By Gigi Sukin, for Denverite
Nearly four years have passed since the demolition of the historic University of Colorado Health Sciences campus, an implosion that made way for a transformative, multimillion-dollar redevelopment project off Colorado Boulevard. The 9th and Colorado site bridges the pre-war neighborhoods of Mayfair, Hilltop, Park Hill and Congress Park, but has remained relatively sleepy until recently, as it’s proven fertile ground for a collection of new eating and drinking venues. The restaurant mix already includes Clean Juice, a pressed juice and smoothie bar, and Frank & Roze, an all-day coffee shop.
Now, after a warm Platt Park welcome for fast-casual Chook Charcoal Chicken last December, the team behind the scenes is celebrating its one-year anniversary with a second outpost opening Friday cattycorner to the 26-acre urban infill project.
Snooze co-founder Adam Schlegel, James Beard Award-winning Alex Seidel and Denver barman Randy Layman took over side-by-side units at the corner of 8th Avenue and Birch Street, setting up shop in a single-story brick building that previously played home to a nail salon and a barbershop.
“It reminds you of a small Main Street setting,” Schlegel says. “Plenty of glass and natural daylight spills into the space.”
Chook’s cozy, family-friendly model was born in Melbourne, Australia, where Schlegel’s wife grew up. There, chicken shops selling charcoal-rotisserie birds line the streets.
“These small chicken shops are common in neighborhoods throughout Australia,” Schlegel explains.
The new Aussie eatery is 2,300 square feet, more than one-third larger than the first location, but it maintains the original’s communal flair. The space will have a small section away from the primary dining area that invites patrons to saddle up to the bar. There, Layman expanded on Chook’s signature pre-batched, full-strength “happy pots,” to include well drinks, seven beers on tap, and a single red, white and rose wine from Attimo, Schlegel’s brother’s boozy business.
An outdoor patio will accommodate 20 guests, and a kids’ nook will be carved out in the interior.
“Another great feature is our wheat paste poster walls,” Schlegel says, explaining Layman was inspired by Australian alleyways shrouded in half-torn posters, much like a colorful “living mural.”
Location 2.0’s menu will look familiar to Chook’s fan club.
Cooked on a rotisserie with a mix of hardwood and mesquite charcoal, the juicy meat is slow-brined overnight, rubbed in a spice mix featuring a Moroccan paprika marinade, and spun, crisping the bird’s skin and sizzling over the coals.
Guests can choose from a quarter ($7), half ($13) or whole chicken ($20). Two chicken sandwiches — sliders and Seidel’s take on a chicken salad sandwich — are paired with a cauliflower flatbread with apricot, Indian curry blended vinaigrette and pistachios.
Since the poultry is a given, the sides are the surprise stars, featuring hearty roasted delicata squash with Fruition Farms feta and brown butter, charred carrots with soft cheese, arugula, dates and a mix of herbs, nuts and spices. Scorched broccoli with a fruit and nut mix is topped with a bright and creamy lemon tahina.
With their second location, the three-man operation is expanding more than just real estate. It’s expanding their mission-driven platform as well. Seidel’s lofty goal is to create and sustain a system of free-range chicken farms in Colorado. Until their scale allows, Chook sources ethically raised chicken from a co-op in Indiana.
The full menu and ingredients, with the exception of sodas, are free from additives and preservatives. Product packaging is compostable and nearly 90 percent of the restaurant’s waste is diverted from landfills.
Schlegel explains that “growing so early wasn’t the plan … We’ve learned more about our space, our layout, how guests enjoy dining with us.”
Meanwhile, Seidel has publicly shared hopeful plans to continue the growth. Schlegel clarifies, “While it doesn’t seem like we’re taking our time, we try for thoughtful ideas on growth … Would we like to grow, yes … We also need to ensure that we’re performing at the highest levels we can, now in two spots.”
Chook Charcoal Chicken’s new location is at 4340 E. Eighth Ave. The original location is at 1300 S. Pearl St.