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The Ginger Pig, the popular Asian-street-food- inspired Boulder food truck-turned-Rosetta Hall stall, is opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Denver’s Berkeley neighborhood this summer, in the former home of Scratch Burrito. The extra space that the 2,000-square-foot restaurant affords—up from a mere 120 square feet that chef-owner Natascha Hess had to work with on her truck and 140 square feet at the food hall—means additional offerings, like Japanese soufflé pancakes for brunch, an Asian-inspired cocktail program, and Shibuya honey toast for dessert.
“It’s an opportunity we can’t pass up,” Hess says. “The goal this whole time has been to open a restaurant in Denver. I think our food’s come a long way, and we’re just having a lot of fun having more space and being able to do more.”
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Hess dreamed up the Ginger Pig truck five years ago, inspired by the time she spent living in Beijing with a host family. There, she cooked with Nalu, her Chinese “mom,” who taught her to make delicacies like boiled dumplings, Chinese borscht, and Szechuan spicy eggplant—a dish that Hess has been working on for years and which will finally make it onto the Ginger Pig’s restaurant menu. “That’s the dish that really made me want to cook Chinese food, and cook professionally. It took me five years to get this right, and I’m really excited to bring that to Denver.”
Other new things at the Berkeley restaurant will include what’s bound to be a must-eat brunch, featuring twists on the truck’s famous char siu (with eggs) and Bangkok balls (as a base for eggs Benedict), along with new dishes like congee specials and those Instagram-sensation fluffy soufflé pancakes. Hess will also make more desserts, salads, soups, and seafood items, and she’s hiring a beverage director to create custom cocktails crafted with local spirits.
Hess left Rosetta Hall to focus all of her energy and resources on building her dream restaurant, and she also parted ways professionally—at least temporarily—with her restaurant group partner Carrie Baird. Earlier this year, Baird left Bar Dough to form a new restaurant group with Hess called That’s What She Said. The two shared ownership of the Ginger Pig and Baird’s Rosetta Hall concept, Rose’s Classic Americana, but when the novel coronavirus hit, they felt like the best thing to do was for each to focus fully on their own concepts.
“We’re hoping to work together in the future,” Hess says. “She lives close to where the restaurant will be, so she’ll be there a lot. I think going through all this COVID stuff together has really reinforced our relationship. I feel ready to do this restaurant in part because of this extra training I’ve gotten working with her.”
While Hess revamps the former burrito-centric cantina to have more of a Ginger Pig feel, she plans to park her food truck out front to get the neighborhood as excited as she is about the new spot. The truck will remain in place once the restaurant opens, too, where it will host pop-ups with the industry food friends she’s made along the way. “We want to incorporate the community we came from and make this fun,” she says. “We want to make it more of a community space where people can come and use the truck to teach classes on pie making, whole animal butchery, or cheese making.”
Look for the Ginger Pig truck to start serving in Berkeley in August, and for the restaurant’s debut in early fall.