Anyone who remembers taking mall breaks at the Sbarro or Cinnabon (still here for you, cheese pizza slices and giant cinnamon rolls) should check out downtown Denver’s latest shopping experience and its version of a food court.
At the Dairy Block’s new Free Market — complete with eight boutiques, from Australia’s Aesop skincare to Jenni Kayne, a California lifestyle brand — shoppers can browse the goods while snacking on onigiri rice patties or heirloom grain flatbreads and drinking sparkling wine or Aperol spritzes.
From recent James Beard Award semifinalists Kelly Whitaker and Jeb Breakell, Brutø and BØH bring the stuff of these chefs’ higher-end Denver and Boulder restaurants (see Basta, The Wolf’s Tailor and Dry Storage) to a modern mall format.
The larger Brutø cafe, with its imposing wood-fired oven, is expected to open sometime in June after securing a liquor license, while the smaller BØH (back of house, as in restaurants) coffee shop is already up and running, serving some baked goods and Devoción coffee drinks.
“I just want this to be a surprise for people shopping,” Whitaker said of the two food and drink counters. “Typically you might not find this level of food (in a mall).”
After market halls carried food courts into the 21st century, brick-and-mortar retail shops have taken note, experimenting with new forms to attract today’s often-online shopper. Already in Denver, we’ve seen the shopping experience morph through pop-up bazaars and inside hotel lobbies and food halls. With Brutø and BØH at Free Market, the evolution continues.
Once Brutø is up and running, shoppers will be able to purchase alcoholic beverages and snacks from a rolling afternoon aperitif cart. Non-shoppers might even make a destination out of the restaurant’s raw bar (read crudités, not oysters).
Whitaker and Free Market co-founder Raan Parton like the idea of events that combine retail with the dining experience. Last weekend, they threw a dinner party among the clothes, beauty products and home goods.
Before this, “you couldn’t even serve a glass of wine at a department store,” Parton said. “I’ve tried.”
But shopping with a wine glass in hand isn’t the only guilty pleasure they’ll offer. Coming later this summer, a soft-serve machine will start churning out chef Breakell’s coconut, oat or hemp-milk ice creams. So you can buy your luxurious plant-based products — textiles, face lotions — and also eat some.
BØH at Free Market is now open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, featuring some food from Brutø, which will open later in June at 1801 Blake St.