After nearly six years and over 1000 different dishes served, chef Jeff Osaka will close Twelve on August 23. The announcement first came through 5280 Magazine. Osaka received significant acclaim for the Ballpark eatery, including a 2014 James Beard semifinalist nomination for Best Chef Southwest, but he is ready to move on.
"It's a little bittersweet but it's time to move forward and grow. This was my starter restaurant. Now it's time for something bigger and more modern," Osaka tells Eater. "I outgrew the space. There are forty seats in here and that doesn't allow us to do that much business. Not that that is what matters most to me, but it is for my guests. I want to offer the best experience."
More significantly, Osaka wants to focus on his upcoming and highly anticipated ramen shop, Osaka Ramen and expanding that brand to multiple locations. "My intention is to open four or five of them. We have been looking at different areas although no formal offer was put in yet. We are looking at Cherry Creek and Wash Park. There may be a location in Boulder that we are considering, but rent is high up there. It's hard to profit from $12 bowls of ramen in a high-rent location. I also have my eye on the airport too. My idea there is to not even have chairs, more like a Japanese train station — grab a bowl and catch your plane," he explains.
Twelve may return as early as next year — spring or summer — in a new space, with a new approach. "It will be back but it will be different," Osaka says. "Maybe a new concept, maybe not change the menu so often, still be seasonal, maybe more smaller plates so you can get to taste the menu more. It would be a much larger menu — probably more 25 to 30 items on the menu; still reasonably priced; anywhere from $8 to $16 a plate where you can have two or three plates for the same cost as what we have at Twelve now. I want to focus more on wine too, offer smaller pours of wine, for a good price."
Will the chef keep the name? "I am not sure. The name is associated with how we change the menu now. It would be a difficult decision not to keep it but I might have to do that. Twelve is my namesake in Denver, it's where I built my reputation, but there's the menu change aspect. It would be a tough decision. Right now, it's 50/50."
As for the space Twelve is currently located it, come October, Butcher's Bistro, a retail butcher shop and restaurant, will take it over. Brainchild of two veterans from Snooze — Tyson Holzheimer (regional chef) and Scott Bauer (regional manager) — plus Bauer's wife Kristin, the new venture will focus on Colorado-sourced meats – beef, lamb pork and poultry. Open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., the Butcher's Bistro will bring a fully stocked butchery counter, located in the front of the restaurant, and a "rustic American" menu. Think cassoulet, housemade charcuterie, bone marrow, short ribs, and sausage-sampler plates.