Traveling by train from Denver International Airport, it would take a visitor 30 minutes to get to the stop at 38th and Blake Streets. From Union Station, the trip to RiNo takes less than five minutes. Until very recently, there wasn’t a reason to make this far-flung industrial corner the first or last stop on any itinerary around Colorado’s capital. That all changes March 12 when Zeppelin Station opens.
At the corner of 35th and Wazee Streets, a brand new food hall is about to put out dishes and drinks from 10 vendors with influences from around the globe. Their products span cultures from the American South to Hawaii, Mexico, Montreal, Vietnam, Italy, and South India. Anyone who doesn’t know chicken 65 should be excited to discover it here prepared by Denver chef Cindhura Reddy. For those who haven’t yet tasted banh mi from fifth-generation Vietnamese bakers, Vinh Xuong Bakery is perhaps the best place to try it out.
While the stalls at Zeppelin Station are mostly adapted from chefs’ previous concepts — based across town on Federal Boulevard, down the street in RiNo, or out of Chicago — positioning them together in a modern food hall provides an altogether different experience. Two things are certain walking through this concrete concourse surrounded by cranes and construction: that Denver is growing and gentrifying like never before, and that it is poised to become an international city.
The Food and Drink
Six savory food stalls are positioned around a central kitchen at Zeppelin Station, with a gelato stand and coffee counter, plus two bars — one downstairs and one upstairs — offering drinks and dessert. Aloha Poke, Vinh Xuong Bakery, Namkeen South Indian street food, Injoi Korean Kitchen, and Au Feu Montreal smoked meats make up the permanent meal offerings. At a quarterly changing pop-up stall, a mix of Comal’s Syrian plates, Mexican dishes, and Argentinian empanadas will be available for the food hall’s first three months.
Both Aloha and Au Feu have expanded to Denver from Chicago. The former offers build-your-own poke bowls at a flat price, while the latter does a Texas-smoked and Montreal-cured brisket, piled between slices of rye bread. Fifth-generation, brother-and-sister restaurateurs have brought their Vietnamese banh mi shop, Vinh Xuong, to Zeppelin Station. And their new coffee counter, Dandy Lion, delivers regular drip and cold-pressed drinks mixed with sweetened condensed milk.
For Injoi, former Acorn chef Bill Espiricueta has created a traditional Korean menu with influences from the American South. The glazed and fried chicken sandwich packed with pickled vegetables and appropriate heat is not to be missed. More heat can be found around the corner in Namkeen’s chicken 65 — sort of the South Indian version of hot wing sauce. For a sweet finish, Boulder-based Fior Gelato has set up shop here as Gelato Boy, with scoops of blood orange creamsicle and vanilla black sesame.
At the all-day Kiss + Ride bar downstairs, travelers can stop in for one of 10 transit-themed cocktails, a mixed and bottled drink, or a glass of bubbly. Upstairs, Big Trouble opens for evening drinkers sharing literal boats of vodka, white port, and Midori, or drinking solo Suntory highballs on a single rock.
From the team behind Taxi and The Source, this latest food hall is as industrial as its RiNo surroundings, with nods to a transit theme throughout and the feel of a Tokyo alleyway upstairs. Neon signs mark the bars, the doors and railings are painted red, and exposed piping and hardware is covered in all black. At the front end of the upstairs seating area, a DJ booth is ready for guest spots and weekend dance parties.
Hospitality director Justin Anderson came to Denver from Revival Food Hall in Chicago, and he brought with him the bar support and a few of the food vendors to make Zeppelin Station feel even closer in proximity to one of the major food capitals of the country. During a preview of the space, Anderson gathered at Big Trouble with the rest of the Zeppelin team to drink, eat, and celebrate. Downstairs, chefs prepared trays of dishes from Mexico City and Montreal, but the atmosphere wasn’t like either of those places and it wasn’t like anything already in Denver, for that matter. For those wondering how different the latest food hall opening can be: Zeppelin Station is something new, and it is definitely something else.
Status: Zeppelin Station will start soft openings next week with its grand opening on Monday, March 12. The food hall is located at 3501 Wazee Stree, and the building will open as early as 7 a.m. and close as late as 2 a.m., with hours varying between vendors and days of the week. Check the website for opening hours and more information.