Upscaling the food cart: Denver chefs draw street crowds |

Upscaling the food cart: Denver chefs draw street crowds

William Porter
The Denver Post
Vail, CO Colorado
David Bravdica checks a pizza at his Brava Pizza at 16th Street Mall and Arapahoe downtown on Friday, May 28, 2010. They bake the pizzas in a oven burning Missouri oak wood. Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post
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Bent over a sizzling griddle set up on a downtown Denver corner, Mike Winston and Elliot Jones assembled a dish whose ingredients sounded more at home on a menu at the nearby Ritz-Carlton: roast lamb, tzatziki sauce, napa cabbage, guajillo-mint foam and naan, a classic bread of India.

But this was a $7 gyro off a steel cart towed in an hour earlier by a pickup truck. Street food – albeit a savvy, sophisticated version created by two guys who conjured the idea between their shifts cooking at white-tablecloth restaurants from Vail to Massachusetts.

“This was kind of a pipe dream,” Winston said as spiffily dressed customers came and went. “We’d always talked about the idea of street food made from scratch with high-quality ngredients.”

So in October, with a mobile kitchen boasting a steam table and flat-top grill, plus a 90-gallon Coleman cooler for food buckets and sauces, Jones and Winston launched The Gastro Cart at 18th and Curtis streets.

They are part of a new generation of lunchtime line cooks, many with fine-dining roots, changing the way Denverites view street food.

Some use carts at fixed locations. Others roam the city in tricked-out food trucks, employing electronic social media such as Facebook to announce their location du jour. (Comida, operated by Rayme Rossello, former co-owner of Proto’s Pizza, uses Twitter and its website to alert fans to a knockout Mexican menu ranging from carnitas to camarones, dispensed around Boulder County from a bright-pink van.)

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