Review: Is The Kitchen Next Door Glendale the Next Big Thing?
The Kitchen Next Door Glendale
Danielle Lirette Sliders are some of the pub grub at The Kitchen Next Door Glendale.
658 South Colorado Boulevard Boulevard
You know how forty is the new thirty, and green is the new black? In restaurant terms,
The Kitchen Next Door is the new TGI Fridays.
If that sounds like a slur rather than a compliment, you're too young to remember the global chain in its early days, before endless $10 apps and outposts from Seoul to Sri Lanka. Describing what Fridays meant to the restaurant industry in 1973, a writer for Newsweek captured the phenomenon with this: "Police had to ring Friday's (as it quickly became known) with barricades to handle the nightly hordes of young singles. Hundreds of blatantly imitative emporiums soon opened their doors in scores of major cities -- and an industry was born."
With Fridays now in its 49th year, the phenomenon it birthed is now in middle age, and the newest breed of imitators looks as different from the first Fridays as streaming audio does from eight-track tapes. But as I downed a stiff margarita and snacked on kale chips at the six-month-old Kitchen Next Door Glendale, I saw two concepts with the same DNA, both trying to create a hip environment where folks could connect over drinks and grab a meal. Only at Next Door Glendale, hip means bare-bulb pendant lamps hanging from soaring ceilings, curved-leg cafe tables and green-and-white subway tile, not Tiffany-style lamps and red-and-white-striped awnings.
Danielle Lirette Inside the Kitchen Next Door in Glendale.
The Kitchen Next Door is a casual offshoot of the Kitchen, the high-end, community-oriented bistro founded in Boulder a decade ago at the lift-off point of the local, seasonal and sustainable movements. "When we thought of the Kitchen ten years ago, it resonated with people, and we called it a community restaurant," says co-founder Kimbal Musk. But "when you limit the community based on what people can afford, it doesn't feel good, so five years ago, [Hugo Matheson, co-founder, and I] put our heads together and said, 'There's got to be a way to put a lower price point to reach more people'" -- all the while keeping the food simple and the experience fun. The original Kitchen Next Door debuted in 2011 next to the Kitchen in Boulder; the third opened in Union Station just two weeks ago, two blocks from the Kitchen in downtown Denver.
In Glendale's CitySet, though, there is no Kitchen -- not next door or anywhere else. The Next Door brand has grown up and is cavorting among the other restaurants in this project, vying for your after-work dollars all on its own -- or as much on its own as kids with semi-famous parents can. In real terms, this means that instead of starting your meal with caviar or oysters on the half-shell, as you might at the Kitchen, you start with those kale chips and maybe some sliders, especially if you arrive before 6 p.m. and are taking advantage of the community-hour menu. And I suggest you do: Nothing on the abbreviated lineup of snacks and drinks is more than $5, and you can easily put together a small meal. Sliders, which come one to a plate, are offered in three versions, all on sweet, puffy brioche from Izzio (the bakery arm of what used to be Udi's). The cheeseburger slider, made with grass-fed, grass-finished Colorado beef, always disappeared first, even the night the patty straddled the line between well-seasoned and over-salted. Friends loved the pork slider, with arugula, salsa verde and the same slow-roasted pork that distinguishes the toasty cubano. But my favorite was the vegetarian option, made of beets rather than the more pedestrian black beans or quinoa. Topped with lemony arugula, caramelized onions and feta, the jewel-toned patty was good enough to make me wish I'd ordered the full portion.
Danielle Lirette Hummus as a starter at The Kitchen Next Door.
Not that I needed it, given the heaping basket of crispy garlic smashers we paired with the sliders. Fridays has its loaded potato skins, but Next Door Glendale has its mesmerizing smashers, which make you forget that fried foods aren't good for you and that you're trying to eat healthier these days, this being bathing-suit season and all. Blanched, pressed, roasted and fried, the labor-intensive fingerlings arrived with as many edges as an octopus, crispy tentacles of starch coated in raw-garlic butter, parsley and Parmesan. The hummus, which doesn't hide the fact that it's made from chickpeas and has more in common with chunky, country-style pâté than the silky, tahini-heavy version favored by Middle Eastern restaurants, was also very good, especially on grilled rounds of flatbread.
Keep reading for more on the Kitchen Next Door.