There were all of six tables and a single deli cooler at its former location on West Cucharras Street. Fast-forward two months, move everything four blocks to 26th Street and U.S. 24, quintuple the space and — voilà! — you have the new and vastly expanded Garden of the Gods Gourmet.
One of the Westside’s most diverse eateries, the Gourmet now has the space to accommodate its grand ambitions. Garden of the Gods Gourmet is more than a restaurant, though breakfast and lunch are served daily from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Patrons can also survey the freshly baked pastries, have a pre-hike smoothie, grab some salads and fresh produce to go, set up catering for Saturday’s bar mitzvah, look into an upcoming cooking class, browse the market carrying more than 125 Colorado products, and purchase a locally created greeting card and floral arrangement for your spouse.
Just be sure to set aside extra time, because the new location is busy — really busy. According to Karrie Williams, market manager, top sellers like the curry chicken salad would last four days at the previous location.
“Now it might make it four hours,” she said. “I used to post specials on Facebook, but it’s difficult to do that now because things just fly.”
According to Williams, 60 percent of customers who dined at the Cucharras location were regulars.
“Here, 60 percent of our customers are people I’ve never seen before,” she said. “We’re getting hikers, bikers, out-of-state folks who never would have seen us at the old location,” Williams said. “We heard all the time from people who never knew our restaurant existed.”
Williams said locating adjacent to a motel, RV park, hiking and biking trails and one of the state’s busiest east-west corridors has vastly increased visibility.
“We see a lot of people who have a love of the outdoors,” she said. “We’ve stocked our market with things they’d like — fruit, Honey Stingers, biking and running magazines. Things to make people comfortable after a hike or biking.”
There’s even a veggie-packed smoothie for those who just hiked the Manitou Incline.
“I used to post specials on Facebook, but it’s difficult to do that now because things just fly.” – Karrie Williams,
“I used to post specials on Facebook, but it’s difficult to do that now because things just fly.”
– Karrie Williams,
Many products sold in the market are house-made, Williams said, and the rest are most likely from small family-owned businesses across the state. “We have a jerky that is available at [Denver International Airport], Breckenridge and here. Climax Jerky’s elk tenderloin is fantastic,” she said of the Silverthorne business.
According to Executive Chef Amy Fairbanks, locally sourced products are of the utmost importance for both the market and the restaurant.
“We use a ton of roasted green chilies,” Fairbanks explained. “We used to roast them by hand, but we’ve gotten way too busy. Milberger Farms in Pueblo has amazing roasted chilies. They also have organic produce we’ve started slowly carrying in our market.”
Fairbanks said cross-utilization means fresher products. Beets from the same farm can be used in salads, for juicing, prepared and sold from the deli case or incorporated into food for the restaurant.
“We’re never sitting on products,” she said.
Since moving and expanding the market, Williams has met more purveyors of local products.
“We get dill pickles from The Real Dill,” she said, adding she discovered that business at a Denver farmers market. “That’s the exciting part of my job as a buyer. I get to work with these distributors and I get thank-you notes when I buy a local card line or honey. It’s because we’re doing something good for the local economy.”
She said many restaurant items are also available in the market.
“We get our Elevation organic ketchup from Denver,” Williams said. “People will have it in the restaurant and tell us it’s spectacular. Well, we sell it in the market. Get some and take it home with you.”
Williams said to be on the lookout for bourbon marshmallows that can be paired with the Gourmet’s local chocolate selection to create s’mores for grownups.
“Those will be great for people on their way to the mountains for camping,” she said.
A dining option that sets Garden of the Gods Gourmet apart is the Dinner with the Chef series, which happened about three times a month at the former location. The six-course meal includes wine and appetizers, then five chef’s-choice courses. Fairbanks said the popular events will return after things have settled down.
“This kitchen was created to be a show kitchen,” she said. “There’s stainless steel wall-to-wall and everything is presentable.”
Paired with the Pinery
Now owned by Mitchell and Windsor Yellen and a small group of investors, the Gourmet began as a Westside spice shop in 2001 by then-owners Sandra Vanderstoep and Holly Mervis.
Following several changes in location and ownership structures over the next 13 years, Garden of the Gods Gourmet Inc. and Pinery Enterprises Inc. merged in September 2012, combining the Gourmet’s penchant for catering with the Pinery’s special-events calendar. Pinery Enterprises Inc. operates both the Pinery in Black Forest and the Pinery at the Hill.
“The merger has been quite lucrative,” Williams said. “They have great vision and a wonderful group of investors who will back that vision. … They really want to branch out and they trust their employees to make good decisions.”
Fairbanks said she foresees expanding soon.
“I think we’ll maybe see another location next,” she said. “I think we will take this formula and duplicate it on the northeast side of town. There is so much growth and space out there, and people who never make it to this side of town would love what we do here. People live out east too, and they want delicious food.” nCSBJ
Garden of the Gods Gourmet
Location: 410 S. 26th St.
Number of employees: 40
Months at new location: 2