Glenwood’s Grind quickly finding its niche
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – It isn’t often that local restaurant owner Mike Mercatoris opens an application letter for a front-house job and reads the words “trained chef.”
But that’s what he got when he hired Chris Heinz at Zheng Asian Bistro, the Glenwood Springs restaurant that Mercatoris co-owns with chef Ming “Henry” Zheng.
Instead of letting that kind of talent get away, Mercatoris and Zheng decided to help Heinz realize his dream of running his own restaurant one day.
After working as manager of Zheng’s Glenwood Meadows location for the past several years, Heinz is now the brainchild behind one of Glenwood Springs’ hottest new lunchtime and evening eateries, the Grind gourmet burger restaurant on Seventh Street.
“One of our main goals is to work with people who want to stay in the business, and help them grow,” said Mercatoris, who partnered up with Heinz to open Grind.
“We want to create opportunities by using our background and experience to help people do what they love, and do it where they live,” he said.
That homegrown model is what Grind is all about as well.
The name literally means the restaurant grinds its own locally-grown beef and other meats in-house daily. The beef and lamb comes from Crystal River Meats in Carbondale, which is grass-fed and free of antibiotics and hormones.
Buffalo meat, chicken and pork used at the Grind is also produced in Colorado and around the Rocky Mountain region.
“We had a great response right from the day we opened,” Heinz said of the small eatery, which is located in the narrow old storefront where Mancinelli’s Pizza used to be a few years ago. “A lot of my friends started talking it up … we were full before we even put our sign up.”
Heinz, 32, completed culinary school in Oregon, and his resume includes a stint at Portland’s famous Noble Rot Wine Bar restaurant.
Tripadvisor.com recently wrote in one of its online restaurant reviews, “Grind seems like something a chef would do on his day off.”
Indeed, Heinz admits he tries to have fun with it.
In addition to standards like the All-American and Richie’s Lunch (named for co-chef Richie Green) hamburgers, BBQ pork sandwich and buffalo burgers, Grind features the Medi and Tandoori lamb burgers, a Chicken Cordon Bleu and ahi tuna sandwiches.
Customers can also build their own sandwiches from a long menu of choices, including more than 25 toppings and 22 different sauces.
There’s also a daily special, such as Thursday’s Drunken Buffalo with beer-battered onion rings and a sweet-and-sour chicken sandwich that built on a Zheng favorite.
“It was all the flavors in Zheng’s sweet-and-sour chicken, in a bun,” said Mercatoris, who has been with Zheng for 18 years, including several years at the Mountain Dragon in Snowmass Village.
They opened the original Zheng location in El Jebel nine years ago, and the Glenwood restaurant five years ago.
The local theme at the Grind extends to the interior look, which was designed by local artists. The table tops are even made of salvaged beetle kill from Vail.
“The nice thing about the partnership is that a lot of what Chris does here carries over to Zheng,” Mercatoris said. For instance, Zheng has also started using local beef, he said.
“It’s a great way to try something on a smaller scale first,” he said.
Grind currently employs a staff of about 10, including two other trained chefs besides Heinz, Green and Chantal Popick.
For now, the regular hours are 11 a.m. until 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
“We’re hoping to start staying open until 9 next week, and maybe do some family-night things,” Heinz said. Future plans also include outdoor seating once the new parking lot and alleyway work to the west and behind the building are finished.
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