Alex Seidel: Thinking outside the box for Mercantile Dining & Provision
Union Station is hosting its grand opening on Saturday, July 26, two weeks behind schedule -- but one of the restaurants going into the historic building is even further down the track: Mercantile Dining & Provision. Still, Mercantile -- a 5,000 square foot restaurant in the north wing helmed by Alex Seidel -- should be worth waiting for.
Ellen Jaskol Alex Seidel announcing his plans for Mercantile Dining & Provision last January.
See also: Slide show of Fruition Farms
"It is a dream to be creating a brand-new concept in such a spectacular space," said chef/owner Alex Seidel last January, in announcing his plans to join other local ventures in Union Station. "We look forward to coming together with our neighbors at Union Station to make this a successful landmark for downtown Denver and the entire state of Colorado."
Those neighbors include Jen Jasinski and Beth Gruitch, the team that opened Rioja in Larimer Square ten years ago and have since taken over Bistro Vendôme and created Euclid Hall; they opened Stoic & Genuine in the south wing of the station two weeks ago. Snooze and the Kitchen Next Door, concepts from local restaurant groups with multiple locations, also have restaurants at Union Station -- and the management crews in place to help take on additional projects. But this is only Seidel's second restaurant -- though his first, Fruition, snagged the Best New Restaurant award in the Best of Denver 2008, just months after it made its debut.
"We set out to do a small, simple restaurant, not to blaze any trails," he told Westword in his 2009 Chef and Tell interview. "The positive reaction has been fantastic, but we never expected this kind of attention. I'm just a simple chef who cooks food."
A simple chef who continues to collect accolades from around the country and who won the Outstanding Professional Award from the Colorado Restaurant Association this spring.
And now he's a simple chef who's opening a much bigger restaurant -- the Mercantile kitchen is bigger than all of Fruition, Seidel points out -- in a historic building that came with a unique set of complications, which required endless revisions of the concept.
"It's been really hard to see the light of day," Seidel says. "It's the most challenging project not just for me, but for other people who've been doing it through all the years. Coming from a little 1,400-square-foot restaurant on Sixth Avenue, it's certainly been challenging jumping to 5,000. I'm not afraid to admit that it's challenging."
The Wisconsin native began working in kitchens when he was just fourteen, then studied culinary arts in Portland. From there he moved to California, where he cooked alongside chef Hubert Keller. He continued to hone his craft in other noteworthy West Coast kitchens before packing up for Vail and a job as chef de cuisine at Sweet Basil. Several countries and cooking stints later, Seidel landed at Mizuna, where he was the executive chef for four years before leaving to open Fruition -- with just $50,000 -- in the tiny space that had once housed Sean Kelly's Clair de Lune.
Keep reading for more on Alex Seidel's Mercantile Dining & Provision