Get ready for Grind III
August 2, 2014
Glenwood Springs' award-winning burger joint, Grind, has had a pretty charmed existence since it first opened in 2011, so it doesn't need anything particularly magical as it prepares to move into its third location in three years.
But a few new things will add to the ambiance of the popular eatery as it continues to grow its following among locals and tourists.
"It will be a little more grown up," co-owner Mike Mercatoris said of Grind's soon-to-open new location in the former Rib City Grill space at 701 Grand Ave., on the southwest corner of Seventh and Grand.
"We've been referring to it as 'G-III,'" he said.
With more than 20 beers on tap, plus an expanded menu including happy hour snack bar items and burgers available in "slider" sizes so that customers can mix and match, it will have more of pub feel, said Mercatoris, whose partners include Grind's founding chef Chris Heinz and longtime valley restaurateur/chef Henry Zheng.
"Lunch will be the same casual counter service, and as we slide into happy hour Chris has plans to serve up some small-plate American comfort food," Mercatoris said.
Heinz has also been working on some new fresh-ground meat burgers to add to the mix. And similar to brew pubs that serve up flights of sample-size beer, he'll be doing the same with slider-size orders of his famous burgers.
Grind, which has won multiple Locals' Choice awards and was recognized at last year's Denver Burger Battle, will continue to feature locally raised, grass-fed organic beef and lamb, ground in house. Most of its other meats, including buffalo, chicken and pork, come from the Rocky Mountain region as well.
Mercatoris said the move, which is still a couple of weeks out, wasn't anything against the current Grind location in the former Loft space in the King Mall at 720 Grand Ave.
But the landlord, Cushman King, who also happens to own the 701 Grand building, "made us an offer we couldn't refuse," Mercatoris said.
"He had some people looking at the space after Rib City left, but they wanted to turn it into a late night bar scene, and he wasn't comfortable with that, especially with the upstairs apartments," Mercatoris said. "He knew we had a following and more of a family draw, which was more what he was looking for."
WHAT’S THE PASSWORD?
The bonus attraction to the new location has been something of a hidden secret to the casual passer-by.
Beneath the 3,000-square-foot, street-front restaurant space is a basement area of the same size, accessed through a side door and down some stairs off of Seventh Street.
The new tenants have been busy converting the space into what will be a throw-back, underground "speakeasy" lounge catering more to the after-dinner crowd.
"It hasn't been used for anything except storage, but with some work we decided it would be great to use it for a public gathering space," Mercatoris said.
Speakeasies were typically hidden, often basement-level drinking halls during the alcohol prohibition era in the 1920s that could be accessed only by using a special password.
While it's all legal now, there's still an out-of-the-way, hidden feel to the place, Mercatoris said.
"There's no cell reception down there, so people can't find you," he joked. "It's a great place to sit in a corner or huddle with friends and enjoy a real cocktail."
Even at that, he said he's not going for the full-on bar scene.
"It's not going to be for the raucous, late-night drinking crowd, but it will be nice for tourists or anyone just looking to extend their evening beyond dinner," he said.
Speakeasy hours are likely to be from 8 p.m. until midnight or 1 a.m. "We want to get people out early, and home safely," Mercatoris said. "That's a big priority for us."
When not in use as a cocktail lounge, the downstairs space can be used to cater special events, he added.
That can either include catering from one of ZG Hospitality's three restaurants, Grind, the Riviera Supper Club and Zheng's Asian Bistro, "or they can cater in food from somewhere else."
The former Rib City kitchen was large enough to remodel and incorporate both Grind's burger kitchen, and a full commercial-size catering kitchen, Mercatoris said.
A LITTLE HISTORY
The new digs will also feature all-new decor, with a bit of Roaring Fork Valley and American history thrown in.
A solid black walnut bar top for the downstairs lounge came from the Mountain Dragon in Snowmass Village, which was owned by Mercatoris' uncle for 32 year before he decided to close this spring.
Also, the long community table tops are made from the hatch covers of World War II-era Liberty ships. Those also had been featured in his uncle's restaurant for many years.
"The space really lent itself to more of an industrial look," Mercatoris said. "There will be a lot of natural wood and darker brown colors."
Among the holdovers from the current Loft space will be the 12-foot projection television, perfect for watching the big game, and a retro video game area that has proven to be popular with the kids while they're waiting for their food to be served.
Most everything else, including the kitchen equipment and the existing wooden tables, are going to stay in the Loft area. Mercatoris said they are actively looking for another operator to take over their lease on that space.
"We have been talking to some people about using that space, but nothing yet," he said. "We'll work together with our landlord to find the next tenant."
Because of some of the efficiencies involved with having a string of successful restaurants, Mercatoris said the move to the new Grind space is being done for just a fraction of the typical cost of around $1 million to move a restaurant or start from scratch.
While the general contractor is from Fort Collins, virtually all of the subcontractors are local, he said, in keeping with the local, sustainable theme of their various restaurants.
Grind first opened in 2011 in the small building just around the corner on Seventh Street that is now home to the Slope & Hatch gourmet hot dog and taco eatery.