Adam Larkey Photography
Justin Cucci has ruled the Denver restaurant scene over the past five years as the chef and owner of Root Down (1600 W. 33rd Ave.; 303-993-4200) and Linger (2030 W. 30th Ave., 303-993-3120; lingerdenver.com), two award-winning eateries in the trendy Highland neighborhood.
Now Root Down, known for its seasonal menu of locally sourced ingredients and its location in a converted 1950s-era gas station, has opened a second outpost, at Denver International Airport (DIA). Good news for en-route diners but wasn't the easiest decision for the owner.
“The Root Down dining experience is very contextual, so it didn’t even make sense at first,” says Cucci, who spent his formative years in the kitchen at New York’s Waverly Inn. “But from my own travel experiences and the struggle to find good food, I saw it as a worthy challenge. There’s an amazing opportunity to change how dining is perceived when traveling.”
Root Down at DIA operates on the same philosophy that fuels the original location. It will source local, organic, natural ingredients—a non-negotiable requirement for Cucci when it came time to ink the deal—and feature many menu favorites like carrot and red Thai curry soup, sweet-potato “falafel” and diver scallops. Riffing on its older sibling’s use of reclaimed and recycled materials, the design in the new space will celebrate the heyday of American travel with vintage Knoll and Saarinen chairs, recycled airplane parts and model globes converted into light fixtures.
But true to its new locale, the restaurant is focused on the traveler. A Grab & Go area caters to those in a hurry, and a forthcoming app will allow guests to submit an order via text at check-in so food can be picked up before takeoff. Denver International Airport, Concourse C; rootdowndenver.com.