By Paul Albani-Burgio
When Fort Collins chef Brandon Spain started the process of bringing a new burger spot called Knockabout Burgers to Avanti Food & Beverage in LoHi, he was planning for a restaurant landscape that no longer exists.
But while Spain and partner Kaitlyn Peot are clear-eyed about the many things that have changed — like that global pandemic, Peot said — the pair still think there is opportunity for a spot where sustainably raised and uniquely topped burgers are a labor of love.
“It’s definitely a risk that we are taking on, but it still feels like a strong avenue through Avanti, and we’re so excited and passionate about bringing awesome burgers to the scene,” said Peot. “And I also think it’ll be great to show we can move through the pandemic with the proper standards. We want to be part of the moving forward from the pandemic.”
Peot thinks meat should should be shown off. Spain and Peot are planning to do that at Knockabout by exclusively serving burgers made from Lasater Grasslands Beef, which is sustainably grass-fed in Elbert County.
The roots of Spain’s burger passion, meanwhile, are simpler.
“My favorite food is burgers,” he said. “I probably eat two a week. Growing up, my dad would always cook the burgers on the grill and then my mom is Chinese, so she would be cooking burgers and curry.”
Knockabout will offer a kimchi burger topped with a fried egg and sriracha mayonnaise and a burger covered in queso, chorizo, chipotle aioli and guacamole that Spain said was inspired by the eight years he spent living in Austin.
The menu will also feature more conventional burgers, salads, a variety of fries and, possibly, treats made from a soft serve ice cream machine the team is experimenting with.
“We thought soft serve was a lot easier than it is,” said Peot. “We are learning quite a bit.”
Knockabout Burgers will be located on Avanti’s second floor, replacing Street Feud, a counter serving tacos, Bao buns and other street foods from around the world that opened last summer.
Street Feud chef-owner Merlin Verrier had signed a lease for a space inside the former El Diablo location on the ground floor of the old First Avenue Hotel, which is being redeveloped into an apartment building called The Quayle.
However, COVID-19 has put those plans on hold indefinitely, and Verrier said he is now reconsidering whether to move forward with the Broadway location at all.
“We’re not sure if we are going to go forward with that at this point because of the nature of a full build-out versus the possibility of a space coming up that is cheaper or maybe even going to the food truck route with al fresco dining for the next 12 to 24 months,” he said.
Verrier said he hopes to make a decision based on how the dining landscape develops in the next few weeks. But as things stand now, a food truck has lots of advantages.
“With a food truck you can be open air on the street and not have to worry about capacity,” he said. “Versus our original plan where we would open a restaurant that seats 40 or 50 people and then we might only be able to seat half those people.”
Spain and Peot, too, are hoping to use Avanti as a launching pad to eventually further expand their concept.
“In the long run we could definitely see expanding out to maybe something that is kind of in-between a restaurant and a fast-food chain,” Spain said. “Something that I feel is maybe lacking in the Denver scene these days is a casual drive-thru where you can get a restaurant-quality burger.”
Spain and Peot are hoping to open Knockabout Burgers sometime in the next few weeks, but an official opening date has not been chosen. The counter will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.