Exclusive first look: The Slotted Spoon Meatball Eatery opens February 4
The Slotted Spoon, Denver's first bona fide meatball emporium, opens on Monday, February 4, and while that's more than a week away, co-owner and chef Jensen Cummings, along with his partners, Johnny Coast and Alex Comisar, are way ahead of the curve (ball).
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"Everything we've done has been purposeful and deliberate -- we don't want to be impatient," says Cummings, the former exec chef of Row 14, who left late last year to concentrate on slinging balls in a fast-casual environment.
"We care about the little details, and we want to be thorough and stay in front of all the issues that plague a restaurant when it opens, so we're taking our time to properly train our staff," he adds, noting that he and his partners have had their liquor license and CO for more than two weeks. "We won't be under the gun because we've had time to train everyone properly, and because we started early, we're working eight hours a day instead of sixteen so we don't burn out."
Nonetheless, the space -- simultaneously rustic, whimsical, sleek and industrial -- is complete. And the juxtaposition of light woods, exposed beams and metallic piping, black-and-white prints of slotted spoons, imperfect concrete floors, crimson chairs, each of which is constructed from 111 recycled Coca-Cola bottles and faux-granite bar that peeks into a large open kitchen incensed with the sniffs and whiffs of garlic, fresh herbs and simmering sauces, is indicative of a restaurant that takes design seriously -- but doesn't overreach.
"The open kitchen is a pretty big part of experience and design," says Cummings. "I'm really big on transparency, from the products in our kitchen to the actual processes that we use to create the food, and I want our guests and our team to be equally engaged with each other." He acknowledges, too, that spending "so many years trenching in the back of the house," limited his interaction with guests. "When I was in the back-of-the-house, all I ever heard was guest complaints, but now we get to see the good and the bad, and we get to publicly showcase our personalities and passion -- there's nowhere to hide," he points out.
And there will be plenty of opportunities to showcase his meatballs, too, all of which, says Cummings, "derived their inspiration from another country." And while he insists that none of the balls is exotic -- "the familiarity is there," promises Cummings -- they're not deprived of creativity. "We've got a fun and playful menu, but we're just not using a heavy hand. We want this to be a place that's approachable for everyone."