Think back to middle school for a moment. When you were in seventh and eighth grade, did you ever think that you’d end up owning a restaurant with a sibling and a buddy? Brian Boyd, a co-owner of the Rotary, now located in its own brick-and-mortar space in Hilltop, certainly didn’t. In fact, as the Boyd brothers left school and made their way in the world, Brian began a career in television news and photography, while his brother Scott worked in the entertainment industry before becoming a licensed therapist. But their good friend, celebrated chef Don Gragg (of Barolo Grill, Mel’s Bar and Grill, Mateo, Starfish, and others locally, not to mention the legendary Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, and Gramercy Tavern in New York City) came to them with the idea of opening a restaurant together in 2018, and based on Gragg’s culinary chops and the brothers’ marketing and business savvy, the trio decided to go for it. They opened their fine-casual wood-fire rotisserie concept as a food stall inside LoHi’s Avanti Food & Beverage later that year. It was a great start, Brian says, but the dream was always to expand into their own space one day.
As of mid-January, the trio are finally settled into their own brick-and-mortar restaurant, which is located in the same strip as High Point Creamery and Park Burger on Holly Street. When the Rotary’s new doors opened, it was to debut a fresh look, an updated and expanded menu, a handy app, and a delivery partner, too.
“We did all of the renovations ourselves, with the help of some friends,” says Brian. Together, they transformed the former Novo Coffee shop into a bright, cheery restaurant decorated with reclaimed wood planks, staves, and tables; an aspen-themed hallway complete with tree-lined wallpaper and actual aspens adorned with twinkling lights, which the Boyds collected with their parents on land owned by friends in Gunnison County; and restrooms hung with yacht rock record album covers (Lionel Richie, Rick Springfield, Johnny Nash, and Carly Simon are all represented, among many others).
Inspired by the Brazilian churrasco tradition of grilling on horizontal spits over a wood-and-charcoal fire, Gragg drew on his fine-dining experiences and time spent as a personal chef in France (where he says that wood-fire cooking is very popular) to create the Rotary’s menu of deeply flavorful grilled meats, fish, and vegetables, featured as sandwiches, salads, bowls, and meat-and-two plates. “I created the menu to be fine-casual, like a hybrid—Boston Market meets Chez Panisse,” says Gragg. For him, it’s all about great ingredients and technique, and he even went so far as to have the Rotary’s rotisseries made in Brazil.
Classics from the Avanti stall are there—paper-thin potato chips showered with fluffy grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and lemony gremolata; crispy-skinned, boneless chicken thighs and slow-cooked pork shoulder; and Gragg’s house-made aji verde, Portuguese peri-peri, and chimichurri sauces for dressing or dipping all of the above—and the sourcing remains thoughtful, including buying Berkshire pork from Mcdonald Family Farm out of Brush, Colorado. But a new home calls for new food, too, and you won’t want to overlook what Gragg has in store.
Pan-seared salmon is a protein option in the new restaurant, and there’s a bountiful vegan ancient grain bowl with roasted vegetables, avocado, tomato confit, and charred onion-and-arugula pesto. The peri-peri chicken bowl with charred cauliflower and pickled onions is a best-seller for good reason, and that cauliflower also makes an appearance as a vegan sandwich filling, layered on City Bakery ciabatta with tahini, raisins, almonds, and peppery arugula. There’s a chopped veggie salad and a kale Caesar, and polenta with mushroom ragout, blistered green beans with capers, and charred broccolini with garlic and chile are side options now, too. The Avanti menu favorite of crispy smashed potatoes with garlic aïoli has been replaced with a buttery smashed-mashed potato hybrid that travels far better, and there’s also an excellent gluten-free, almond-flour-based chocolate chip cookie—a recipe of Scott’s, not Gragg’s—that has the ideal textural combination of crisp edges and chewy center.
To better serve the family-oriented Hilltop neighborhood, the Rotary has just begun offering family meal packs ($50 to $54), which include Gragg’s beautifully seasoned chicken or pork (or a combo of the two) with your choice of brown butter jasmine rice or potatoes and green beans or broccolini, plus two sauces. And if you don’t want to leave the house to get your food (and you live within five miles of the restaurant), the Rotary has you covered through its custom app and DoorDash Drive delivery partner; for $6.99, you can schedule when you want your meal to arrive, and first orders receive 15 percent off the total bill. (I can attest that the food arrives on time, and the chicken and pork is carefully packaged, still juicy, and delicious.)
A liquor license is weeks away, and thereafter, the Rotary will serve a curated menu of canned wines and beers, as well as a handful of cocktails and a few nonalcoholic drinks, too. Gragg also plans to package his sauces in the near future, so you can spread them onto sandwiches and dip veggies, meats, and chips into them at home any time. Yacht-rock brunch events will be in the works once the Rotary’s dining room can serve at full capacity, and Brian says that the larger goal is to open more shops in Colorado, and eventually, across the country. Pretty impressive for three buddies who met in middle school.
The Rotary is open Wednesday through Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. 217 S. Holly St., 303-537-5327