Most great ideas begin with a want or need for something that doesn’t quite exist yet. The Chop Shop Casual Urban Eatery is no different. Owner and chef Clint Wangsnes was tired of frequenting the same-old fast-casual stops and feeling unimpressed with the options, so he partnered with owner and general manager Christian Anderson to invent an alternative. Wangsnes took the inspiration of what he’d like to feed his kids (a kindergartner and toddler), departed from his post as Zengo’s executive chef, and started a restaurant that also serves as a training ground for kids to learn to love wholesome food.

The basis for Chop Shop—which opened its first location on East Colfax in 2014 before opening a second outpost in Lowry this past January—is high-quality ingredients with the fast service young families crave. “We push to take the overall fast-casual experience up a notch,” Anderson says. “Parents shouldn’t have to be worried about taking their kids out to a nice dinner. At Chop Shop we just like to make the experience easy on everyone.”

Easy it is. The experience is similar to other fast-casual spots: Order at the counter, fill up your own drinks, wait at your table with a number for about 10 minutes, and voilà—dinner is served. But that’s about all that Chop Shop copies. Choose from plates like the 48-hour slow-cooked short rib (my husband says to spring for the large order), fried rice, or the grilled bacon-wrapped meatloaf—one of Anderson’s favorite dishes. The kids’ menu is no different with standards like mac ‘n’ cheese with house-made cheese sauce to more adventurous options like crispy fried tofu. Whatever you order, don’t miss the crispy Brussels sprouts with the nuac cham (a Vietnamese dipping sauce) and dill yogurt.

“We’re not limited to a certain style of food,” Anderson says. “From fried rice to a kids’ corndog, we can span a lot of ground with menu options. We get everything local when possible and the steak on the kids’ menu is exactly the same steak from the adult filet.”

And as you finish up your plate, you’ll be tempted to order one more craft brew (or wine) from local spots like the Denver Beer Co. and Infinite Monkey Theorem. Instead of feeling rushed from your table, you’ll enjoy the same “have one more round” atmosphere of your favorite brewery. It’s just comfortable. The benches at the tables sit a little higher so even toddlers can belly right up to the table without a booster. And when the weather is warm, the garage doors slide up for an open-air environment.

It’s not hard to picture my family opting for Chop Shop, an ideal middle ground where we can all leave satisfied—but with just enough room to grab a sweet treat from Glacier’s Ice Cream shop just a few doors down.

  • Cost: $$
  • Parking: Right in front
  • Try It: Chop Shop-Lowry, 200 Quebec St., 303-364-1102; Chop Shop-Colfax, 4990 E. Colfax Ave., 720-550-7665;