It’s no secret that one of my favorite inventions ever is the Yelp website. I love that I can find anything I want and see the highest rated businesses in that category. We recently went on our first trip to Denver and since we’ve never been there prior and didn’t know anyone there I turned to my best friend Yelp for some top rated foodie spots. A restaurant by the name of Chop Shop caught my eye with a nearly perfect rating and hundreds of reviews. It’s rare to come across a find like that. So straight off the airplane and into the rental truck we went and set off to the Chop Shop. My family ordered a few Chop Shop Burgers served with house made chips and I ordered the Grilled Marinated Bistro Filet (talk about affordable luxury, this filet is marinated for 8 hours in a garlic Kimchi sauce served with roasted fingerlings, broccoli, onions, grape tomatoes and blistered corn demi all topped with one of the best Chimichurris I’ve ever had – did you get all of that?). The burgers were tender, moist and well seasoned and that says a lot as everyone in my family, with the exception of myself, ordered their meat well done and rarely does well done beef come out so delicious. The Bistro Filet was well balanced, clean and perfectly cooked to medium. The vegetables were fresh and bright and the Chimichurri came in to tie everything together to create a beautifully synchronized plate. It’s a 5 star meal at a 3 star price. Even after coming back home, I still couldn’t get their food out of my head (not to mention the cravings!) so I made a phone call to one of the owners about doing an interview when I came back into town and he graciously accepted. Here’s what I learned:
The concept of an urban eatery that provides well crafted, high quality food in a fast casual setting was born when Chef & owner Clint Wangsnes was looking for a good family restaurant with high food standards, a comfortable atmosphere and affordability. He couldn’t find one that fit the mold he was searching for so he did the unimaginable and opened one! He took his 20+ years of experience as a Chef (who by the way has worked in food trendy hotspots from South Beach Miami all the way to Hawaii) and created his own menu. His method is to cook from the heart with fresh ingredients and to use ground-breaking techniques, such as Sous-vide (a process of cooking in which food is sealed in airtight plastic bags, then placed in a water bath for several hours at lower than normal temperatures. This helps to keep in juices and aroma that would otherwise be lost in the process of ordinary cooking). Something I found that really displays the fervor all the employees have at the Chop Shop was when owner, Christian, told me the ribs are cooked with the Sous-vide process and it takes 48 hours. He further blew my mind when he told me the onions are cooked the same way and they take 72 hours! To put that much thought into the onions, it’s hard to deny that love and passion are not a part of this team or this menu.
Christian & Clint team up to locally source as much as they can for their menu, such as the chicken that comes from Boulder, Colorado. They use smaller distributors when possible and make sure all the beer and some of the wine are local as well. Some of the menu changes seasonally to incorporate produce currently available and some of the menu items are staples you will see every time, like the ribs I told you about earlier…yeah, that’s right, the ones that take 48 hours to cook. Some dishes will probably never come off the menu as they’ve been there since the opening of the restaurant and hold a special place in it’s history.
I have a tendency to judge the character of a restaurant by one thing: where’s the kitchen? If it is open and available for me to see I am inclined to think that the establishment has nothing to hide, I tend to believe that they are transparent with what they serve and their standards of safety and food handling. I love that the Chop Shop has an open concept kitchen. When I asked Christian about this he said exactly what I needed to hear, “We wanted to provide an open and transparent environment, somewhere where the customer can talk directly with the Chef and can inform them of any allergy or dietary restrictions. Somewhere where the customer can see how their food is prepared.” While I was hanging out near the kitchen and watching I noticed all the employees in the kitchen seemed happy to be there, they worked well together and stayed focused on the task at hand while still having a good time. When I asked Christian about the atmosphere of the kitchen and told him how impressed I was with the staff he informed me that most of the staff has been there since opening day and that the Chop Shop wants to invest in, grow and further their employee’s careers. They support their staff and tell them they can go as far as they’d like to go in their profession. A good program and supportive bosses is the perfect recipe for happy and dedicated chefs.
When asked about the future of the Chop Shop Christian simply responded they want to be able to expand when the time is right. Judging by the Yelp reviews I see today, standing at 548 reviews with an almost perfect 5 out of 5 stars, my guess would be it isn’t too far away.
4990 East Colfax
Denver, CO 80220
Phone: (720) 550-7665