Where: 2917 West 25th Avenue
When: Open 4 to 11 p.m. daily starting July 1
For more info: Visit redtopsrendezvous.com
What we saw: Ahead of its grand opening on July 1, video of an auto production line in Detroit played on the television screens inside Red Tops Rendezvous as staff prepared for a test service. The project is the latest addition to the fast-growing Culinary Creative Group, whose many concepts include Tap & Burger and Señor Bear along with newer additions like Carrie Baird’s brunch spot Fox and the Hen and Ay Papi, its upcoming Puerto Rican cocktail bar in Cherry Creek.
While the group has a lot of experience opening new restaurants, this project has been different: It’s the first space that Culinary Creative has built from the ground up. Much of the design work was done by Culinary Creative co-founder and chief development officer Kevin Eddy, whose experience growing up in Detroit and eating its signature square pies serves as inspiration for the restaurant.
The long, narrow main floor includes a line of tufted red booths, light-wood tables, a bar, a colorful mural, a garage door facing the street that can be opened on nice days and a glowing neon sign that says “slice slice baby.” Upstairs is another bar, a private dining space and another garage door that opens to a rooftop area.
The booze menu includes a long list of wines available by the bottle or glass, along with cocktails with names like More Phish Than the Ocean and the Red Pop.
While you could totally come here for just a snack and a solid drink, the main draw is unarguably the pizza. And the man behind the pies is Alan Youngerman, who previously worked at Cart-Driver, one of the best pizza places in Denver (and whose wife is the pasta maker at Culinary Creative restaurant Bar Dough).
“I basically used the five years of dough knowledge that I got at Cart-Driver and just tried to apply it to Detroit-style pizza, which is a very different style of dough,” says Youngerman, who is also a partner in the project. “We’re really trying to make the lightest, crispiest product that we can so that people can eat lots of it.”
The Red Tops pizza is, indeed, supremely light and airy, with the golden-brown cheese-crusted edges for which the regional style is known. Blue Pan has long been the go-to for Detroit-style pies in Denver. “We’re just trying to do something a little different,” Youngerman notes, specifically when it comes to dough style — he describes Blue Pan’s as more “fluffy” and “doughy.”
“But also, there’s more than enough room for all of us to succeed in this city,” he continues. “I want Blue Pan to do well. It only boosts the amount of good pizza in the city. The more pizza that is thought of as good in the city, the more we get put on the map, and the more we get to make good stuff like that.”
When it comes to toppings, “I’m not a traditionalist,” Youngerman says. “I have no shame with that stuff. If it tastes good, it’s gonna go on a pizza.” The pizza menu includes more traditional options like the signature Red Tops with just brick cheese, Bianco di Napoli tomato sauce and Parmesan, along with playful takes like the Back to the Grind, a cheeseburger pie complete with crinkle-cut French fries, or the Italian beef with spicy giardiniera.
You can also choose to build your own pizza from a list of toppings that includes everything from pepperoni and sausage to roasted corn, ‘nduja, prosciutto and fifteen-year-aged balsamic. Pies come in two sizes and start at $15 for a small and $25 for a large.
What surprised us: The non-pizza options. While Youngerman says that Red Tops is “definitely pizza-centric,” he also had plenty of fun creating the rest of the menu.
Among the starters are the Coney Knots ($12), a play on traditional garlic knots that doubles as an ode to “a longstanding Coney battle in Detroit, on Lafayette Street,” Youngerman says. The knots are stuffed with slices of Nathan’s hot dogs (which, as someone raised on the brand, I can attest is the only hot dog worth eating) along with a hint of yellow mustard and onions. They come with a bowl of Coney-style red chili for dipping, and could even make a meal if you can ward off any diners trying to share.
Even the salads ($11-$15) are a step up from traditional pizza shop options — the salad dubbed Pizza Shop, for example, combines romaine, shaved red onion and pepperoncini with cubes of fresh mozzarella and crispy pepperoni bits, all tossed in an antipasto-inspired dressing.
Entrees include Shrimp Scampi ($30), A Very Big Meatball ($21) and an extra-large take on Chicken Parmesan ($34) made from an entire deboned half a chicken. Traditionalists may miss the typical thin and crispy cutlet, but this juicy take on the classic could definitely satisfy a crowd.
“It’s a fun, whole new world every single day that I’m walking into,” Youngerman says of his first time opening a restaurant from the ground up. “It’s gotten a lot of creative gears grinding, which is cool. I just need to get a little bit of sleep so I can keep on grinding.”