Familiar faces, fantastic fare, and comfy-chic surroundings all come together at Boulder’s latest food hall, the new iteration of Avanti Food & Beverage on the Pearl Street Mall. Officially opening to the public on Saturday, October 3, the two-story space feels miles away from its former iteration as an outpost of the Cheesecake Factory, bringing both beloved and original independent Front Range culinary concepts to the heart of Pearl Street.
Like the original Denver Avanti in LoHi, co-founders Patrick O’Neill and Rob Hahn commissioned O’Neill’s wife, Lauren, a Boulder native and owner of Scout Interiors, to transform the space. “We’ve been working on this for years,” she says, “and I wanted it to have all the funky character that’s true to Boulder.” As such, everything from the art on the walls to the furniture to the light fixtures comes from Colorado artisans. “Avanti is a place for makers of all kinds—culinary and otherwise—to showcase their crafts.”
Another nod to the Denver location, where the food stalls are housed in shipping containers, can be found at the Quiero Arepas stall, the only concept tucked inside a shipping container. Denver Upholstery designed the vinyl banquettes that face you when you walk into the main floor entrance; Denver-based Housefish handmade the butcher block waterfall tables in the main dining area; and Fenway Clayworks threw the striped light fixtures and tall vases you’ll spot at Method Coffee Roasters’ counter.
On the spectacular rooftop patio (which holds about 300 people when there isn’t a pandemic), you can take in stunning views of the Flatirons while perched on graphic Industrial Arts patio furniture or sleek leather armchairs built by the mother-daughter team at Englewood’s LuLu’s Furniture & Decor, dining off sleek wooden community tables built with reclaimed olive wood sourced from Gunbarrel.
What, then, is there to eat and drink while soaking up Boulder Avanti’s views and chill ambiance? Plenty, and good luck deciding on what to choose—it’s all delicious.
Starting with Rye Society Delicatessen & Pickelry—the only concept in the hall to have opened an incubator stall after opening a brick-and-mortar in RiNo—you’ll find Jewish deli eats from the family recipes of Boulder native Jerrod Rosen and partner Ross Goldberg, formerly of the Walnut Group (the Med, Brasserie Ten Ten, Via Perla). Breakfast is served there until 3 p.m., so you can start your day with the likes of the Hebrew Hammer, a New York-style bagel piled high with cream cheese, tender slices of imported-from-Brooklyn Acme Smoked Fish lox, pickled red onion, tomato, capers, cucumber, and fresh dill. Come afternoon, snack on everything-spice tater tots with Russian dressing for dipping; latkes; Rye Society’s epic pastrami sandwiches; and even “Jewish Nachos,” in which bagel chips are layered with chunks of pastrami, pickled onions, coleslaw, Russian dressing, and a creamy drizzle of melted Swiss seasoned with mustard and deli spices.
Moving clockwise around the main hall, next up is Pig and Tiger, a Taiwanese-inspired restaurant from co-owners Darren Chang (born in the year of the pig) and La Junta-native Travis Masar (born in the year of the tiger). The chefs met and bonded while working for Top Chef star Shirley Chung at Ms Chi Cafe in Los Angeles, and they created the concept for Pig and Tiger long ago, thanks to Masar’s obsession with the cuisines of Asian and Chang’s Taiwanese-American upbringing. There will always be a seasonal dumpling dish and bao on their menu; right now, the supple dumplings are filled with leafy greens, gai lan, tofu, and pickled mushrooms, while the bao comes with fried squash and scallion aioli. Seasonality aside, their “O.G.” bao is a marvel of the genre, stuffed with near-perfect glazed pork belly, pickled mustard greens, cilantro, and fried garlic. Comfort can be found in Pig and Tiger’s lu rou fan (braised pork rice), beef noodle soup, and zhajiangmian (saucy pork noodles), which follow Chang’s grandmother’s recipe. Sweets lovers will be thrilled with brown-butter rice krispie treats and rotating flavors of both popsicles (sweet Olathe corn with miso caramel, for example) and mochi doughnuts (now, in peach sugar and black-sesame glazed).
