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It makes sense, really. Multiple fast-casual eateries clustered together under one roof with a shared dining area originated in suburban malls—remember food courts?—so the “trend” of opening food halls in the ’burbs isn’t as revolutionary as it may seem. New or not, it’s happening all over the non-Denver Front Range. Food halls, so often associated with urban settings, are popping up in Golden, Aurora, Greenwood Village, and Westminster.
“My interest over the last couple years has been the periphery and underserved neighborhoods. A lot of these places have been overlooked. As people move out to the suburbs who’ve spent their time in downtown Denver, they still have the same sensibilities and interests. They want good food in a gathering spot,” says Mark Shaker, the developer behind Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace, Golden’s the Golden Mill, and Capitol Hill’s Broadway Market.
Shaker’s next suburban food hall—the recently announced Westminster Alley—will open next May in the redevelopment of the former Westminster Mall site. The 12,000-square-foot space will have five food stalls and a self-pour wall for beer, wine, and cocktails. Shaker is working with the city on common consumption permitting so that food hall-goers can take their drinks out into the development’s central square. As for the food, Shaker says the lineup of culinary tenants is still to be determined but will once again tap partner Jesusio Silva for a concept or two. (Silva runs restaurants out of all of Shaker’s halls, which serve everything from sushi and ramen to tacos.)
“I’m excited for the project,” Shaker says. “Westminster has the opportunity to create a distinctive cool spot between Denver and Boulder. I’m bullish on the neighborhood. I think there’s going to be a lot of movement to the periphery and finding those underserved areas. People [living in the suburbs] want what they enjoyed downtown, but don’t want to go downtown anymore.”
Chef-restaurateur Troy Guard also sees the potential in the suburbs. Guard opened his first restaurant, now-closed TAG, in the heart of downtown, but lately he’s been growing his mini-empire farther from the city center. His popular Mexican concept Los Chingones started in RiNo, but the latest outposts are in Stapleton, Denver Tech Center, and Lakewood. Next up, Guard will bring a food hall/brewery to Greenwood Village later this summer. Grange Hall will set up shop in the 13,000-square-foot former home of C.B. & Potts on South Greenwood Plaza Boulevard with nine food stalls, a microbrewery, and a central bar.
“For me, DTC has always seemed so business-forward,” Guard says. “Serving that working crowd for lunches and business dinners, lots of chain restaurants. With the residential neighborhoods in that area and it becoming a sort of entertainment district in its own right, we thought the community could really use and enjoy something like Grange Hall. We’ve seen Los Chingones do really well over there and wanted to create a space that offers something for everyone—from families and folks with kids, to date nights and happy hours and everything in between … The folks down there are hip and cool and shouldn’t always have to go downtown for fun.”
Bringing the fun outside of the city seems to be the common theme. A 54,500-square-foot venue equipped with an outdoor beer garden, vintage-style arcade, bowling alley, and rooftop patio called Pindustry also opened June 27 in Greenwood Village.
Why? Because suburban dwellers appreciate good food and entertainment, too, and our palates have evolved beyond unexceptional mall food court fare.