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Duncan Holmes didn’t want to leave Colorado, but he did want to run his own restaurant. He’d already cooked his way across California’s Napa Valley and Denmark, risen to the role of chef de cuisine at Sons & Daughters in San Francisco, and had been the culinary director at Frasca Food and Wine, one of the best restaurants in Colorado, for over two years. Then, this past spring, on the verge of leaving town to open a restaurant in Sacramento, California, fellow chef Kelly Whitaker (of Basta in Boulder and the forthcoming Wolf’s Tailor in Sunnyside) introduced Holmes to local entrepreneur Craig Lieberman, of 34 Degrees crisps, who was looking to hire a chef for a new venture. One look at the adjacent RiNo houses that Lieberman was transforming into two restaurants—Beckon and Call (which they style as Beckon | Call, for the record)—and Holmes decided to stay.
But the team behind the concepts wasn’t complete until Allison Anderson, long-time beverage manager at Frasca, signed on to run the hospitality side of the project. Together, with support from Lieberman and initial consultation from Whitaker, Holmes and Anderson have conceived two restaurants that are poised to bring something unique and immersive to Denver’s dining scene.
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Call, the white house on the north side of the lot, is scheduled to open on Tuesday, December 12. Before you even enter the restaurant, you will notice the stunning moon mural on the adjacent brick wall, painted by local artist Stella Maria Baer. Over the course of a month, Bear worked diligently to accurately depict the 47 moons that orbit closest to the sun, symbolism that unites Call with Beckon: circles, progression, day to night.
“I love round things,” says Lieberman, which should come as no surprise given the shape and concentric circle design of his delicious crackers. “In the Australian Aboriginal culture, circles mean ‘home’ or ‘hearth,’” he says, “which brings to mind people gathering together over food.” (Following suit, the simple signage of a back-lit, moon-like circle will be all that, er, beckons diners to Beckon.)
But back to Call: It will do double duty as both a daytime cafe and evening neighborhood joint, but quite unlike anything seen in Denver before. The space is so small—about 650 square feet—that diners will essentially be inside the open working kitchen no matter where they sit. Holmes and Anderson planned it that way. “We want our guests to be enticed from the moment they walk in the door,” Anderson says. To that end, a counter display of pastries, breads, salads, juices, and the like will welcome guests early in the day; come evening, that display will evolve into dinner fare, from oysters and bottles of wine on ice to little toasts topped with house-marinated fish. “We don’t want people to have to read a menu as soon as they come in,” Holmes says, “but rather take a few things from the counter, order a drink, and start talking to the cooks to find out what else is available.”
Early in the day, those cooks might hand you a cone of puffy, spherical Dutch pancakes (aebleskiver) topped with bittersweet blood orange marmalade, or a hearty toast dressed in broccoli rabe pesto, mozzarella, and giardiniera. Or maybe a pork sandwich on Call’s pretzel roll, a bowl of chicken and brown rice stew, or a fresh citrus tart layered with Meyer lemon curd.
At dinner, croquettes might come off the fry station, or there will be a dish (from a total of five or six large plates) featuring parts of a whole animal from Clint and MaryKay Buckner of Boulder Lamb & Meats. No matter the time of day, all breads and pastries will be made in-house, and most will use grains freshly milled on the premises; Whitaker’s Noble Grain Alliance is helping Holmes source local product. There will also be a cheese program, including fresh chèvre from Rivers Edge Chévre in Portland, Oregon, and marinated feta from Meredith Dairy in Australia. “That feta is the best cheese I’ve had in my life,” Lieberman says, “and I’ve eaten a lot of cheese.”
The beverage program at Call will center around eight taps pouring beer, wine, a house cocktail, kombucha, and more; a concise cocktail menu; and a showstopping red Mavam espresso machine, the first of its kind in Denver. While Call won’t offer pour over or drip coffee, the Mavam set-up will provide excellent espresso drinks for Denverites in need of a caffeine buzz.
Brilliant design work has gone into making Call’s tiny space functional and hospitable. Architectural firm Nguyen Lawrence, which also designed Hop Alley and Dio Mio, has built retractable stadium seating to grant guests a casual spot to park, nibble, and hang out; the scene at Call will change as the seating pushes back and tables and chairs come out for dinner. Other fun elements that convey the whimsy and hospitality of the concept include tin can radios that hang along the dining rail that spans the length of the restaurant—put each can to your ear to hear a call-themed song (think: the Ghostbusters theme).
Due to city liquor license delays, Call will only be open for breakfast and lunch until the new year; as soon as the license comes through, dinner hours will begin. Beckon, the fine dining restaurant next door, won’t open until later this spring. When it does, it will bring Denver its first high-end, chefs’-counter, tasting-menu-only experience, in the vein of Paris’ L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon Etoile and Manhattan’s Atera. Holmes and Anderson will host 17 guests at each of two seatings per night, serving multiple courses influenced by Holmes’ time in Denmark, California, and of course, Colorado.
We can hardly wait.
Call will open on Tuesday, December 12; initial hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays; walk-in only. 2845 Larimer St., 303-954-0230, call-denver.com