelets will never be.

You see, Price borrowed unabashedly and wisely from Denver's highly successful and charming Snooze, An A.M. Eatery (yes, down to the branding style), taking his management team on reconnaissance missions and tasking 33-year-old chef Josh Davis with creating an interpreted menu bearing RMRG's own flair. So even though the streusel topping is a direct Snooze knock-off, the basic pancake recipe is Davis' mother's recipe from Boston, gleaned from a beat-up three-ring binder jammed with '70s-era Better Homes and Gardens ideas. And Fred's Hawaiian Pancake, laced with caramelized pineapples and toasted coconut, is a tribute to Price's brother who recently passed away.

"It's the little stories that make us different from Snooze — what makes it personal," says Davis, whose two years as a Starbucks manager (prior to his seven years at RMRG) informed his staff training on a new espresso machine that's being put to beautiful use. See: the Black Forest Mocha ($3.50), with textbook foam and perfectly balanced Ghirardelli chocolate and cherry syrup notes.

Overall, Over Easy already touts plenty of high points, which isn't to say it's found perfection yet. Sides of hash browns on a Benedict plate and the black bean huevos rancheros ($8.99, borrowing Sonterra flavors), are mirror opposites — one nicely browned, the other pale and mushy in the middle. Our strawberry-apple salad ($8.99) came overdressed and skimpy on the goat cheese, and the breakfast tacos ($8.99) can be bested by Quijote's mega-cheap renditions.

Though brilliantly envisioned and timed, Over Easy is still in its infancy and already facing major staffing overhauls due to Price's proactive interpretations of health-care-law implications (see "Unsure about insurance," News, Nov. 21). But it's bursting with so much enthusiasm and potential that it's infectious already.

A great addition to our scene from a man who may Snooze, but clearly hasn't overslept the alarm.

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