An exclusive first look of the new Squeaky Bean, opening Monday
That was the overriding footnote last night at the Squeaky Bean, the tongue-in-cheek restaurant that Bean king Johnny Ballen originally unleashed in Highland in May of 2009. And during the three years that the Squeaky Bean resided in Highland, it generated a cult following, thanks to a staff, led by Ballen, that made damn sure that you had a great time, and Max MacKissock, the executive chef of the Squeaky Bean, whose whimsical, astonishingly innovative cooking, echoed in seasonal dedication, is beyond reproach.
And the new Squeaky Bean, which opens Monday in the historic Saddlery building at 1500 Wynkoop Street following two nights of practice dinners and the weekend to recuperate, is everything (and more) that Ballen, MacKissock and the Bean team -- many of whom were staff at the original Bean, including the entire kitchen crew -- envisioned. "The Bean is three peas in a pod: pride personality and passion," says Ballen, "and while it took us a while to find the right space and to open, it gave us all time to sit down and really think about what we wanted to do, and we knew that we wanted it to have the seem feeling as the old Bean, and I think we've more than accomplished that."
The space, which exposes wooden floors and beams, a horseshoe-shaped bar, wooden tables and crescent-shaped booths, floor-to-ceiling windows and an exhibition kitchen with counter seating, is far larger than the old Bean, but the convivial vibrancy, the irreverent accents (like the nine-shooter retro autobar that Ballen picked for his host stand) and the same guts and glory have been preserved -- and, if anything, surpassed. "I think people will like this Bean better than the first one," predicts Ballen. "There are so many things that we couldn't do at the old Bean -- we weren't even set up to scramble eggs -- and now we can do just about everything," he adds, including accommodating larger parties and giving guests a place to hang if there's a wait list.
He notes, too, that there's no artwork mounted to the walls, a conscientious decision that was made so that guests would focus on the food in front of them. "The artwork is on the plate," points out Ballen, referring to the strikingly composed dishes that emerge from MacKissock's kitchen.