The long-in-progress N3 Taphouse (817 W. Colorado Ave., n3taphouse.com) is finally nearing completion. Owner Johnny Nolan says the restaurant may be ready to open by the end of February. Nolan, who also owns SouthSide Johnny's and Johnny's Navajo Hogan, first talked to us about the concept in October 2015.
As promised then, N3 will be more chef-driven than SouthSide or the Hogan. Nolan has brought chef Damon Lavigne onboard to run the N3 kitchen. Lavigne has been a corporate-trained kitchen manager for around 24 years, with chains like Carrabba's and Red Lobster on his resumé. He also spent four years as a chef at The Peppertree, doing tableside flambé cooking.
"There were a couple of things that were really successful there that I'd like to move here," he says. "Not necessarily verbatim recipes and methods, but definitely I'd like to have a pepper steak, and steak Diane. We're going to do cherries jubilee and bananas Foster. Those are all things they do there, but we won't be cooking tableside."
At the heart of the menu, N3 will offer the broasted chicken that has proven popular at the Hogan, as well as New York-style pizzas. But there will also be Korean items — Lavigne says he's had success with his recipe for bulgogi in the past. He says he's been playing with Mediterranean and Caribbean dishes too, which may come to the menu later.
Lavigne will be deploying some craft cuisine chops from day one. He'll be making bread, pickles, kimchi and hot sauce in-house for the menu, to list a few. He also brews kombucha, and Nolan plans to offer his lemon-ginger kombucha on tap.
"We're looking at a lot of gut-improving-type fermented products," he says. "We're making this a destination location." That said, the kombucha will likely be reserved for the 21-and-up crowd, sporting an ABV over 0.5 percent.
Moving from dinner to drinks, the 30-tap system will have two macrobrews on tap, but the rest will be craft beers, with Nolan estimating 70 percent being from Colorado.
"We just met with a guy from [Melvin Brewing in] Wyoming," he says. "We definitely don't want to be stuck in a box and just carry the normal five micro-beers."
Designed by Nolan's business partner in N3, Daniel Romero, the interior of the building bears an early-20th century industrial feel, with exposed vintage brick walls and rough-cut timbers. The renovation was completed almost entirely with recycled materials. Even the tables are made from wood rescued from an old semi trailer. The walls bear art made by chipping away plaster layered over the original brick, aesthetically inspired by Portuguese street artist Vhils (Alexandre Farto) and conceptually inspired by the building's historical role as a fire station.
"We wanted people to walk in and know it was a fire station," says Nolan.