Tuesday, September 17, 2019

NaRai expands with soon-to-open Mangosteen Thai Street Food

Posted By on Tue, Sep 17, 2019 at 3:15 PM


Mango-topped catfish served at a preview meal. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Mango-topped catfish served at a preview meal.

NaRai Thai Restaurant and NaRai Siam Cuisine will soon have a sister restaurant at 383 Spectrum Loop (off Voyager Pkwy., near North Gate Blvd.) called Mangosteen Thai Street Food.

The trio of eateries' owner, Jasmine Andrew, tentatively plans to launch the new venture on Wednesday, Sept. 25. (Keep an eye on NaRai's Facebook page for details, for now.)
Owner Jasmine Andrew (second from right) with several of Mangosteen's staff. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Owner Jasmine Andrew (second from right) with several of Mangosteen's staff.

What immediately sets Mangosteen — named after the healthful tropical fruit — apart from NaRai's two full-service locations (which themselves differ slightly with menu offerings) is its counter-service model.

Guests will enter and approach a hot line, set up almost as buffet would be, and select menu items which will be pre-prepared for on-the-go eaters; only chicken-broth soups will be made-to-order with protein options like pork and shrimp.

And within six months, Andrew hopes to utilize a drive-thru window that's built and ready, once the kitchen comes up to speed and gauges customer volume and capacity.
Tentative opening date: September 25. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Tentative opening date: September 25.

The original Rockrimmon-area NaRai opened in 2008, followed by the Cheyenne Mountain location in 2014. This Spectrum Loop building has sat vacant for roughly a couple years, formerly hosting a Taco Bueno. Andrew says she's had her eye on it for some time and finally decided to pull the trigger and give a third restaurant a go. "This will be my last one," she jokes, saying "no more."

Both the other locations close during the middle of the day to reset between lunch and dinner service, but here, she says "I want to stay open all day. I want to try something new. I wanted a faster-paced restaurant."
Lemongrass chicken with turmeric rice. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Lemongrass chicken with turmeric rice.

With that in mind, she also wanted to offer menu items not seen at her other spots in town, and perhaps not served by any local Thai eateries. A few are true street-food items in Thailand; others are popular at sit-down places.

At a preview meal we attended, Andrew presented vibrant items like lemongrass chicken with golden turmeric rice; catfish topped in a mango relish spiced by red onions and chiles; grilled pork with tamarind-chile dipping sauce; battered fried chicken with broth-infused rice; papaya salad, and assorted pot stickers with ginger sauce.

Initially Andrew didn't even want to offer Pad Thai at the new spot, to distinguish it, but her customers pressed her on the matter, so she conceded, but has opted to make it with a thinner noodle, to change at least one aspect of the popular dish.
Pot stickers. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Pot stickers.

The new location will have a beer and wine license. As for the name, Andrew says people love mangos, so having that as part of the name (despite it being a completely different fruit than mangosteen) should attract attention, she believes. No, there's no actual mangosteen item on the opening menu at present — I suggested an ice cream in the future, maybe?

She has designed the space with a stark, modern sensibility, utilizing white and black tiles at the counter, dark wood floors and tables, and a fun, defining purple booth and seat upholstery that's almost eggplant purple, but also roughly the color of mangosteen skins too. 
Guest and staff enjoy food together at a preview meal. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Guest and staff enjoy food together at a preview meal.
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Saturday, September 7, 2019

Loyal Coffee's new north location approaches opening; here's a sneak peek

Posted By on Sat, Sep 7, 2019 at 4:09 PM

Coming soon, as in early October. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Coming soon, as in early October.

Loyal Coffee prepares to hold its grand opening of its new north location in early October. Keep an eye on its social media pages prior to then for some soft-opening info. 

October 1 will mark the 3-year anniversary for the business, so expect some celebratory happenings downtown, says Hill, who can't yet say if the north store will be ready to participate by then or not. (Again, watch their Facebook page to stay in the know.)
Co-owners Bevan Cammell, Chris Mueller and Tyler Hill (left to right). And that's not a pink espresso machine: It's "festive salmon" say the boys. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Co-owners Bevan Cammell, Chris Mueller and Tyler Hill (left to right). And that's not a pink espresso machine: It's "festive salmon" say the boys.

When asked if there's more Loyal locations on the horizon, Hill will only say "we're dreaming of number three and beyond at this point."
This new location is built-out to around 3,000 square feet, compared to the original location's 1,900 square feet. Indoor seating capacity will increase by around 20 seats, and an outdoor patio location of the previous Cafe Velo space (11550 Ridgeline Drive, #102) holds a lovely mountain view.
Ceiling rope design also ties the new north location to downtown, stylistically. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Ceiling rope design also ties the new north location to downtown, stylistically.

Several design touches tie the new space to the old, including a rope ceiling and wooden mural wall featuring some of Loyal's logo and branding design. And the overall color scheme's roughly the same, though this new location ties in new steel bar accents in select areas, contrasting plywood veneer and alder wood sections.

"We built on the stuff that worked downtown," Hill says. "The intentionality of the flow from the door to the register ... It feels like Loyal still, but it's beautiful and unique in its own way."

Hill says the team (of six former barista owners plus a group of investors) aimed to "build for the community we are in ... it's about the guests, not us."
Similar wood paneling to the downtown store creates a design connection. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Similar wood paneling to the downtown store creates a design connection.

White quartz countertops lead to the "festive salmon" (read: sorta pink) La Marzocco Strada AVR espresso machine. Mueller explains that for the purpose of consistent, easily replicated drinks, the unit (the first of its kind to offer this feature, adds Cammell) features scales under each group head, which weigh the ground coffee in the portafilter and calibrate the volume and timing of the shot accordingly. That expediency affords the baristas more time to take care of the customers, rather than fiddle with the machinery they say. "We've simplified things for the sake of our guests," Hill says.
Downtown's tiny nook seating areas are partly mirrored here with a row of larger booth seats. Overall indoor seating has increased by nearly 20 seats over downtown, to a total of around 70. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Downtown's tiny nook seating areas are partly mirrored here with a row of larger booth seats. Overall indoor seating has increased by nearly 20 seats over downtown, to a total of around 70.

Hours will likely be the same as at the downtown store, though they may close at 9 versus 10 p.m. depending on how evening business goes. This location won't have a license to dispense spirits and cocktails, only beer and wine. Expect 10 taps featuring craft beers, kombucha, lemonade and cold brew. Also look for a canned beer array.
This new space holds a meeting room that can seat between 10 and 14 people, or offer standing room to around 20 or so. It can be reserved by the hour. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • This new space holds a meeting room that can seat between 10 and 14 people, or offer standing room to around 20 or so. It can be reserved by the hour.

Another new feature to this north location is a meeting room, available by the hour by reservation online (soon). Mueller says bookings for meetings will include a free pot of coffee and a 10-percent discount at the register for other items. Options for the space include seating at a modular conference table or removal of said table to open up mingle room.

A rear hallway from the bathrooms leads past a kitchen entrance and the back half of the open service counter. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A rear hallway from the bathrooms leads past a kitchen entrance and the back half of the open service counter.
And the food menu will be quite similar to downtown, says Hill. Classic plates like the egg and toast will remain, but he says the team's finalizing plans for "some faster meals" as well as some vegan and allergy-friendly options.

Overall, Hill says there's a certain "elegance" to what Loyal hopes to achieve in this new neighborhood, where the median household income is roughly three times that of average downtown residences, according to their demographic research. Hence part of matching this neighborhood means leveraging Loyal's existing style and design aesthetic and bringing the same high coffee standard to a place where poshness already reigns. 
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