A work in progress: Avanti's shipping containers await.
If the Source blueprinted the warehouse-turned-artisan-collective in Denver, Avanti Food & Beverage is pushing that model to the next level. Come March, Patrick O'Neill (founder of Choppers Custom Salads), Brad Arguello (co-founder of the Über Sausage), and Rob Hahn (head of GRT, a LoHi real estate investment and development group) will launch a restaurant collaboration in the former Avanti Print & Graphics building at 32nd Avenue and Pecos Street. The LoHi space differs from other conjoint endeavors because it's designed as a two-story launchpad for fledging food and beverage concepts. The idea is to give start-ups a platform to succeed by removing much of the overhead and risk. Leases are short term (the intention is to have concepts rotate in and out) and the seven tenants share communal dining space and two house bars. The vibe will be urban and raw—something enhanced by the warehouse space and the steel shipping containers that will house tenants.
Avanti has been in the works for a couple years, but it's finally shaping up. Last week, O'Neill and Arguello finalized leases for five of the seven tenants, bringing a mix of shawarma, tortas, arepas, wood-fired pizza, and inspired tapas to the space. He and Arguello are actively looking to fill the remaining two spaces. They are specifically interested in adding Asian cuisine—sushi, ramen, etc.—to the concept. In the meantime, here’s what we have to look forward to:
Souk Shawarma: “[Avanti] is going to change the way we perceive food courts,” Jon Robbins of Bistro Barbès says. Which is exactly why Robbins signed on to do Souk Shawarma, a Lebanese-inspired shawarma shop. This is an idea Robbins has been chasing ever since he experienced the street food during his travels to the Middle East. “I wanted to do something that was unique and missing from America. One of those things is the way shawarma is served in Lebanon,” Robbins says. “It’s not just roasted meats on a stick—it is the sauces, the bread, the pickles.” The you-build-it menu will include a pita and your choice of spit-roasted chicken, lamb, or beef (or falafel); grains such as quinoa, bulgur and rice; a rich selection of sauces; and a variety of pickles. Lease term: 24 months; location: upstairs
PoCo Tortaria: Kevin Morrison of Pinche Tacos has already found great success with his taco truck and two taquerias. But the Avanti shop is different: Morrison will focus on the Mexican sandwich, or torta. Knowing that the sandwches’ success is largely tied to the quality of bread, Morrison will make his bolillo (small baguettes) from scratch daily in the 160-square-foot shipping container. The menu of 8 to 10 sandwiches will offer a cross-section of vegetarian, meat, and seafood options. Morrison is also considering lamb affogato as a weekend special. “The lamb is braised with chile peppers and you make a sauce out of that and ladle it over the torta,” Morrison says. There might be a grab-and-go dessert, possibly Pinche’s famed churros y chocolate. Lease term: 12 months; location: downstairs; tacostequilawhiskey.com
Quiero Arepas: Igor and Beckie Panasewicz are the duo behind what Thrillist calls one of the best food trucks in the nation (additionally, the arepas truck has appeared on the Cooking Channel's Eat St). The Panasewicz, who will continue to operate the truck, love the semi-permanence Avanti offers. “I’m glad it’s a steel container,” Backie says. “This is an extension of the truck.” The couple will keep the arepas menu and prices the same but they’ll add sides (including fried plantains which they cannot do on the truck) and possibly dessert. Lease term: 24 months; location downstairs; quieroarepas.com
Brava!: In five years of operating Brava! at the base of Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret, David Bravdica’s wood-fired pies have garnered a serious following. Now, with Avanti he’ll bring his recipes inside. Aside from not having to battle the elements, Bravdica sees this move (the cart will also remain in operation) as an opportunity to explore small plates and test out how the pizza does in a more permanent space. “I don’t think we’ll go full into the brick-and-mortar but this gives us a way to test the idea and look into expanding,” Bravdica says. Also, fans of the Brussels and bacon pizza special take note: The pie will finally land on the menu. Lease term: 24 months; location: downstairs, bravapizza.com
Bixo, Mediterranean Bites: Marco Gonzales, a chef with Michelin Star-restaurant experience in Lyon and Barcelona, moved to Denver six months ago with the hope of opening his own place. Bixo—an eatery peddling Mediterranean tapas with a Mexican slant—is the first step realizing Gonzales’ goal. “Based on his schooling and accolades, Marco should have his own place,” O’Neill says. “The [Avanti] incubator is perfect for him.” Lease term: 15 months; location: upstairs
3200 Pecos St.