Rooted Craft Kitchen is former Vesta executive chef Nicholas Kayser’s first solo project. For those familiar with his style of farm-fresh cooking, expect to see him double down at his Avanti stall, where there are two ways to order: from the Market menu and/or the Craft menu. Both are based on Kayser’s founding principle of using local, in-season ingredients to create chef-driven takes on American comfort foods, but the former menu will change on a regular basis according to the produce he procures from area growers, including Acres at Warren Tech, Cure Organic Farms, and Kilt Farms. Current options include a late summer baby heirloom tomato caprese with housemade cashew ricotta, a farro risotto with Fruition Farms feta, and a wild arugula salad with parmesan vinaigrette. On the Craft side, there will always be two burgers—the wagyu beef is sourced responsibly from acclaimed Snake River Farms—as well as fried chicken, fish and chips, and an egg- and tuna-salad sandwich on toast made just like Kayser’s grandmother does it. To wash it all down, there are non-alcoholic seasonal sparkling sippers built around house vinegar-and-fruit based shrubs, tasty alternatives to the hard stuff that Kayser champions whenever he can; he plans on hosting a collaborative Zero-Proof dinner with food from all of his neighbors at the new food hall in the coming months.
The last time husband-and-wife Igor and Beckie Panasewicz drove their Quiero Arepas food truck to Boulder was in 2012, but regulars have been begging them to return ever since. Finally, the couple has made it back with their second Avanti stall, just over a year after opening their first brick-and-mortar in Platt Park. “The energy and sense of community here is amazing,” Beckie says. “We’re so happy to be back.” The Boulder menu is just about the same as the others, which is great news for anyone who’s tasted their fluffy, tender Venezuelan corn-flour pockets stuffed with stewed meats, plantains, beans, cheese, avocado, and tangy guasacaca (avocado-cilantro sauce). But there is one new menu item: a customer-requested house hot sauce. “Venezuelan food isn’t spicy,” Beckie explains, “and, in fact, Igor says that Venezuelans think that black pepper is too spicy!” But the customer is always right, so the Panasewiczs created a relatively tame, absolutely delicious hot sauce with serranos, jalapeños, agave, and citrus that goes well with everything on their concise menu.
Boychik, from lifelong friends and owners Chase Devitt (chef-owner of Mr. Miner’s Meat & Cheese and Brider) and Charles Troup (former general manager at Safta, Oak at Fourteenth, and Departure), is a celebration of Israeli street food. The name, which is a loving Yiddish term for a young boy or man—Devitt explained that his grandparents used to call him that, likening it to “favorite grandson”—underscores the care that Devitt and Troup have put into their new menu, which is inspired by time spent in Israel wandering the open-air markets and time around the table with their families. You’ll taste the love, too: Devitt tasted his way through at least 30 pita vendors before deciding on two separate versions, a fluffy pita for dipping into creamy hummus, baba ghanoush, muhammara, or whipped feta dips, and a thinner, lavash-style pita for Boychik’s chicken shawarma and falafel wraps. You might be tempted to order nothing else after trying the exquisite falafel, so crispy outside and soft within, but don’t stop there; the sumac-dusted fried cauliflower salad is a flavor bomb and you really should save room for a vegan tahini-date smoothie, as rich as a milkshake but far better for you.
Last but in no way least, on Avanti’s massive rooftop you’ll find ample seating, a full bar, and chef Steven Redzikowski’s pizzeria, called New Yorkese (Italian for New Yorker, pronounced New York-ay-say). His simple menu is executed flawlessly and based on almost all things gluten: buttered soft pretzels, burrata with various accoutrements and fresh pizza bread (which is pizza crust sans toppings), fried mozzarella, charcuterie plates, and, of course, pizza. Redzikowski thought he knew how to make a good pie until he took his recipe to Noel Brohner of Slow Rise Pizza Co. in Los Angeles, who helped Redzikowski workshop it into his now-stunning neo-New York style dough, a thing of edible beauty. Made with a mix of King Arthur Flour bread flour and freshly milled rye and spelt flours from Boulder’s Dry Storage, Redzikowski ferments the dough for 72 hours before topping and cooking it in his Pizza Master deck oven. After a few minutes, the crust comes out simultaneously crisp on the bottom, fluffy inside, and beautifully charred all around. Toppings are added sparingly and to delicious effect; try the Forager, a white pie dressed with three kinds of mozzarella (fresh, whole milk, and skim milk), maitake mushrooms, and a drizzle of whipped tofu flavored with chopped black truffles. It’s a pretty perfect pie all on its own, perhaps only made better by a side of Calabrian chile ranch dressing for dipping the crust edges into; Redzikowski’s wife, Annie, convinced him to add it to the menu, so you know it’s got to be good.