Editor’s note: On September 29, 2019, we learned that Chef Simonas Sungaila is no longer with Somebody People; owner Samuel Maher is running the kitchen (and very well, too).
Christmas has come early for Denver vegans: Somebody People, a plant-based, no-waste restaurant from co-owners Samuel and Tricia Maher and chef Simonas Sungaila, opened late last week on South Broadway. If early tastes are any indication, omnivores are receiving a culinary gift, too—Somebody People is a restaurant that anyone can enjoy.
The beachy-chic, Palm Springs vibe at the 65-seat restaurant resonates through the murals on the walls (painted by local artists, florals and Grace Jones decorate the dining room, while David Bowie appears as Starman in the women’s restroom), the monochrome server uniforms, and the gorgeous Hazel Atlas tableware, all inspired by the Mahers’ Australian roots.
“I’ve opened restaurants all over the world,” says Sam, “but I’ve always wanted my own place. We hope this will be a great restaurant, not just a great vegan restaurant.”
With the Mahers focusing on hospitality, an all-natural wine list, and sustainable operations (Tricia is a full-time speech pathologist with an abiding passion for eco-friendly, zero-waste practices) and Lithuanian-born Sungaila running the kitchen, Somebody People is primed to be a keeper. Sam most recently served as Mercantile Dining & Provision’s general manager, after fine-dining stints in Melbourne, Sydney, and New York City. On South Broadway, he is pouring a 60-bottle, “free-flowing” by-the-glass wine program centered around biodynamic, unfiltered, unfined wines from small producers, a few bottles from Burgundy, and “weird grapes,” like Bastarda. Look for the Kepos de Ampeleia in particular, says Maher, for an expression of French grapes grown on Tuscan soil.
Tricia and Samuel worked with Spark Design and local artists (including Lindee Zimmer, Chelsea Lewinski, and Elena Thunderson) to create Somebody People’s tropical interior. Responsible sourcing resulted in bar stools made from pineapple-fiber Piñatex; beetle-kill Ambrosia maple table tops; a soap-free dishwasher that uses electrolyzed water; tiffins for leftovers (buy one there or bring your own containers; there’s no taking your Commonwealth Coffee Roasters drink or tea to-go, either), and even hay stir sticks.
Sungaila came to Denver to work with the Mahers after cooking at Vilnus’ celebrated Sweetroot Restoranas, Washington, D.C.’s Michelin-starred Fiola, and the Four Seasons in the Caribbean. “I learned at Sweetroot to treat all food with respect by never wasting anything,” Sungaila says. “It feels good to do good with our menu. There’s so much room to do that, be plant-based, and have the food be exciting.”
His 13-dish offering is thoughtful and fresh, ranging from cold and hot vegetable small plates and salads to fresh pastas and plant-based desserts; there are no processed “meats” on the menu, but rather dishes that celebrate seasonal bounty and local producers.
Radishes ($9), the first snack on the menu, is a deliciously fun kick-off in which you swipe the crunchy, juicy vegetables through a burnt sunflower seed spread, picking up Mile High Micro Greens’ fresh herbs, verdant mint oil, and “the ghosts of past vegetables” (aka charred radish leaves). A bright tomato panzanella ($12) is made with the ripe summer bounty from Longmont’s Kilt Farm, Reunion Bread Co. croutons, and a deeply flavorful tomato water “mousse.”
The pasta program already promises to turn Somebody People into a destination, whether you’re vegan or not. Made from semolina and water and shaped using Sungaila’s beloved bronze-die extruder, try the charred corn rigatoni ($15) with Front Range Funghi mushrooms and Kilt Farm’s shishito peppers and the memorable smoked broccoli tortellini ($16) swimming in an aromatic tomato-basil broth that’s poured tableside.
Once it’s steady on its feet, Somebody People will open for breakfast and lunch in addition to the existing dinner service. There’s already a $25 Sunday Supper deal (5–9 p.m.) that includes multiple courses of Sungaila’s favorite dishes; he’ll cook for you on other days for $35 per person. A cabaret license allows for live music, so expect weekend DJ sessions, too, most likely including David Bowie crooning his 1972 song “Five Years”: “All the fat-skinny people, and all the tall-short people; and all the nobody people, and all the somebody people.”
Somebody People is currently open for dinner, Tuesday through Sunday; take a right on W. Arizona Ave. to find a few free parking spaces behind the building. 1165 S. Broadway, Suite 104, 720-502-5681