Daniel Masters, a 41-year-old Memphis native, visited Denver during the pandemic to check out the city’s approach to outdoor dining.
And he didn’t look back.
“When I went home, I didn’t feel like I was at home anymore,” Masters said. “I was more at home here, and I just kept coming every month until I made it official.”
Masters owns a nightclub in Memphis called Silly Goose, which he opened in 2008, and a Southern restaurant dubbed Pontotoc Lounge, which dates to 2016. He also owned a food hall there that closed during the pandemic.
And after moving here, he’s now planning his debut in the Denver restaurant scene — a coffee shop and cocktail bar called Hello Darling at 1610 Little Raven St. in Riverfront Park.
“My dance with food is done,” Masters said. “Hello Darling makes a lot of sense because the traditional model of a restaurant has been difficult to accomplish. It’s very stressful, especially with the cost of labor, food and the revolving door of staff.”
Hello Darling, which he hopes to debut in August, will be open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, Masters said. In the morning, it will serve coffee sourced from MiddleState Coffee, plus baked goods from Fudmill and breakfast burritos from Araujos. At night, there will be classic cocktails on tap, like negronis, Manhattans, daiquiris and espresso martinis, plus charcuterie boards and other snacks.
“When I was young, the nightclub was the energy I had,” Masters said. “But as I’ve gotten older and started waking up and going to bed earlier, I want to focus my passion toward what I’m interested in now, which is coffee and a nice cocktail.”
Masters leased the 1,900-square-foot space in December for five years. It was previously a portion of the restaurant Wayward, which closed in 2018. He was walking by one day and said he was shocked to find it vacant.
“I feel like there’s a need for a good happy hour spot between the two bridges,” he said.
Masters has self-financed Hello Darling, which he named after a Conway Twitty song, and is doing some cosmetic finishes to the space before he opens.
“As someone who’s new here, I’m just excited to meet new people myself,” he said.
Eventually, he’d like to sell his other two businesses in Memphis and put his full focus on Denver.