Kelly Whitaker is at it again. After months of hosting pop-ups and special events at Brutø, his open-kitchen concept in the Dairy Block, the restaurant is finally open (Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.) and serving LoDo residents, workers, and visitors a fairly typical Whitaker lineup of food, drink, and philosophy. But if you know Whitaker’s other endeavors—Boulder’s Basta and Dry Storage and the Wolf’s Tailor in Sunnyside—you know that actually means that Brutø delivers nothing typical whatsoever.
The heart of the industrial-chic restaurant is a Stefano Ferrara pizza oven from Naples—nothing too crazy about that, right? Perhaps, if Whitaker, chef Josh LeGrand (formerly at Basta), culinary director Sean Magallanes, and charcuterie master Nate Singer (formerly of Blackbelly Butcher in Boulder) were cooking pizzas in the oven. But, they’re not. Instead, Brutø’s wood-oven is firing off the likes of house-milled chickpea flour “socca” (pancakes), calzones made from masa and wheat flour stuffed with al pastor filling, smokey half chickens served with comforting rice porridge, and Singer’s exquisite chorizo, cooked in corn husks.
Thanks to Whitaker’s relationships with West Coast seafood purveyors, Brutø also serves raw oysters and other crudo; shopping at the Union Station Farmers Market results in crudite plates with creamy hummus and fresh cucumber salad with salty Marcona almond dressing.
The base for most of those “medium plates,” as Whitaker calls them, are the freshly-milled heirloom grains the innovative chef champions. At sister concept BØH (which stands for “back-of-house,” the hospitality industry term for kitchen staff), the coffee counter/test kitchen/mill located off the Dairy Block alley, Whitaker and his team mill wheat and corn varieties, many grown in the San Luis Valley and other parts of southern Colorado, on a daily basis.
There, you can stock your own pantry with bags of fresh flour ($5 per pound) or fresh polenta ($8 per pound), grab BØH’s satisfying onigiri (rice cakes with various fillings) for a workday lunch or snack to-go, score pastries from Dry Storage and plant-based soft serve flavors (made from coconut and hemp milks, and flavored with masa and other grains) dreamed up by pastry chef Jeb Breakell. There’s also delicious Devoción coffee drinks and rotating taps pouring natural wine, and Whitaker plans to hold workshops, classes, and chef pop-ups in the intimate, eight-seat counter space.
All of this culinary creativity is meant to be enjoyed while shopping in the gorgeous Free Market retail shops adjoining Brutø and BØH, or while perusing the art installations that line the hallways; Whitaker’s liquor license extends throughout the building, so you can sip on a glass of wine or take your Brutø cocktail with you to any of the above. “Our goal is to merge hospitality and retail,” Whitaker says, “and tap into different markets with our group’s [Id Est Hospitality Group] typical element of surprise.”
Surprise is definitely the theme at Brutø and BØH, but in the most delicious way. You may not think you’d end up craving rustic chorizo, slightly sweet from being charred in those corn husks and served with crunchy cucamelons and cilantro, but you will. You probably don’t regularly lunch on onigiri, but after tasting the shiitake- and chicken- and ricotta-stuffed iterations at BØH, that will change. And certainly popcorn crême brulée isn’t an everyday dessert for most, but one taste of Breakell’s version will have you wishing it was on every menu in town. That’s what Whitaker and his team do best: They deliver the flavors and foods you never knew you wanted.
If you go: Brutø is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m.–7 p.m. BØH is open daily from 11 a.m.–7 p.m. The Dairy Block, 1801 Blake St.