Eateries vie for a slice of the DU action

Crowds line up for up to an hour at the original Capitol Hill Jelly location to enjoy the vintage decor, with tea sets hanging from the light fixtures and indulge in both sweet and savoury breakfast and lunch offerings.

Several popular restaurants in the University of Denver area closed over the last several months, including Tokyo Joe’s, Garbanzo’s and the Spicy Pickle, making room for new food options to steak their claim.

Jelly, a restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch with a contemporary twist on classic diner food, will open a location this August at 1700 E. Evans Ave., the space formerly occupied by Tokyo Joe’s.

“Joe’s was there for 15 years and most of the reason for us pulling out of that site is that the landlord wanted a hefty increase in rent,” said Tokyo Joe’s president and owner, Larry Leith. “We closed it late last summer… and yes, the neighborhood did have a high turnover rate for restaurants but we did nicely there.”

According to Technomic, a “fact-based” food industry consultant, 44 percent of college students polled indicated that their school’s dining program was at least somewhat important in deciding where to enroll. The report was developed using data gathered in a May 2009 survey of over 1,500 full-time U.S. students.

Despite a host of on-campus dining options, many students opt to eat off-campus for better value or variety.

Moreover, today’s students have come of age in a time of non-traditional dining with ethnic cuisine cravings, health conscious mentalities, caffeine addictions, gluten intolerances, WiFi requirements, etc. Students have high expectations and foodservice operators attempt to update the dining experience to include a variety of creative options, modern décor and connectivity.

“I think that all these restaurants are trying to take a piece of the same pie- hungry college students who have a smaller budget,” said DU senior Leah Samuelson. “So many restaurants around campus are all trying to split it up, so that nobody’s getting enough business.”

Despite a number of restaurants shutting their doors in the DU-area, Jelly co-owner Josh Epps remains confident in his eatery.

“With Garbanzos and Forghiddaboutits, how many pizza places do you need? How may Chipotle-style spots do you need or sub shops? I think we can offer a totally different experience,” said Epps. “We’re approaching breakfast, trying to think out every aspect of the dining experience.”

Outside original Capitol Hill location there appears to be no wait time to be seated. But just inside the doors, a line forms, willing to wait for up to an hour to devour the unique, savoury breakfast dishes.


Jelly’s original Capitol Hill location is open seven days a week, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Epps, a San Francisco restaurant veteran, along with his business partner and wife, Christina Smith, first launched the popular restaurant in January 2011. Since, Jelly has earned a four-star Yelp rating.

Typical prices range from $7 to $10.

According to Samuelson, those are average prices for restaurants around the university.

“Given that most restaurants in this area are fast-casual, they fit into the same budget,” said Samuelson, who studies psychology and marketing. “First thing I’d do is make sure my restaurant used Flex dollars to attract more student customers. I also think that if all the restaurants were more aware of one another, they could give deals on different days and could draw in larger amoungs of customers. It doesn’t make sense for businesses to compete head-to-head because everyone loses.”

Samuelson added that restaurants that serve alcohol bring in crowds and can make more of a profit by drawing on the social scene around campus.

Jelly will offer patrons a host of alcoholic breakfast beverages.

Epps said he and his team are discussing new concepts such as made-to-order, to-go donuts and potentially extending hours for when the Evans space opens, although no plans have been finalized.

The restaurateur added this will be the second and final Jelly location in an effort to maintain “the mom-and-pop feeling.”

The new restaurant will feature similar décor to the original location with vintage cereal boxes decking the walls and neon stools lining the bar. The Evans space will have twice as much seating as the original eatery, with nearly 102 indoor seats and 14-20 outside.

“I’m thinking it’ll be 45-50 percent bigger,” said Epps. “We love our place now, its cozy, but maybe a little too tight in the middle. In my opinion, the new place is going to be a little more user-friendly.”

The menu, which offers all-day breakfast and an assortment of lunch options, provides reconstructed egg dishes, multi-flavored donut bites, biscuits and gravy and crumbled bacon-infused pancakes. For lunch, the menu covers sandwiches, salads, burgers and daily specials, such as eggs Benedict with trout.

“We wanted to get really creative with the savoury aspect of breakfast,” said Epps. “We wanted to dig a little deeper into non-traditional options.”

According to Epps, additional seating was a “bonus,” as the main priority was to be in the DU neighborhood.

“The way we’re set up now, our décor and everything appeals to a younger generation,” said Epps. “The college kids will love us.”

Jimmy Seidel, founder of Snarf’s seems to agree about the location (maybe not about the above sub shop comment though). The Boulder-based, start-up sandwich shop is scheduled to open its eleventh Colorado-location across the street from Jelly on East Evans Avenue and South Williams Street next Monday, April 16, according to Seidel. The sandwich shop has earned “Best Sandwich” status in Boulder Weekly’s Best of Boulder poll since 2006.

“It took one year… it was a hard deal to put together, but we very much wanted to be in the location,” said Seidel.

The shop will seat 80-100 and will be opened for late nights in an attempt to satisfy students’ late night cravings.

“Staying open late is definitely advantageous,” said Grace Bradford, sophomore hotel and restaurant management major with a specialty in sales and marketing. “If it’s 2 a.m. and there’s only one or two places open, your choices are limited and you’re going to make more of a profit without competition.”

This location will also feature Snarf’s first full bar.

In addition, according to an article in the Westword, Jensen Cummings, the executive chef of Row 14 Bistro & Wine Bar, will be opening a new, fast-casual meatball restaurant over the summer in the DU area.

“I love the DU area…and there [are] a lot of businesses and residences within walking distance, lots of car traffic and lots of students, which is why we’re concentrating on that neighborhood,” Cummings said in the interview.


4 Responses to Eateries vie for a slice of the DU action

  • Brendan Cronin
    Brendan Cronin says:

    Great job, very interesting topic considering how quickly the real estate changes around DU. Big props for getting interviews with the owner’s of Snarf’s and Jelly, that is very impressive. You hit on many important topics, from the fact that students want cheap prices, flex dollar capabilities, alcohol served, and late hours. Also the statistics on students who want good food on campus are great, since I wrote about how the food on campus is generally considered sub-par among students, and you wrote about the places students opt to spend money off campus at because of this. Great info, great interviews, great job!

  • Cory Lamz
    Cory Lamz says:

    I thought it was really interesting to hear how Snarf’s and Jelly are coming to the off-campus area and how they intend to break into the market. I’m excited to eat at either one now, thanks to your piece and what Epps, Seidel and Cummings had to say. I also appreciated the clever use of “steak” in your lede. Good job!

  • Connor O'Halleran
    Connor O'Halleran says:

    You really did a great job on this article. That was a really creative to find out about a new restaurant coming into the area and being able to get in touch with the owner and hear his visions about his business and the new location that is opening close to DU’s campus. It was also interesting to hear from the former owner in the location and how his business was successful but the complications with the landlord forced them to relocate. Awesome interviews and a really well written article!

  • Rhianna Dow
    Rhianna Dow says:

    Loved this article. I love going to new restaurants and I hate chains! I’m really excited for the DU dining scene to diversify even more in the coming months.

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