Mar 27, 2014, 12:12pm MDT Updated: Mar 28, 2014, 1:49pm MDT
Reporter-Dennis Huspeni, DENVER BUSINESS JOURNAL
Grimaldi’s famous New York pizzeria, which fired its Colorado ovens for the first time March 24, joins two more recently-opened restaurants looking for success at the Denver Pavilions this summer.
Gart Properties, which owns the retail and entertainment complex on the Denver’s 16th Street Mall, moved Jerri’s Tobacco Shop & Fine Wine from its long-time location across Glenarm Place, which allowed Grimaldi’s to open its first Colorado location.
It landed 5280 Burger Bar and its adjoining ice cream shop, the first Colorado restaurant by former Austin restaurateur Clay McPhail, and former Steamboat Springs developer Don Redlinger, across the courtyard. And finally, the company in November welcomed Lime: An American Cantina in its move from Larimer Square, where it had been for 13 years, to the third floor above the Hard Rock Cafe.
“We’re proud to have locally-owned restaurants in the mix,” said Mark Sidell, president of Gart Properties.
Denver Business Journal subscribers can find out more about Gart’s efforts to make that courtyard “the epicenter” of Denver Pavilions in Friday’s print edition.
Lime owner Curt Sims said he was worried about the third-floor location — which usually spells bad news for 16th Street mall retailers or restaurants — but Gart bent over backwards to make the 8,000-square-feet space a success.
“We were scared we wouldn’t have any business,” he said of the soft opening on Black Friday 2013.
But the fans of Lime found it — as did a whole new lunch crowd the Larimer Square location never experienced.
“Lunches have been fantastic,” Sims said. “The business crowds from the local office buildings just found out about us and they’re always looking for new places to try. … This is our first experience at a high-volume lunch.”
Lime designers also created a back-bar with a patio facing the movie theater to create intimacy, a massive main tequila bar and garage doors lining the dining area walls over the mall.
“Lime has always been known for its patios,” Sims said. “We felt like this was a great opportunity with the [garage] doors around the whole restaurant. It’s so unique … “
“The views are great and it really worked. People go straight for those windows. We hope it feels as open as a patio deck once we’re able to open them up this summer,” he added.
A grand opening event is planned for Cinco de Mayo.
The 5280 Burger Bar opened in February, again with no marketing.
With the counter service during lunches, and full wait service for dinners, Redlinger said they wanted to make sure the kitchen was performing well before a full marketing effort.
“We’ve spent a month perfecting it,” he said.
The Colorado Convention Center close by has helped drive word-of-mouth traffic, especially when a recent college volleyball event drew hundreds of hungry players.
“We’re at double the sales since we first started,” Redlinger said.
The key ingredients, like buns and sauces, are all made in-house. And the ice cream shop has been a hit.
“We had a $1,500-sale day in the middle of winter, which is a great number – it’s going to be a hit this summer,” he said.
Grimaldi’s S. Cory Lattuca, executive chef, said the company received a lot of requests to open a Colorado location. The restaurant chain got its start in Brooklyn and churns out thin-crust, “clean-burning” coal-fired pizza.
Officials said the secret is in the crust and the water used to make it. So to keep the “integrity” of that crust it “hired a chemist to analyze and recreate the mineral content” of the water here to exactly duplicate the Brooklyn crust.
“We were excited to introduce it to a great foodie city like Denver, where it can truly be appreciated,” said Lattuca.
Dennis Huspeni covers real estate and retail for the Denver Business Journal and writes for the “Real Deals” blog. Phone: 303-803-9232.