Exclusive: Troy Guard opening TAG|Raw Bar in Lowry, reconceptualizing Larimer Square space
Troy Guard is easily one of Denver's most prolific restaurateurs, a chef-owner who, in the past year alone, has opened three restaurants: Los Chingones, Sugarmill and Guard and Grace, a trio that joins TAG, TAG|Raw Bar and Tag Burger Bar, the latter of which will multiply later this year, when Guard opens a second TAG Burger Bar in the former Subway Tavern space in Sunnyside. And while he already has a tremendous amount on his plate, including numerous charity and chef gigs (on May 15, he'll celebrate TAG's fifth anniversary with the help of twelve of Denver's best chefs, the proceeds of which will benefit a local bulldog rescue group), there's more to come: In late September, he'll open a second TAG|Raw Bar in Lowry, and on July 1, he'll temporarily close the original TAG|Raw Bar in Larimer Square and reopen it on July 15 as a new, still unnamed concept.
"We're going to change the Larimer Square location to make it a quick-casual concept," reveals Guard, who says that the board will be "geared toward lighter, healthier food with a clean conscience that's a little less expensive than everything else on Larimer Square." He notes, too, that while TAG|Raw Bar has done very well in its subterranean space in the Larimer Square Walkway, he realized that there were definite favorites on the menu, most notably the noodle bowls, rice bowls and salad bowls, and the idea behind propelling the change, he tells me, is to "give people what they want" -- and what they want, he says, is food that's easily available to go and quickly prepared if you're eating in.
To that end, he'll eliminate most of the sushi from the current menu, although he'll keep a few rolls that will lean toward simplicity: tuna, salmon and kampachi, for example. Guard, who now has three different ramen bowls on the board, will dwindle that number down to one, keeping just his pork ramen, and he'll offer seven or eight different styles of signature noodle bowls, most of which will focus on cold noodles. In addition, he's playing with the idea of giving guests the option of building their own bowls from a collection of raw vegetables, proteins, grains and noodles, including gluten-free noodles.
He'll reconfigure the seating in the space, devoting most of the changes to the second dining area (the counter overlooking the open kitchen will remain in place), where he'll add a condiment bar. "The second side will be a lot more casual, a lot brighter, cleaner and mainstream," says Guard, who also plans to dispense with the cocktail menu, although he'll continue to pour wine and beer, and he'll dedicate a large portion of the beverage program to fresh-squeezed juices and iced teas.
When he reopens the spot, hours will be from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and while he hasn't solidified a name for the redesigned raw bar, he says that "TAG" won't be a part of it.
He'll keep the original name, however, when he opens TAG|Raw Bar in Lowry's Hangar 2 "dining district," a mixed-use project that's spearheaded by Larimer Associates and Hartman-Ely Investments.
Guard's 1,800-square-foot, fifty-seat plot, which also boasts a 40-seat patio, will join four additional restaurants: Cafe Mercato, a freestanding Italian restaurant from Giancarlo Macchiarella, exec chef-owner of Locanda del Borgo; the already existing Lowry Beer Garden; a Larimer Associates concept that's still unnamed; and another restaurant tenant that's still in the works.