Fans of the original and newcomers alike will be surprised and also comforted when they walk underneath the neon Campus Lounge sign at University and Exposition.
The Bonnie Brae classic still has the glass block windows, vinyl booths, and plenty of wood paneling, just as the former 40-year-old hockey bar did. Customers can still order a Coors and hide out at the bar for hours.
But they also can ask for the cauliflower banh mi and a mezcal penicillin, peruse modern art along the white walls, and take a seat at the counter in front of an open kitchen.
Under the direction of new owner Dan Landes (City O’ City, Make, Believe Bakery); chef Chris Medved (formerly Steuben’s, Ace Eat Serve, City O’ City); and bar consultant Steven Waters (formerly White Lies, forthcoming Run for the Roses), the new Campus Lounge is less neighborhood sports bar, more community center.
“Too often in our food scene, we see restaurants that are just a little too precious,” says Landes. “That’s just not what I’m into.”
After founding a few concepts dear to him — the all-vegan Watercourse Foods and the vegetarian City O’ City — Landes now wants to fill a niche for a long-established community.
In a brightened but retro setting, Campus Lounge sells drinks, bar snacks, plates, and sandwiches that are part classic, part modern.
Medved’s beet pickled eggs are topped with potato chips; his banh mi is made with duck meatballs. A handful of menu items, such as the Adult Spaghetti O’s, are also made vegan.
On opening night, the staff was careful to ask patrons if they had been in to the old space and what they thought about the new changes.
At least one longtime neighbor seemed pleased. He gave the menu “two thumbs up” and said he would be back, then finished his second Coors Banquet and scraped up the last of his micro greens and egg mayonnaise.
Status: Certified open (11 a.m. to midnight, Sunday-Thursday, until 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays), 701 S. University Blvd.; http://campusloungedenver.com.