Ivywild School, the 100-year-old former schoolhouse that has been redeveloped into restaurants and a brewery, was busy with customers before it was fully open.
The Meat Locker, offering various smoked sausages and bacon, made an unannounced opening at noon on June 5 in Ivywild’s south wing, and within an hour, dozens of people were filling seats munching on sandwiches.
In the north wing, where Bristol Brewing is located, the early afternoon was quieter, but it was a calm before a late afternoon storm of customers that would swarm in on its first day open.
Customers were alerted to Bristol by a sign posted on the door of the old location, but that was enough to draw crowds that made record-breaking donations to the brewery’s regular Tuesday night Karma Hour, in which $1 from the sale of each pint of beer is donated to charity.
The school building is in the Ivywild neighborhood, southwest of the intersection of Brookside and Tejon Streets, tucked between Lower Skyway and the motels on Nevada Avenue. Upgrades include a vast glass brew-
house attached to Ivywild’s north end and two large dining patios.
Inside, original artwork from schoolchildren and exposed brick walls tie into upgrades and improvements to maintain the historic character.
Ivywild has two liquor licenses. One on the north side covers Bristol, and the one for the south side is a full liquor license, so patrons can’t cross from one side to the other with a drink in hand. Other than that, there is a free flow through the upper floor’s halls.
Bristol dominates the entire north wing with a $1 million state-of-the-art brewing and bottling system imported from Germany. A big open lounge and vast aesthetically pleasing bar, plus a separate dry goods shop filled with Bristol T-shirts, hats and other goodies, occupy nearly half of the school.
The south wing belongs to Joe Coleman, proprietor of such popular restaurants as Blue Star, Nosh and La’au’s Taco Shop. While Bristol has served pretzels with its beer in the tasting room, it will soon have a pub menu, catered by The Meat Locker and the Old School Bakery.
Mark Henry, formerly a Blue Star sous chef, is general manager and executive chef at the Meat Locker. It’s a charcuterie, which means it makes and sells sausages and cured meats.
“We’re really focusing on using all local food,” Henry said. “We’re buying whole animals from local ranchers and farmers.”
The Meat Locker will sell meals that people can take home, eat in the nearby Teachers Lounge or order from the brewery’s pub menu. It will also have retail sales of both the cured meats and some prime cuts from local ranchers.
The Meat Locker was using animals from local supplier Ranch Foods Direct, but Henry said he plans to work with multiple local ranchers. Henry and his crew butcher the animals, age the meat, cure and process it in-house.
“Charcuterie is nothing new. It’s been around forever,” Henry said. “But it kind of stopped progressing.” He believes he has an opportunity to jump-start an artisanal part of the culinary world.
“There are a lot of new flavor profiles and a lot of cool things we can do,” he said. “We’re starting with some pretty exceptional product and I expect we’re going to end up with something really exceptional.”
Henry plans to expand the menu but will never serve full entrees, staying with sandwiches, soups and salads.
“A lot of labor and love is going into making these cured meats,” he said. “We really want them to shine on the plate and we don’t want to overshadow them with a lot of other stuff.”
Ivywild also has the Old School Bakery and a coffee shop and cocktail lounge, The Principal’s Office.
The bakery opened with a limited selection of goods and will provide breads for all of Coleman’s restaurants. It will also make pretzel sticks and soft pretzels for Bristol and pastries and pies for The Principal’s Office.
“We plan to become a full-service bakery,” said general manager Alicia Prescott. The bakery has expansive counter and display space across the hall from The Meat Locker, and patrons will be able to buy breads and pastries and eat them in the Teachers Lounge or take them home.
Prescott said she will have different kinds of items in her bakery than patrons can find in The Principal’s Office, tucked behind The Meat Locker.
The Principal’s Office is adorned with original schoolhouse chalkboards. Wine-glass racks are suspended over the bar by chains of the original swing set, and cabinet door handles are modeled after a wooden paddle called “the attitude adjuster” that crews found in the building. The place is oozing with charm and warm yellow lights, looking out over a brick patio and the Ivywild neighborhood.
Manager Eric Harry Nicol was a coffee guy. He spent nine years working with Colorado Coffee Merchants, wanted to do something different and talked to Coleman about Ivywild. He took a job bartending at Blue Star and learned about cocktails.
“We’re going to focus on more high-quality and craft coffees and cocktails,” he said.
He’s sourcing organic single bean, single estate coffee beans. In daytime, The Principal’s Office serves high-quality coffees, and in the evenings, old-fashioned and unique cocktails. The bar won’t have a full spirits menu, Nicol said. “We probably won’t have your Jack and Coke here, but it might be more fun and unique — something you haven’t had before.”
All of the enterprises on Coleman’s side of the school are using herbs and vegetables grown across the street in 30-plus garden beds at the house where local urban farmer Steve Hitchcock and his family live.
“I use organic methods and make sure the quality is there,” Hitchcock said. Several years ago, he started providing seasonal vegetables to Coleman’s restaurants. He delivers herbs to Prescott, Henry and Nicol for the products they serve at Ivywild. He soon will direct a community garden in Ivywild’s front yard.
“There’s a huge emphasis on sustainability here,” Hitchcock said.