Like someone middle-aged who buys a car and reimagines himself, so too has Ernie’s Pizza returned to us, bearing a whole new lease on life and appearance.
Ernie’s goes by Earnest Hall these days. It acts more like a beer and food hall than a sports bar and pizza joint. It’s also doing the whole barista thing, serving craft coffee and lattes.
Owners Joe Votrejs (City Street Investors) and chef Sterling Robinson (Billy’s Inn, North County, Officer’s Club and others) say they know where their newly titled restaurant came from as well as what the community on the Northside, or in Sunnyside, wants now from it.
The original Ernie’s Supper Club dates back to the 1940s, and its building to a former Dodge dealership.
“I always remember the checkerboard building … and it was always dusk inside,” Vostrejs told The Denver Post. “I grew up in Park Hill but spent most of my childhood roaming this neighborhood because my grandparents were here. I remember Ernie’s Supper Club really well. So we said, let’s resurrect Ernie’s. And we love doing neighborhood joints.”
While their first resurrection nearly a decade ago was a pizza joint with pitchers of beer and sports playing, the new Earnest comes off more refined — an all-day hangout, with Italian-American comfort food and cocktails. But it’s still “super accessible,” according to Vostrejs.
He’s behind Denver projects like the Terminal Bar at Union Station and Lowry Beer Garden. “They’re almost like parks with concession stands,” he says of those atmospheres. And he wants the same for Earnest Hall.
After hail damage and a renovation that was supposed to take some months but lasted two years, the restaurant got an aesthetic overhaul.
Windows span almost floor to ceiling, ceilings are high and exposed and tables long and communal, equipped with power outlets. To order, diners can head to the bar or food and coffee counter. If it all starts to sound a little like a trendy food hall, that’s purposeful.
“We found people really enjoy the flexibility,” Vostrejs said.
Coffees from Conscious in Boulder and breakfast pastries start the day’s menu, followed by deli case lunch items like lasagnas and salads. You can fill up on meatballs or tomato vodka penne for dinner. And of course there are plenty of pizzas.
Vostrejs and Robinson said they would never dare take old Ernie’s bestseller, the pineapple pie, off the table. Though they have already received an angry call or two about the Skee-Ball’s disappearance. (It was a nightmare to manage.)
Whatever you decide of Ernie’s new ‘do and direction, know he’s still here for Denver for the longterm, Robinson and Vostrejs promise.
“It’s built for this neighborhood,” Vostrejs said. “And if we make it really really great for the neighborhood, then people from outside the neighborhood will find their way here on their own.”
So there you have it. Nice to meet you, Earnest. You’ll probably remind folks of a guy who used to live around here. But that time, they’ll say, is getting harder to remember.
2915 W. 44th Ave., 303-955-5580, see website for latest coffeehouse, restaurant and pizza delivery hours, earnesthalldenver.com
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