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Despite the fact that chef Don Gragg was born here in the Centennial State and helped open a number of high-profile Denver restaurants (including the Barolo Grill and the now-shuttered Mel’s and Starfish), most Denverites probably don’t know his name. That’s because Gragg has spent much of his career cooking on the coasts—Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, and New York City’s Gramercy Tavern are highlights—and jetting off to the south of France to work as a private chef for a Hollywood family who owned a home there.
If you’re wondering what caused Gragg to leave that sweet gig behind and return to Denver, the answer is simple: He and his wife recently welcomed their first child and were ready to settle down. Since moving back to the Mile High City, Gragg has manned the kitchen at Avanti Food & Beverage’s Chow Morso. (Chow Morso has since blossomed into it’s own LoDo brick-and-mortar.) After learning the ins and outs of service at Avanti, he has now debuted his own unique concept in the former Chow Morso stall, dubbed the Rotary.
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Gragg describes the Rotary’s menu as focusing on “wood-fired, rustic rotisserie meats and veggies with local, seasonal sides and sauces.” Some of what he cooks on the oak-fired, Brazilian-style rotisserie grill takes culinary inspiration from South America: the “picanha,” a beef sirloin cap that’s popular in Brazil, for example, pairs well with his bright Peruvian-style aji verde sauce as well as an herby chimichurri.
Other dishes—such as a side of rotisserie-charred cauliflower florets with golden raisins, toasted almond slivers, and a drizzle of tahini, or the grilled romaine Caesar salad with shaved radish—clearly aren’t Latin-derived. But the menu doesn’t feel disjointed, and the mix-and-match ordering style allows patrons a choose-your-own-adventure experience. Try a protein (juicy chicken thigh and pork shoulder are also available in addition to the aforementioned beef) as part of a rustic platter with one sauce and two side options, or enjoy the grilled meats (or even some of that charred cauliflower) on ciabatta bread as a sandwich.
Whatever you do, order a side of the Rotary’s house-made potato chips. The ultra-thin, crispy beauties are tossed with nutty brown butter, garlic, shaved Parmesan, lemon, and fresh parsley—it’s nearly impossible not to polish off an entire plateful. Pair them with New Belgium Brewing Company’s La Folie Sour Brown Ale for the ultimate treat.
Avanti Food & Beverage, 3200 N. Pecos St., 720-269-4778