Nearly a year after closing, El Chingon is coming back better and bigger than ever.
Lorenzo Nunez Jr. closed the Mexican restaurant’s location in a converted bungalow at 4326 N. Tennyson St. in Berkeley in October last year. He said the business had outgrown the 38-seat space after eight years.
Now, he’s getting ready to reopen El Chingon in a larger 70-seat location with a 50-seat patio at 1691 Central St. in LoHi in mid-August. The location was previously home to Northside Eatery + Market, which closed in December last year after a year of operation.
“I didn’t think it would take this long, but the idea was to always transition to a larger location,” Nunez said. “It was really tough to grow with limited capacity at our last space. We probably outgrew the location five years ago, but we created a good following there. So we stayed, but it just got to a point where financially it didn’t make any sense anymore.”
Nunez, 50, has spent the past months looking for a new location, and he’s also been helping his father at his wholesale business, La Azteca Food Co. The north Denver native knew he wanted to stay in the area and attempted to find a new space on Tennyson Street, but the numbers didn’t work out.
In LoHi, he leased the 3,300-square-foot space for five years in April and said he’s just making aesthetic changes to the space.
Lara Silversmith and Brett Haskins with Legend Partners represented the landlord in the deal.
Nunez’s nephew David Lopez will return as executive chef, plus half of the previous staff. El Chingon will bring back its staples, like tacos and Chingon carnitas, and add some new menu items.
“There’s going to be an added element of creativity that chef Lopez will be bringing to the table because we have space,” Nunez said. “Our dish pit here is a little bit bigger than the kitchen at the old location.”
Nunez and Lopez opened El Chingon’s first location in Arvada in 2010. Nunez had worked in the corporate world and was ready for a change, while Lopez had been working in restaurants around town after attending culinary school and working in Paris.
“I remember my mom, who is no longer with us, helped launch and curate the menu with chef Lopez for the first six years,” Nunez said. “We decided to open our own restaurant because our family is from Mexico City, and we grew up around food and had family and friends over daily. So, it seemed like a natural fit.”
A year after opening, they closed to look for a better location. And just like this time, it took a year to reopen.
In addition to the new brick-and-mortar space, Nunez has a licensing agreement to open El Chingon in Denver International Airport in the first quarter of 2023. The restaurant will be located in the new United expansion in terminal B and operated by local concessionaire Tastes DEN JV, which is also opening Alex Seidel’s Mercantile restaurant andthree of Juan Padro’s concepts.
“The idea is to utilize our LoHi space as a flagship location. Hopefully, the airport restaurant will place a lot of eyes on our brand, which we hope to grow with multiple locations in the future,” Nunez said.