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Colorado Craft announces opening

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CARRIE SIMISON
  • Carrie Simison
We have word about what’s going into the space that, for 30 years, held the storied Ritz Grill. The replacement restaurant is called Colorado Craft, it’s set to open on Monday, Jan. 22, and it’s run by known figures in the Springs dining scene.

Chef/co-owner Mario Vasquez has been in kitchens for around 10 years, including a stint at the five-star, five-diamond resort Montage Laguna Beach. Since moving to Colorado two years ago, he’s worked at TILL Kitchen and Garden of the Gods Market and Café, both owned by Altitude Hospitality Group. It’s at the latter where he met Craft general manager/co-owner Bryan Bradigan, formerly of Cowboy Star. Vasquez says he’d wanted to start his own business for some time but lacked the financial and front-of-house experience necessary; in Bradigan, he found a complementary skill set. And in co-owner Dave Lux, who also co-owns the building with Concept Restaurants partner Luke Travins, they found the right patron.

“[Bradigan and I] ended up sitting down every Monday together and going over this plan of what we wanted to do, what that was going to look like,” says Vasquez. What it looks like, at least at the restaurant’s outset, is hip but approachable recipes using Colorado-sourced ingredients. Vasquez plans to change it up four times a year.
Location Details Colorado Craft
15 S. Tejon St.
Downtown
Colorado Springs, CO
428-3002
Gourmet/eclectic

“We’re going to make a green chili chicken wing that’s kind of Asian-influenced,” he says. They’ll be using green chilies to make a sweet chili sauce akin to ubiquitous Mae Ploy. He also teases beer fries tossed in a beer salt made with Red Leg Brewing Company’s Blue Nose Brown, which also appears in an accompanying mustard-mayonnaise sauce. There’s also a poutine made from chunks of russet potato with bacon, mushroom gravy and Wisconsin cheese curds. At a media preview dinner, we also sampled a house salad made from greens grown in Larkspur, a baby beet salad with farro, a burrata served with garlic confit and bacon, and a crisp Nashville hot chicken sandwich. Vasquez will also deploy a recipe for green chile provided by the grandmother of a sous chef.

For drinks, they’ve hired bar manager Aja Lesoing. For her, it’s something of a homecoming, as she worked at The Ritz 17 years ago, Vasquez says, and she’s since sharpened her skills in Las Vegas. No surprise for Colorado, they’ll have beer — 17 taps, all Colorado, and if there’s macro, it’s in cans. Around 70 percent of those will host Springs-brewed beers. They’re also leaning local with spirits — expect usuals Distillery 291, Axe & the Oak and Lee Spirits, as well as Denver-brewed sake.

At opening, the downstairs will host a private dining area. Come summer, Vasquez wants to open it up as a speakeasy-type dining area, featuring higher-end beers, cocktails and small plates.

“I plan to use that space to push the envelope late-night for industry people looking for something a little different,” he says.

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