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Almost four years ago, the Denver International Airport (DIA) launched its plan to rejuvenate its two-level, 1.5 million-square-foot Jeppesen Terminal. Now, after pre-development negotiations and City Council approval, the 1.8 billion-dollar, three-year Great Hall project is underway.
Sure, the revamping includes the consolidation of ticket counters and relocation and enhancement of TSA checkpoints, but the most exciting part is the overhaul of the dining and shopping options, which will attempt to convey a more authentic Denver experience. “The Great Hall will provide passengers a chance to sample some of the best food and retail concepts from Denver,” says Ignacio Castejon, CEO of Great Hall Partners, the public-private partnership in charge of the project.
Visitors will have to wait until May 2019 before the first restaurants in the 63,000-square-foot, 50-concession new Great Hall will open (the remaining concessions will roll out in phases through 2021). Here’s a taste of what to expect at the six inaugural eateries that will make DIA an even tastier place come spring.
Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar
“If you think of airports as harbors, and planes as boats, we have the ninth-busiest harbor in the world right here in Denver,” says Dave Query, chef-owner of the Big Red F Restaurant Group, which includes Jax. “Since 1994, people have been asking us how we can get good seafood in the Rocky Mountains.” Query responds by stating the facts: Many of the best restaurants in the country serve seafood from around the world, and the common denominator is transportation—via airplane. Jax’s convenient new location means access to off-the-aircraft crustaceans galore.
In addition to classic oysters and fresh shellfish Jax is known for, DIA patrons can look forward to dishes like poke and gumbo. “We plan on showing the millions of DIA travelers that you can have some of the very best seafood in the country, on your way—to or from—skiing or camping in the mountains.”
The Post Brewing Co.
“Colorado is one of the most passionate states in the country about craft beer,” says Query, who is also at the helm of Big Red F’s Post Brewing Co. “We have an outstanding brewing community, world-class makers, the largest beer festival in the U.S. [GABF], and a customer base that is just crazy about good, fresh beer.” Beer snobs will be able to pair pints of Howdy Beer, Townie Ale, and GABF gold medal-winner BackYard Saison with the Post’s fantastic fried chicken. Travelers can also enjoy steaks, pork roasts, lamb meatloaf, and Southern comfort plates, as well as breakfast offerings, such as chicken-fried steak and chicken and waffles.
Denver Street Eats
This rotating chef showcase will feature food from a different Colorado culinarian year after year. “With curated menus and ingredients selected by celebrated Denver chefs, we hope to offer another level of variety for frequent travelers,” says Kevin Kelly, president of Delaware North’s travel business. (Delaware North is a hospitality and food-service company that manages hundreds of restaurants and retail locations across the globe.)
Chef Jeff Osaka (of 12@Madison, Sushi-Rama, and Osaka Ramen) will be the first chef featured at Denver Street Eats, where he’ll dish out Asian-inspired noodle bowls and more. Biju Thomas, owner of Biju’s Little Curry Shop, is slated to be Denver Street Eats’ second chef.
Caffeine aficionados will happily welcome farm-to-cup, small-batch Kabod Coffee to DIA. “The inclusion of Kabod Coffee is in alignment with the Great Hall concept: to provide travelers with an elevated coffee-drinking experience that represents the best of Denver,” says Kabod owner Muluye Hailemariam. “Kabod sources only 100 percent whole, organic, unblended Ethiopian Arabica Coffee and roasts it in Denver.” The 24-hour-a-day cafe will have a daily selection of coffees, teas, fresh-pressed juices, kombuchas, and nitro cold brew, along with breakfast and lunch sandwiches, oatmeal, and baked goods.
This airport boutique will showcase local vendors, such as Jackson’s Honest Chips, Boulder Bake Cookies, Enstrom Toffee, and Cocomels. In addition to all of the Colorado-made treats, you can also expect hand-made soaps, themed destination apparel, and a tea robot that allows customers to make their own DIY tea mixes.
Caribou Coffee will lure visitors with a three-dimensional art installation of trees (a tribute to its commitment to the environment), a Denver-themed art mural, and, of course, the wafting scents of freshly brewed java. “The menu will feature not only Caribou favorites, but also nitro coffee on tap and a new ice cream component,” says Rod Tafoya, president of Mission Yogurt, Inc. (the airport concessionaire that will own and operate this location of Caribou). “Caribou’s ‘coffee with a conscience’ is 100 percent Rainforest Alliance Certified, farmed with sustainable methods, and it stimulates community progress.”