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TILL opens big on the northeast side 

Side Dish

TILL is a huge happening

Upon opening days ago, TILL (9633 Prominent Point, tillkitchen.com) laid claim to hosting the "largest open kitchen in Southern Colorado" with an 80-foot continuous food counter spanning through a grab-and-go bakery, coffee counter, wood-oven station, pantry and hot line. One can't help but be impressed when initially seeing the whole $13 million, 18,000-square-foot operation, which also includes a mercantile, dining room, patio, bar and private dining room.

TILL comes courtesy Altitude Hospitality Group, which also operates Garden of the Gods Gourmet Market & Café, Pinery at the Hill, and Taste at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. During a media preview last week, co-owner Eric Allen indicated that TILL will act as a model for more planned expansions, perhaps to include a half-sized spot in Monument in the coming years.

Initial plans shared by co-owner Mitch Yellen in late 2014 called for an on-site culinary program, a greenhouse and a home-delivery service base. Instead, VP and culinary director Sheamus Feeley highlights the fact that TILL, as it's morphed through the concept phase, has become more of a producer of market items: artisan breads and pastries, house gelato, candies and truffles.

"It's one thing to be a consumer of other local producers," he says. "But we were also asking what we could contribute from a maker's standpoint."

Feeley does buy from the likes of AVOG, Corner Post Meats and Black Forest's Minibelly's Farm, "to showcase the best of what Colorado has to offer." But he's careful not to belabor the farm-to-table mantra because he's also purchasing from California and beyond. "We like avocados, and our guests like artichokes."

The Arkansas-born chef grew up in a farming and culinary family, and got a journalism degree before devoting himself to food. He moved to Denver in 1999 to work for Wolfgang Puck and later co-opened Sacre Blue (winner of Westword's Best New Bar in 2000), Citrus and Boulder's Mateo. He then went to L.A. and Napa, working in management, cheffing, R&D and training roles. It was at a place he co-opened in 2009, called Farmstead, that he buddied up with TILL executive chef Gerry Castro, who grew up on a family farm in Guanajuato, Mexico. Castro attended Napa's Culinary Institute of America, where he later helped manage the teaching kitchen. Among his prestigious resumé is a stint as chef de cuisine at Murray Circle, which held a Michelin Star.

But Feeley assures that TILL eschews "tweezers and funny hats" for "straightforward, honest-to-goodness casual" food.

Pizzas are born of a naturally fermented house sourdough. Starters include Colorado striped bass ceviche and lamb meatballs (both excellent at our tasting). A large salad and vegetable list and vegetarian and gluten-free goods lighten entrée offerings like pecan smoked beef short ribs, grass-fed burgers and a Colorado cut of the day. Full liquor offerings, including Lee Spirit and Axe and the Oak cocktails, balance the whole health-food vibe.

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