GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Derek Bray was under some pressure to come up with a name for his new restaurant for licensing purposes last summer, when two of the main things that brought him to the Western Slope came to mind.
With that, Slope & Hatch — slope for skiing, hatch for fly-fishing — was born.
His menu concept is just as unique as the name.
Take a couple of street-vendor classics, hot dogs and tacos, add some modern American and international flare, and serve them up in the comfy confines of a busy downtown street-front location.
“I love hot dogs and tacos, and they’ve become my favorite way to experiment with global cuisine,” says Bray. “You can put just about anything into a taco shell or on top of a hot dog. It’s just a great way to incorporate flavors from all over the world.”
Bray and his business partner, Alex Wieczorek, who also happens to be his girlfriend, opened the Slope & Hatch last September at 208 Seventh St., in the space formerly occupied by Grind before it moved around the corner last summer.
After growing up in Michigan and graduating from Michigan State University, Bray, 33, cut his teeth in the restaurant business in Pittsburgh, Pa., training under renowned chef Ronald DeLuca Jr. at a popular Italian restaurant called Pangea.
“He was definitely my restaurant and chef mentor,” Bray said of DeLuca, who even came to Glenwood Springs to help Bray with the menu and kitchen set-up before handing the reins over to him and chief chef Mike Meador.
After some trial and error to help determine what worked best and what customers liked, they settled on an 18-item taco and hot dog menu.
“All of the tacos were developed one at a time, until we found what people wanted,” Bray said. “One of things I love is Colorado lamb, so I knew I wanted to have at least two lamb items.”
On the taco side, in addition to Curried Lamb and a Lamb Gyro, choices include a Thai Veggie Stir Fry and Margarita Grilled Shrimp, in keeping with the global cuisine theme.
“Any of our tacos can be served on lettuce cups, if people prefer,” adds Wieczorek. “We want to make sure people know we can cater to a lighter menu, just ask your server.’
For the hot dog lover, in addition to the classic Chicago Dog and New York-style Coney Dog, there’s also a Glenwood Completo, featuring avocado, pico and ancho chili mayo, and one of chef Meador’s creations, the Carolina dog, with pulled pork and chipotle bourbon BBQ sauce.
“Mike makes the best chili I’ve ever had, so we had to do a Coney Dog,” Bray said of one of the more popular choices on the menu.
All-natural casing hot dogs from the Continental Sausage Co. out of Denver are used, and the toppings are prepped fresh daily, Bray said.
“We do try to source locally as much as we can, while still keeping our price point,” he said.
Wieczorek, 32, grew up in Oklahoma before moving to Colorado, where she met Bray a couple of years ago in Gunnison where they worked together doing title research.
In addition to catering to the bustling lunchtime crowd in downtown Glenwood Springs, the Slope & Hatch is also open well into the evening, including until midnight on weekends.
“We looked at a lot of different locations before settling on this one,” Bray said. “It’s perfect, and we love the downtown scene.”
With several other new restaurants opening in the downtown area in the coming months, Bray said he’s looking forward to spring when there will be a little more pedestrian activity.
Besides its hot dog and taco fare, Slope & Hatch also features a selection of beer on tap and has several specialty drinks, including house-made margaritas and bloody marys.
One hope is to tap into the late-night, bar crowd business by staying open until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights.
Regular hours at Slope & Hatch are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Also part of the regular staff at Slope & Hatch are servers TLC Whitely and Madesen Fineout.
“We looked at a lot of different locations before settling on this one. It’s perfect, and we love the downtown scene.”
Slope & Hatch co-owner