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A New Neighborhood Diner Lands in Berkeley

Linger’s former head chef is leading the kitchen at this sweet spot

Buttermilk pancakes are served daily at Wendell’s, which opened Tuesday on Tennyson
| Jonathan Phillips/Eater

On Tuesday, the daytime diner Wendell’s opened on Tennyson Street, and it’s a sweet little breakfast and lunch space backed by a big cast of Denver food folks. Patrick O’Neill of Avanti F&B, Kade Gianinetti of The Way Back, and consulting chef Eric Lee, formerly head chef at Linger, have combined forces for this new Berkeley restaurant. The name Wendell’s is a reference to writer Wendell Berry and also a throwback to those “classic spots where I used to hang out with my grandad as a kid,” O’Neill said.

Wendell’s took over a space that for 12 years housed DJ’s Cafe, until that restaurant closed suddenly last December. Flanked on either side by the Berkeley Inn and brand new construction, the diner could now serve as a bridge between old and new Tennyson. O’Neill and Gianinetti both live close by and wanted to continue DJ’s tradition. But diners at this updated version will find a classic American theme made modern from the decor to the brunch dishes.

California meets Colorado outside of Wendell’s, 3838 Tennyson Street
Jonathan Phillips/Eater
A view of the bar and dining room at Wendell’s, including a community table
Jonathan Phillips/Eater
A classic paloma
Jonathan Phillips/Eater

“It was this really kind of cathartic experience,” Lee said of creating Wendell’s menu. The chef has worked in Denver kitchens from Linger to Z Cuisine, The Kitchen, and Jax Fish House. He was also one of the founding owners of Cafe Aion in Boulder. All of those influences are noted at Wendell’s, where Lee says he really got back to his roots creating plates like stacked pancakes, chicken fried steak, and scrambles. Then there’s also breakfast poutine, three types of toasts topped in lox rillette or pork belly or, yes, avocado; and a side dish of Rosenberg’s bagel chips served with tomato bacon jam. To drink, the usual breakfast suspects are all here, as well as a special loaded bloody mary with a High Life pony, and house spritzes, martinis, and palomas. Like any brunch place worth its salt, there is a kids menu but there also is a decent cocktail, beer, and wine list.

The seeded toast No. 3 with lox rillette, a beet egg, and preserved tomatoes
Jonathan Phillips/Eater

The cozy 60-seat space has been transformed by Scout Interiors and Raw Creative. A powder blue bar and red swivel stools lining a community table will provide some of the best perches in the house for coffee and socializing. Booths wrap around the room’s perimeter, and an outdoor patio serves as spillover seating during a waitlist and offers group dining under the shade of a pergola. The focal point of the restaurant, though, is Berkeley-based graphic artist Evan Hecox’s full back-wall mural. His cityscape depicts a north Denver streetcar from the early 1900s. Just like Wendell’s, it’s a reminder of the history of the neighborhood as well as where it’s headed.

Status: Wendell’s opens for breakfast, brunch, and lunch daily, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays and until 3 p.m. on weekends. Find it at 3838 Tennyson Street and online at wendellsbreakfast.com.

Customers are greeted by a pastry counter and kids toys to get the morning started
Jonathan Phillips/Eater
Buttermilk pancakes No. 2 with berry compote, clotted cream, and thyme
Jonathan Phillips/Eater
Jonathan Phillips/Eater
Jonathan Phillips/Eater
Jonathan Phillips/Eater

The bar, dining room, and outdoor patio at Wendell’s

The loaded bloody mary (with a High Life sidecar) includes house bloody mix, pork belly, a pickled pole bean, and English cheddar
Jonathan Phillips/Eater

DJ's Berkeley Cafe

3838 Tennyson Street, Denver, CO 80212 303 482 1841
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