Anthony Lygizos’ aunt has a saying: A good deli is a gift to the neighborhood. If that’s true, then Lygizos and his business partner, chef Luke Hendricks, have just given the Golden Triangle neighborhood a humdinger of a present with Leven Deli Co.
Like all good delis, Leven has (house-cured) pastrami sandwiches, shmears (think: avocado dip with homemade crackers), pickles a’ plenty, and chocolate-cinnamon babka (in muffin form). But that’s where the similarities to a classic Jewish deli end. Think of Leven more as a Colorado adaptation of Venice, California’s Gjusta, itself a hyper-modern version of the American deli. Indeed, Leven’s space—all high ceilings, exposed ductwork, light woods, geometric patterns, white-washed brick, and green plants—hints at the updated fare you’ll find on its menu. “We wanted to lighten and brighten the cuisine; make it more airy and zesty,” Lygizos says.
The menu’s focus on veggie-forward dishes underscores the point. Lygizos and Hendricks are both Potager alumni, and as such, they understand seasonality and how to work with vegetables. There’s a wonderful smashed chickpea sandwich on house-baked sourdough flatbread with tahini yogurt, avocado, pickled onion, and crunchy shaved radish. The tomato-and-Burrata-on-a-baguette number is Lygizos’ self-proclaimed favorite sandwich. And all three of Leven’s salads destroy the sad desk-lunch versions you may be familiar with: The “Lil’ Gems” is a tableau of hand-torn Little Gem lettuce heads, shaved onion, cherry tomatoes, herbed buttermilk yogurt, feta, and barbecue-spiced sunflower seeds for crunch; the Deli Chop Salad combines pickled peppers, chickpeas, radicchio, and cubes of salami and aged provolone cheese for a satisfying meal; Gigi’s Cucumber Salad, inspired by Hendricks’ grandmother’s recipe, is a tangy mess of thinly sliced cucumbers united by a rich, slightly spicy dressing made from condensed milk, Champagne vinegar, sweet onions, chile flakes, and lots of fresh herbs.
While you’ll want to hang out in this sun-drenched spot drinking an espresso, pomegranate shrub, or even a cocktail with your food—especially since almost every table has an outlet for laptop and phone charging purposes—Leven also caters to takeaway eating with its “bike-thru window.” Ride right up from 7 to 10 a.m. to pick up breakfast burritos stuffed with pastrami burnt ends or rugelach-pastry-wrapped pigs-in-a-blanket.
As the team there likes to say, everyone is welcome and nobody will leave hungry.
Leven is now open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; 123 W. 12th Ave., 303-325-5691