Interview with Mario Vasquez & Bryan Bradigan
Co-Owners of Colorado Craft
15 S. Tejon Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80903
Inside the landmark building formerly home to The Ritz, Colorado Craft is building a new legacy in the heart of downtown Colorado Springs. Sporting a clean and modern look, Colorado Craft is redefining casual dining.
Their curated menu is an experience in quality and skill. This is thanks to the singular vision of two men: Mario Vasquez, co-owner and highly skilled Executive Chef from Napa Valley, and co-owner and Operator Bryan Bradigan, who brings business acumen and nearly three decades of industry experience to the table. These two men have come together with the mission to bring a variety of bold new flavors to the downtown food scene.
Colorado Craft opened its doors in January of 2018 and has quickly made a favorable impression on the community. The restaurant has already earned two 2018 bronze awards from The Colorado Springs Independent as Best New Restaurant and Best Place for Lunch. Additionally, Mario was nominated for Best Chef by the Independent. These gentlemen attribute their success to a strong partnership and a mutual respect for each other.
Bryan and Mario have a strong friendship that began at Till Kitchen (corrected: not Napa Valley). Bryan says he had never had a desire to open a restaurant until he saw the potential of what he and Mario could build together. Mario, a highly trained chef who attended the illustrious Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, is responsible for creating innovative menu items that have a casual feel with a refined flavor.
When asked what defines the culinary culture of Colorado Craft, neither man could overstate the importance of the fresh, locally sourced ingredients used in every dish. The kitchen is free of deep freezers, cans, and even microwaves. Everything is prepared with ingredients from local farms and artisans. The oft-misused motto of “fresh, never frozen” gains a new meaning at Colorado Craft.
The approachable menu boasts a roasted chicken half with sunchoke mash and spiced carrots, Mario’s top recommendation, and a chicken sandwich with what Bryan describes as having a “big wow factor.” These are just two of the many exciting dishes that mix familiar fare with a fresh perspective.
A perfect example of Mario’s unique take on an old favorite is the Hatch Burger, which features peach and hatch chile jam, roasted jalapeños, red onion, and Swiss cheese on a responsibly-sourced beef patty. These flavors of Colorado can only be found in this combination under Chef Mario’s direction.
The kitchen isn’t the only place with the commitment to Colorado fare. The bar is stocked impressively, especially for connoisseurs of all things Colorado. Local bourbons, gins, craft beers, and so many more libations from around our great state are available. Colorado Craft is “designed to showcase the best of Colorado’s breweries, distilleries, farms, and purveyors,” and takes the mission to bring these flavors to Colorado Springs very seriously.
CC’s Craft Fashioned, their take on the classic Old Fashioned, uses Axe and The Oak Rye Whisky and is possibly the best to be had in all of downtown. By aiming “to support small and medium local companies in representing their individual craft,” Colorado Craft creates more than food: they create community. Remarkably, even the tables hold special community significance; they are salvaged, refurbished bowling lanes from Bear Creek Lanes.
As one of the newest additions to the famous Tejon Street, the Colorado Craft family has a lot of love for their new neighborhood. “Down here, I think the food scene is being revitalized,” Bryan says. “The downtown dining scene is seeing a revival, and we’re excited to be a part of that.”
As for Mario, he loves the weekday crowd, the people who work nearby and come to Colorado Craft open to try new things. “The people are the best part of being downtown,” Mario says with an unmistakable note of fondness in his voice.
As though another reason to visit Colorado Craft were necessary, they also have an underground speakeasy in the basement. The Archives Speakeasy operates in tandem with Colorado Craft; they are not the same business, but they are roommates, and what fun roomies they are! After an exemplary meal from Chef Mario’s delicious menu, head downstairs to try classic cocktails and one-of-a-kind libations in a novel atmosphere.
Rocky Mountain Food Tours is proud to feature Colorado Craft on our Pikes Peak Progressive Dinner. We’re filling up for the holiday season, so book your spot soon!
Written by contributing author, J.N. Lister.