Just a couple of minutes after we’ve met, Jason Payne asks, “You want to see our garden?”
We are sitting at the bar of Pure Kitchen, the aptly named restaurant that Payne and two partners opened last December on the fringes of Frisco’s ever-evolving Basecamp Center development. “You have to climb a ladder,” he adds, as I follow him and General Manager Niall Jensen into the attic, where a smattering of fledgling crops basks in the glow of grow lights on a day in May that looks and feels more like January. “This is the start of our lettuces and veggies,” Payne says. “They’ll go into the ground soon. You can see the tomatoes are already popping out.”
For a place that was designed to deliver local, farm-to-table, seasonal food, it should come as no surprise that Pure Kitchen has a greenhouse in its rafters. The health food theme is not a shtick here. Rather, explains Payne, a 37-year-old Colorado native, it is driven by a gap in Summit’s dining scene, namely, a dearth of options for those who want to eat healthy, responsibly sourced food that tastes as good as, or better than, the conventional alternative.
“As far as providing organic, no-antibiotics, grass-fed—all the key terms of what health and wellness revolves around—it doesn’t exist up here,” says Payne, an entrepreneur who has helped start four restaurants in four years—including Flipside Burger in Breckenridge. “There’s a lot of bar food and people pulling things out of packages and throwing premade soup into hot water and calling it ‘homemade’ or ‘house-made’ stuff. And it’s not.” He points to Pure Kitchen’s menu, which is sitting on a Brazilian hardwood bar next to a bin of paper straws. “Everything’s made from scratch here. We offer vegetarian and vegan, gluten-free options, along with, like, straight carnivore: If you’re looking for a burger, we’ve got an amazing grass-fed burger.”
Pure Kitchen is a partnership between Payne, Breckenridge restaurateur Terry Barbu (Flipside, Blue Stag), and the Pinnacle Companies, the residential and commercial development juggernaut that designed and built the brick-and-mortar restaurant, along with its new $5 million corporate headquarters office upstairs and its retail store (Collective Design + Furnishings) and property management agency (Pinnacle Lodging) next door. The 30-foot ceiling, bright lights, and glass walls overlooking Whole Foods and Peak 1 beyond give the place a contemporary yet earthy vibe. And with an open kitchen, diners can watch Executive Chef Greg Slagle and his team experiment with new recipes nightly. (Tip: If you can snag the two chairs at the end of the bar, a.k.a. the “chef’s table,” you often get to taste new dishes as the kitchen whips them up.)
Slagle, 34, came to Pure Kitchen from the Breckenridge Brewery, but his background is in farm-to-table dining, a specialty he honed in Steamboat Springs and Fort Collins. Few ideas are off limits when it comes to creativity. “We’ve done crazy things,” says Payne, who designed the menu with Slagle. “One of our specials tonight is a house-smoked jackfruit. The fruit is like an artichoke heart but tastes like barbecue. You can pull it apart, and it looks like pulled pork.” The other special was an eight-week dry-aged rib eye, sourced, like all of the proteins on the menu, from Colorado.
Pure Kitchen juices and ferments a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables (try the prickly pear lemonade if you’re a juice fan) and weaves them into the menu. One of the best sellers is the spring roll, a starter made with a rotating recipe that often evolves over the course of a shift. Both the cherry pork belly gyro platter (served with passion fruit tzatziki, organic Bibb lettuce, charred shallot, Peppadew relish, manchego, and açai drizzle) and the Cheatin Wheat chicken and biscuits (Georgia-style fried chicken, Tender Belly bacon, and aged New York white cheddar, topped with microgreens in buttermilk dressing; you’d never suspect that the flour used to bread the chicken and make the biscuits happens to be gluten-free) come in huge portions for just $16.
Novelty qualifies the rest of the menu, too. An assortment of tasty flatbreads are made with cauliflower crust (the Thai chicken is new this summer), and the open-face ravioli—“kind of a deconstructed ravioli,” says Payne—uses coconut wontons as a base under a vegetable medley and house-made mozzarella. All chicken is “N.A.E.,” which means No Antibiotics Ever, while protein-rich entrées include an organic grass-fed beef tenderloin (Payne’s favorite item), Maple Leaf Farms duck confit (Slagle’s favorite), and fresh yellowfin tuna—each for less than $35.
The $10 local’s lunch special gets you a grass-fed burger or soup and salad with a fresh-pressed juice or a locally brewed beer (Outer Range and Angry James are on draft). And starting this summer, you can enjoy all of this locally sourced, good-for-you fare on the patio with views of Peak 1.
“We’re not different to be pretentious,” Payne says. “We’re different because we care about the food we eat and how we get it.”
The Pure Kitchen
116 Basecamp Way, Frisco