Seasonal Americana with a twist takes the spotlight at Kevin Grossi’s The Regional.
A meal at The Regional means appreciating staples in new ways—like eating carrots cooked in dirt, or relishing a venison osso buco served with buttered popcorn polenta. I spent one happy afternoon tucking into a root-veggie melt with smashed roasted beets and cream cheese grilled on rye bread, gooey with melted Swiss, and made a mental note to reconfigure my garden plot this year so I could grow more beets.
Chef/owner Kevin Grossi wants you to eat food you know, but in brand-new ways, and since October 2018, he’s been serving up this vision in a tastefully revamped space on Mason Street (the one Tasty Harmony occupied before they moved).
Grossi had an impressive toehold in the Denver food scene as head chef at Lola and Jax Fish House before opening his own place—The Regional was actually born at Denver’s Avanti Food and Beverage, an uber-hip cluster of eateries in a shipping container compound.
But Grossi and his wife wanted to put down roots somewhere a little more livable and explored both Salida and Fort Collins as options before deciding to settle in Northern Colorado. Proximity to farms and ranches he was eager to collaborate with was important, as was being near Denver, where Grossi is well connected. The couple also planned to start a family, and they saw Fort Collins as an ideal place to raise kids.
The vibe of The Regional, for Grossi, is to feel like a gathering place where anyone, foodie or not, can be comfortable and where the dishes are familiar no matter what part of the country you hail from—all done in an atmosphere that’s very much like walking into someone’s home and watching as they cook your dinner.
Grossi felt like Fort Collins diners craved soulful food, and also yearned for more places to discover imaginative and refined cocktails, so he brought Jason Snopkowski, the former bar manager at Avanti, on board to curate the beer, wine and spirits offered and to collaborate on the bar menu. In keeping with the idea of food you know with a twist, the bar offers reliable standards as well as bartender-inspired surprises to enjoy with small plates either on their own or before dinner in the dining room. Think Tatamagouche oysters with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or a dry martini made with locally distilled MTN gin.
Menu items are inventive but always familiar—wings, cheese curds, pork chops. The difference? Wings are smoked with a touch of mountain gorgonzola and honey, curds come paired with a Bloody Mary cream for dipping, pork chops sidle up to brown-butter potatoes and pickled apple sauce.
Lunches are casual and wholesome, showcasing trout or fried-chicken sandwiches, salads and curly fries. Dinner is more upscale, though never overly elaborate, such as savory braised beef or a beautifully cooked lamb sirloin. Luckily, as a regional standout, grits are on the lunch, dinner and brunch menus. I hail from the South and struggle to find truly creamy/salty grits out West. The Regional understands you can’t rush the process—hominy needs to cook long and slow to release the starch that adds to the creaminess.
Grossi does a cyclical menu of sorts, but he rotates items out one at a time, so the entire menu doesn’t change at once. He does this for a couple of reasons. First, many ingredients don’t go “in” or “out” of season abruptly—they peak and wane. Second, he doesn’t ever want his customers to lose all their favorites at once. He wants people to enjoy new creations and also have access to familiar darlings. The staples don’t change much, though the preparation and some ingredients do in order to showcase seasonal flavors.
All of the breads, cakes, pies and cookies are created by head baker Gabrielle Gudino. It’s worth saving some room for a malted chocolate-chip cookie or a slice of pie to share. As Grossi does with the entrees, Gudino uses standard ingredients with a twist—like beets in a red velvet cake topped with goat-cheese frosting or sesame seeds in a lemon bar. Gluten-free options abound, and most baked goods are available for diners or can be picked up to go. Special orders, like dinner rolls, whole pies or cakes are available for advanced order as well.
Grossi likes to combine the familiar with the playful, as he does with his menus, to create special events, collaborating with the people who grow his food and other local businesses, such as New Belgium and FoCo MX. “Five Plots of Raisin’ Roots” takes place this July, for which Grossi will create dishes using ingredients from and inspired by each of the five plots at the farm. He’s also planning a NoCo chefs collaboration dinner where local chefs will take turns creating the entire experience of a particular course, and is also working with Chris Starkus, chef at Urban Farmer Steakhouse in Denver, on an “Alt Bee” dinner. Starkus keeps hives on the rooftop of the Oxford Hotel where Urban Farmer is located, and Grossi is imagining a dinner where every course is related to bees in some way, from using the honey to cooking fish tableside in beeswax boxes.
The ideas for monthly dinners go back to Grossi’s passion that comfort food can also be instructive and delicious; therefore, he loves to talk with patrons about where he sources his meat and produce. Pumpkin Creek, third generation ranchers, have well over a century of raising beef and caring for the abundant wildlife that share the land. All of the seafood is 100 percent sustainable, and Grossi wants patrons to know what that actually means—that the food supports communities, but also the ocean and the species being harvested. So while not all of The Regional’s food can be sourced here in Colorado, relationships with the suppliers are paramount. And much of the food is as local as can be: Elevation Beef, Hazel Dell Mushrooms and Jodar Farms are a few examples.
It’s a brand of nourishment and coziness-with-a-twist that lives up to its name‚ and feels perfectly at home in NoCo.