There’s Southern buttermilk fried chicken, of course, and Nashville Hot, and Korean, and Japanese—but is there a Colorado-style fried bird? That’s the question Barry Davis, Eric Wupperman, and Michael Friedberg set out to answer when they opened Yellowbelly Chicken in Vail in 2012.
Their answer: Antibiotic-free poultry encased in a crisp, gluten-free, rice flour batter and fried in good-for-you rice bran and olive oils, served with seasonal, veggie-centric sides such as citrus quinoa and red cabbage slaw. “Better versions of food people already love—that’s the true north of the brand,” says Friedberg, Yellowbelly’s chief marketing officer.
Now, Coloradans can score this fried fowl at five locations: the original Vail outpost, Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace, Boulder, and brand new locales in Arvada and Lakewood. The Lakewood location is housed inside the Belmar Whole Foods, a move Friedberg is hoping will signify Yellowbelly’s commitment to high-quality ingredients. Further Colorado expansion is in the works; Yellowbelly has brought on the former COO of Noodles & Company, Joe Serafin, as president and chief operating officer to help guide the growth.
In the age of fast-casual everything, Yellowbelly’s home-grown fare does seem to be an ideal fit for health-conscious Coloradans. Sure, the eatery can satisfy your craving for fried chicken and macaroni and cheese—and do we even need to say that its chicken tenders are basically kid crack? But if your New Year’s resolution was to eat in a more health-conscious way, you can do that at Yellowbelly, too. The brined-then-cast-iron-roasted chicken is so juicy and tender it gives the fried variety competition. Salads—made with organic greens from local Munson and Full Circle Farms and tasty ingredients such as Brussels sprouts, toasted almonds, goat cheese, and dates—aren’t an afterthought. Judging from the families lining up at Yellowbelly’s new metro area locations, Yellowbelly is a Colorado brand making an impact.