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Ben Todd is really into fighter jets. Like really, really into fighter jets. He also makes a mean calzone, and while the connection between calzones and a Top Gun–style theme may not be immediately evident, he and his wife Hillary make a good case for marrying fighter jets and pizza pockets at their Broadway restaurant, Full Afterburner Calzones (formerly known as Danger Zone Calzones).
“If you like fighter jets or you’re ready to graduate from pizza, you belong here,” Ben says. His fascination with planes started when he was five, when his grandfather, an air force fighter pilot instructor in the late 1940s, gave him a toy jet. It obviously stuck, and he shared his love of aircraft with his wife of three years, who is also big into the Tom Cruise movie.
“We watch the movie once, maybe twice a week,” Hillary says of the ’80s classic. “I love Top Gun.’”
But the Todds insist that Full Afterburner isn’t an homage to the movie, but rather to the real-life fighter pilots and Topgun instructors. (Ben schooled us that Top Gun is the movie; Topgun is the naval fighter weapons school.) And indeed, the walls, and even the coolers, are covered with paintings and photographs of actual jets. But the movie plays a role, too, with previews for the upcoming Top Gun sequel cycling on the TV and the Maverick (chicken, Buffalo sauce, and mozzarella) and the Goose (pepperoni, marinara, mozzarella, and ricotta) popping up on the calzone menu.
While it’s easy to focus on the novelty of a fighter-jet-themed restaurant, the calzones are noteworthy even without the gimmick. Instead of being overly bready like most iterations, the Todds achieve the ideal dough-to-filling ratio, with just enough crispy bread to complement—not dominate—the fillings. The dough recipe comes from Ben’s college days, when he’d make it for hungry friends before perfecting it years later for the launch of the couple’s calzone food truck in 2018. The restaurant opened in January 2021, and in addition to offering F-16 and Tom Cruise action for dine in and takeout, Full Afterburner delivers to bars within walking distance, like the L and Canopy.
The name change from the original Danger Zone Calzones to the new Full Afterburner Calzones was sparked by calzone chain D.P. Dough trademarking “danger zone.” (Ironically, Paramount, which produces the Top Gun movies, had no problem with the Todds using the name.) For a new name, the Todds turned to their wingmen—literally. “In a fighter jet squadron, you don’t get to name yourself,” Ben says. “Your squad mates give you a nickname. It’s a really cool tradition. We asked the fighter jet guys we know, ‘What would you name us? Because this [the restaurant] is for you.’ They settled on Full Afterburner Calzones.” (The afterburner is the big fireball at the back of a jet.)
Besides the savory calzones (which also feature vegan meats by Northglenn-based Cholo Ass Vegan), the Todds bring the jet love to dessert, with a Nutella-stuffed That Lovin’ Feeling ’zone and, wait for it, 10 different fighter-jet-shaped sugar cookies, baked by Hillary.
And yes, this will be the place to be when the Top Gun sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, comes out in November. Because if you’re not eating a Maverick while watching Maverick, are you even really Top Gunning it?
Full Afterburner Calzones is open Sunday–Thursday, 11 a.m.–9 p.m. and Friday–Saturday, 11 a.m.–3 a.m., at 32 N. Broadway, 720-900-5282