Ethiopia native Maya Hetman, a Springs resident for the past year and a half, says she prayed for and was guided directly to the site of her new restaurant at 2501 W. Colorado Ave., #108, in Old Colorado City. To honor the experience, she decided to name the former A Taste of New Orleans Café site Uchenna, a Nigerian Igbo word meaning "God's will."
The eatery offers tastes of Southern France and Italy as well as popular dishes from the Mediterranean and Ethiopian areas, says Hetman, who was "raised with a lot of love and good food" and prepares all the items herself, from scratch. (She says to be prepared to wait 20 minutes or so for your food.) Though Uchenna is her first restaurant, Hetman says she has family that have run eateries in Europe and Africa.
For Italian fare, look for recipes direct from Hetman's grandmother, such as both vegetarian and meat lasagna. On the French side, expect items like French onion soup, traditional baguette sandwiches and her version of a salade Niçoise. From the Mediterranean, Hetman promises lamb stew, "gyros like you've never had before" with seven spices and Turkish and Greek influences, and a moussaka rendition with eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes and a béchamel sauce.
Most interestingly for the Springs, of course, are the Ethiopian items that would otherwise demand a commute to Denver. Among them, Hetman describes doro wat, an "absolutely delightful" mole-esque spicy chicken dish that takes almost all day to cook. It's made with berberé, a mixture of a dozen spices. Hetman will also prepare injera, a thin, pancake-like bread made from Ethiopian-grown teff flour that has fermented in water for three days. Using pieces of it, instead of silverware, you can scoop up your entrée and side items like lentils, cabbage, green beans and collards.
Unique beverages include a rosewater lemonade and a cardamom tea, and sweet choices include baklava. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily; call 634-5070 for more.
Jazz, by Design(ers)
Citing a need for a "good jazz bar" in town, Heather and Andrew Darrigan of the Food Designers (115 S. 25th St., fooddesigners.com) will open Motif Jazz Bar on Friday, June 4, directly behind their catering outfit at 2432 W. Cucharras St.
The venue will host core bands like the Steve Draper Group from 4 p.m. to midnight, on Fridays and Saturdays only, for the time being. Motif's space — 500 square feet inside and 500 square feet on the patio, with a combined capacity of 97 heads — is designed for an intimate, elegant experience. (Guys in muscle shirts will be turned away.)
Andrew says he wants to raise the bar for high-end on the west side with the venture, particularly with a $5-to-$7, seasonal small-plate menu of international and eclectic American items and quality fish specials. The idea is to enjoy a handful of the tapas and a beer, a glass of wine or a signature martini with the jazz.
"I want to introduce, innovate and bring new tastes," he says, "but I don't want people to be confused — I'm doing a menu that people will understand, with flavors that will make your tongue dance."
Though he calls the spot a "two-time loser," Concept Restaurants' Luke Travins decided to purchase the vacant restaurant at 5710 S. Carefree Circle to give a second José Muldoon's location a go.
The space at Powers Boulevard and South Carefree Circle originally spurned Andy McCarthy's Sports Grill before quickly undoing Palapa's Surfside in summer 2008.
"We've been looking for a Powers location site for several years," says Travins, citing the success of both Old Chicago and Rock Bottom, in which one of Travins' Concept partners owns a share. Travins firstly believes that because José's is established downtown and has a recognizable name, it will have a good shot out east as well. Also, unlike independents who've tried their hand, Concept Restaurants' small partnership essentially fits the more corporate vibe that Powers Boulevard patrons overwhelmingly prefer. (Plus, its deeper pockets can endure a longer rooting period.)
"For the most part, it will have the same menu," says Travins, "but where it's going to be different is, we'll do more marketing direction and strategy geared to that [east side] clientele. We'll have bar and TV-viewing areas larger than downtown — a little more of a sports bar feel."
Travins and crew hope to have the new Jose's operational by year's end, after a more significant remodeling than was necessary at Flatiron's — which opens next week at 2540 Tenderfoot Hill St.
Addressing Concept's expansion, Travins says he's spent the last eight years looking for good deals, and just happened to find two around the same time: "The price was right for us. I wouldn't have entertained full market value three years ago."
À la carte
• Farmers markets start up at the Citadel Mall on June 5, in Acacia Park on June 7 and at the First & Main Town Center on June 10. Visit coloradofarmers.org for more information.
• Nosh chef Shane Lyons will host the Ageless Cuisine Benefit for the local CU Aging Center from 6 to 9 p.m., Thursday, June 10 at the Lodge at UCCS (1420 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 667-0187). He'll be joined by two of his fellow contestants from 2008's season four of The Next Food Network Star: Aaron McCargo Jr. (winner of season four and current host of Big Daddy's House) and Adam Gertler (current host of Will Work for Food). A limited number of seats are $125.