Interstate Kitchen + Bar's Andre Lobato on a SWAT team invasion, eating a fried tarantula and the demise of some of Denver's best restaurants
Interstate Kitchen + Bar
901 West Tenth Avenue
"The idea, when we opened, was to accommodate industry people and chefs, bartenders, cab drivers, doctors, anyone who worked off hours," says Andre Lobato, explaining the origins of Interstate Kitchen + Bar, the late-night American restaurant in the Santa Fe Arts District that he owns with his brother, Aaron, and best friend, Joseph Newman. "I'm not going to lie: The first couple of months were tough -- this is a tough location -- and we did a lot of soul-searching, repeatedly asking ourselves what we'd gotten ourselves into. But things have really taken off recently, and the neighborhood, which I love, is definitely responding, and our late-night business is booming."
Lobato is hardly a newcomer to the industry. He got his first gig when he was eleven, doing prep work at 14th Street Bar & Grill, the Boulder joint his parents opened in 1988 and recently sold to a restaurant group that includes Bryan Dayton, a former mixologist at Frasca Food & Wine. "I started out making pizza dough, shredding cheese and cleaning, eventually graduated to pantry, and by the time I left, at eighteen, I was doing grill and saute," remembers Lobato, who then moved to San Francisco, where he spun sugar at Eos Restaurant and Wine Saloon.
He later cooked in New York, spent a year and a half kicking back in Southeast Asia, did some time at Syzygy in Aspen, and spent six years working the front of the house at Lola before heading back to Boulder and 14th Street, to help his brother-in-law in the kitchen. By that time, Lobato had logged a whole lot of hours on the line -- and no one was more surprised by that than he. "When I was younger, I was absolutely certain that I didn't want to be a chef -- or be in the restaurant business at all, for that matter. That was my parents' thing," he acknowledges. "But the more I worked in the industry, the more I enjoyed it, plus I realized that I was pretty damn good at it -- that I really enjoy craftsman-level, blue-collar work."
We recently caught up with Lobato at Interstate, where, between eating lap dogs and deviled eggs and popping popcorn, he talked about opening a new restaurant, the day the SWAT team invaded 14th Street, and how he found himself on the losing side of a bet in Cambodia.