Avanti alums open Rooted Craft Kitchen with modern American fare in Highlands

Nicholas Kayser and Scott Ericson already live and play in the Highland neighborhood, so they thought, “Why not add work to that list?”

The duo, who own Rooted in Avanti F&B Boulder (and the former Del Mar in Avanti Denver), have decided to finally plant some permanent roots. On May 19, they opened Rooted Craft Kitchen at 3940 W. 32nd Ave., where Denver restaurateur Troy Guard’s FNG previously operated.

“We wanted to fill a niche in the neighborhood, and 32nd Avenue has a ton of incredible culinary options, but they’re all quite esoteric and ethnically diverse, and there’s no American outlet,” Kayser said. “This is our passion project, this is our baby and this is where we want to be for the next 15 years.”

Guard’s TAG Restaurant Group closed FNG, a neighborhood bistro, last fall after five years when he said he couldn’t find the right management team to help the restaurant bounce back after COVID. Kayser previously worked for Guard at the now-closed Zengo in Riverfront Park and at developer Jim Sullivan’s former Ocean in Cherry Creek.

“It’s good to see Nick opening his own place,” Guard said. “He’s a very talented, great guy, and I made sure to bring him a plant for good luck on his opening night.”

Rooted Craft Kitchen is an expansion of Kayser and Ericson’s Rooted concept in the Avanti Boulder food hall, which features a modern American menu with an emphasis on local farms and purveyors, with a hint of inspiration from Del Mar’s seafood-driven menu.

The new spot’s menu is simple, but every dish is carefully thought out, Kayser said. Examples include a classic burger with a grass-fed Wagyu patty sourced from Idaho-based Snake River Farms and a roasted heirloom chicken topped with seasoned greens like frisee. There is also a nod to Del Mar with wood-grilled oysters and Norwegian salmon.

“We want to make sure the menu options we have aren’t intimidating to anybody,” Kayser said. “We love to put the work in, so you don’t have to when you’re here.”

The inventive beverage program, created by Ericson, features house-crafted cocktails, inspired by song titles, like the Hello Mary Lou with Woody Creek Mary’s gin, lemon bitters and seltzer, named after his mom’s favorite song: Hello, Mary Lou by Ricky Nelson. He’s also put together some low ABV sippers and non-alcoholic cocktails with housemade shrubs, syrups and fresh flavors. In the future, they hope to do some dinners with non-alcoholic drink pairings.

“After a long day you can have a couple of the low ABV cocktails and not be bogged down or hungover the next day, and they’re just refreshing and delicious,” Ericson said. “I’ve had a change in lifestyle myself after being in the restaurant industry for 20 years, so I prefer these over real boozy cocktails.”

The 2,400-square-foot space is light and airy with garage doors opening up to the corner of 32nd Avenue, foliage hanging from most of the ceiling, an open concept kitchen, plus a 25-seat patio with plush, cushioned lounge chairs.

Kayser, 39, and Ericson, 40, both grew up in Denver and met while working at Vesta, where Kayser was the executive chef until it closed in the summer of 2020. The duo originally planned to open Rooted in Avanti Denver but wanted to be a part of Avanti Boulder’s debut in Oct. 2020.

They then expanded with Del Mar in Avanti Denver to get some exposure here with their pescatarian and vegetarian dishes, but closed up shop once the lease ended in March so they could focus on the new restaurant. Rooted’s Boulder location will remain open.

“We have regulars with their own buttons in our POS system, so we want to make sure we stay loyal to them,” Kayser said.

Rooted Craft Kitchen is open Sun.-Thurs. from 3 to 9 p.m. and until 10 p.m. on the weekend. Around June 19, the restaurant plans to launch a brunch, lunch and happy hour menu.

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