We all know that the Front Range is chock-a-block full of food halls, from retail-culinary hub Stanley Marketplace in Aurora to Scandi-chic Zeppelin Station in RiNo to cozy Tributary Food Hall & Drinkery in Golden. Each has its own personality and flavor, but there’s also a lot of repetition, be it the vendors, the represented cuisines, or the business model. Not so at Rosetta Hall, Boulder’s first official foray into the genre. (Avanti Food & Beverage’s northwestern outpost is scheduled to open in the former Cheesecake Factory on Pearl Street in spring 2020.)

For starters, Rosetta Hall is a gorgeous, multipurpose space located in the former Foundry nightclub on Walnut Street, next door to the Rio Grande. Inspired by food halls in Madrid, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, New Orleans, and beyond, CEO Donovan Greene worked with local artist Tiffany Mitchum to transform the vaulted building into a contemporary, community-driven space. (Mitchum is Greene’s step-mother and, incidentally, actor Robert Mitchum’s granddaughter; Doug Greene, Donovan’s father, and fellow Boulder Theater and Fox Theater co-owners Ron Levin and Don Strasburg are also co-owners.) There’s an elegant mix of modern and Old World lighting and materials throughout the hall, including exposed ductwork, marble-topped tables, metallic finishes, tufted velvet couches, and sparkling chandeliers.

To provide visitors with ample seating options, Mitchum designed pillow-strewn stadium risers, nooks with plush couches and chairs, bars on two floors, a quiet mezzanine (that can also be rented for private events), and an expansive rooftop patio replete with a happy hour oyster bar, luxe cabanas, fire pits, and even an area dubbed “the Boat,” where guests can recline on massive pillows and a thick turf floor. “We wanted multiple areas where people could hang out,” Greene says, “so it would be more than a food hall, but really a gathering place.” You can also order food and drink from any of the vendors no matter where you’re sitting (or lounging); its full-service remote ordering system is a first in the nation, according to Greene.

Boulderites are already gathering at Rosetta Hall in droves. During lunchtime last week, the space was packed and remained buzzing into the middle of the afternoon. A different vibe takes over on Friday and Saturday nights after the food vendors close their counters: That’s when local breakdancer Alex Milewski works the computer-controlled lighting system to create a dance club scene in the main hall. He’s inviting DJs from around the world to spin at Rosetta Hall, and bringing in local dancers to set the mood. Friday nights feature hip hop, while house music reigns on Saturdays. (Go on October 24 for a special Thursday Latin night.)

There are also plans for silent movie screenings in the main dining area and on the rooftop patio; you can don headphones to immerse yourself in the film, or simply hang out and watch the action on-screen, eating and drinking and chatting without disturbing those wearing headphones.

Of course, Rosetta Hall’s 10 unique culinary vendors (including eight restaurants, a coffee counter, and two locations of Rosetta’s Bar) are the primary reasons to visit. Apart from the already-known-and-loved local Boxcar Coffee Roasters, meat hero Justin Brunson’s Folsom Foods (classic American fare, with an emphasis on local cured meats), and chef Natascha Hess’ the Ginger Pig (formerly a food-truck-only concept featuring Asian street food), the menus at Rosetta Hall are the most diverse and thoughtful of any Front Range food hall.

At Eridu, chef Aaron Lande is cooking ancient grains, heirloom beans, and local produce and proteins in a beautiful, sustainable way. “I can’t cook the way I do without these ingredients, grown by my friends,” Lande says. His millet cakes, made with grains from Golden Prairie in Nunn (which happens to be the country’s largest grower of certified organic millet), are textural marvels, with crisp edges and a creamy center. Lande pairs them with a tangy green mojo sauce, ripe avocado, and a fried quail egg. The chef also created a local producer database for his fellow Rosetta Hall colleagues, so they can begin developing their own relationships with Colorado farmers and ranchers.

Chef Modou Jaiteh, who runs Jacaranda, already knew a number of area producers from his time cooking at the Stone Cup in Lyons; he learned of Rosetta Hall when he was introduced to Greene by Boulder ranchers Clint and MaryKay Buckner of Buckner Family Farms. (In fact, Donovan sought out chef recommendations from many area growers as he began canvassing for Rosetta Hall’s food concepts.) Jaiteh’s menu, inspired by his homeland of Gambia in West Africa, features Buckner lamb in a few dishes, including the stand-out “domoda,” a savory, eggplant-studded peanut butter stew. “We’ve been selling out every day,” Jaiteh says, “which is a very good problem to have.”

Other in-demand dishes: Confit’s 10-per-day-only dark chocolate soufflé and French onion soup gougeres, created by chef Dustin Brandt; the Colorado pastrami sandwich on marble rye (or the lox toast, if you go for breakfast) at Folsom Foods; crispy kara age (Japanese fried chicken) with smashed cucumber salad at the Ginger Pig; any tigella (a Bolognese sandwich) and the roasted pumpkin ravioli at Alberto Sabbadini’s La Tigella; the extraordinary cured carrot taco with salsa negra at Tierra, chef Joe Lee’s take on contemporary Mexican fare; and the towering Belgian chocolate cake at Julia Wirich’s patisserie, Petite Fleur. Drinks at Rosetta’s Bar by Curtis Worthley, formerly of New York City’s the Breslin and Ace Hotel, are perfect foils for all of the above.

Deliciousness aside, the business model at Rosetta Hall is perhaps the most impactful aspect of the endeavor—at least as far as the chefs cooking there are concerned. Most food halls act as incubators, setting chefs up with the infrastructure to run their businesses without an enormous outlay of capital. But at Rosetta Hall, Greene treats the chefs like musical artists signing on to a record label. “There are no fees, and the chefs don’t pay us. We pay them,” Greene says. By that, he means that the chefs don’t have to provide anything toward build-out aside from their kitchen tools and equipment, such as towels, tongs, and pots and pans. Greene built the chefs’ kitchens for them to their specifications, set them up with dishwashing, bussing, and server support, and only began taking money—22 percent of sales—after Rosetta Hall opened its doors.

As the Ginger Pigs’ Natascha Hess describes it, “It’s a real incubator in a way that other food halls aren’t. This way, I can grow and I don’t have to give up equity.” Greene’s commitment to local sourcing is also a boon to Rosetta Hall’s chefs. “It’s an opportunity for me to switch to more farm-to-table products, like using Hazel Dell mushrooms and Buckner lamb,” says Hess. “It’s a dream to use these ingredients at the Ginger Pig.”

Our dream? To return to Rosetta Hall to taste—and experience—even more of what it has to offer.

If you go: Rosetta Hall’s Boxcar Coffee bar and Folsom Foods open at 8 a.m. daily; all other vendors open at 11 a.m. and remain open until “late.” The dance hall opens “late” on Friday and Saturday nights. 1109 Walnut St., Boulder, 720-323-5509.

Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen is 5280’s former food editor. She oversaw all of 5280’s food-related coverage from October 2016 to March 2021.