Justin Brown enjoys creating menus that interest patrons. He stands here in the restaurant in downtown Greeley. Dan England/for BizWest

Grub with a pinch of gourmet

GREELEY — Justin Brown enjoys reading the reactions of new customers as they walk into his restaurant.

The location, smack in the middle of Greeley at 2118 35th Ave., served a sports bar and a shake and burger joint before Brown, 38, took it over in July 2017. It’s not like those places were greasy diners, but the decor matched what you would expect from a sports bar, including a room with a golf video game and some artificial turf stapled to the floor. Brown didn’t want ostentatious, but he did want to add, as he put it, some “nicety” to his place. He painted, added some mood lighting and put out some white tablecloths. It looks kinda like a downtown Denver restaurant, an admittedly unusual (but not unheard of) concept in Greeley.

“We didn’t want to be fancy pants,” Brown said, “but we did want to be casual and fine at the same time.”

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If you go

Gourmet Grub

2118 35th Ave., Greeley

(970) 573-5374

www.gourmetgrubkitchen.com

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The decor, as it turns out, matches his menu. He named the place Gourmet Grub, and it fits the concept of what Brown calls “elevated” food, not high falutin. Brown, 38, wants to educate you, he said, but he doesn’t want to scare you off, either with the food or the prices. Both, he said, are in the range of even a first-time fine diner.

He points to his chicken-fried ribeye as an example. The bacon green beans, baby carrots and roasted jalapeño cream gravy make it feel like a fancy meal.

“But in the end, it’s just chicken-fried steak,” Brown said.

Justin Brown stands outside of his restaurant, Gourmet Grub, located in downtown Greeley. Dan England/for BizWest

This is Brown’s first time owning a restaurant after years of working as a line cook at the Brown Palace in Denver and as an executive chef in a steakhouse in Wyoming. He sold for Shamrock Foods, a supplier, in his last job. He made good money at it, so opening Gourmet Grub was a risk, especially with his two kids aged 13 and 10 and a wife, Shannon, who helps manage the place.

He was a little excited, therefore, and he admits his first menu was probably a little overreaching for Greeley, a place with a population mostly unfamiliar with fine dining, save for the Chophouse in downtown Greeley. Brown was eager to leave the years of cooking for steakhouses behind him. The current menu, he said, is a compromise, as well as a nod to the saying that chefs aren’t cooking food for themselves: They’re cooking it for their customers.

“It didn’t encompass too many familiar foods,” Brown said. “We tried to play with the concept too much.”

He believes he found the right balance with his current menu. Last week, for example, he offered a “steak and cake,” a sirloin with a crab cake, and it sold out. He offered rack of lamb as a special recently, and he worried about the price, more than $30, but he sold out of that too.

“It was nice but nothing too crazy, and Greeley thought it was cool,” Brown said, “and that’s great.”

Brown said his place has done well, and he had an especially good December, so he feels encouraged. But he doesn’t expect to grab people right away. That’s another reason he offers bison burgers and other easily approachable dishes.

“My hopes are I get you in the door, and you go with the burger,” Brown said. “You like it, and so the third time, maybe you try something like the scalloped pasta.”

The chance to toy with a menu isn’t the only reason why Brown wanted to open his own place.

“I’m obsessed with leadership,” he said. “I wanted to build a company not just with our food but with our people. I want to look at it one day and feel proud of it.”

But it is the menu that Brown loves, and he plans to change it again at the end of January. He hopes the new fare challenges his customers but doesn’t confound them. His goal, he said, is to introduce his customers to new tastes, looks and dishes.

“That kind of stuff keeps your heart pumping,” Brown said.

GREELEY — Justin Brown enjoys reading the reactions of new customers as they walk into his restaurant.

The location, smack in the middle of Greeley at 2118 35th Ave., served a sports bar and a shake and burger joint before Brown, 38, took it over in July 2017. It’s not like those places were greasy diners, but the decor matched what you would expect from a sports bar, including a room with a golf video game and some artificial turf stapled to the floor. Brown didn’t want ostentatious, but he did want to add, as he put it, some “nicety” to his place. He painted, added some mood lighting and put out some white tablecloths. It looks kinda like a downtown Denver restaurant, an admittedly unusual (but not unheard of) concept in Greeley.

“We didn’t want to be fancy pants,” Brown said, “but we did want to be casual and fine at the same time.”

__________________________

If you go

Gourmet Grub

2118 35th Ave., Greeley

(970) 573-5374

www.gourmetgrubkitchen.com

__________________________

The decor, as it turns out, matches his menu. He named the place Gourmet Grub, and it fits the concept of what Brown calls “elevated” food, not high falutin. Brown, 38, wants to educate you, he said, but he doesn’t want to scare you off, either with the food or the prices. Both, he said, are in the range of even a first-time fine diner.

He points to his chicken-fried ribeye as an example. The bacon…