Brasserie Brixton opened as a French restaurant in July, now it sells pizza







Editor’s note: We’re just craving pizza all the time lately. There are few foods that are more comforting. So leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, we’re bringing you a three-part series on our favorite pie. Today, the story of Brasserie Brixton, a new restaurant in Cole that has quite the pandemic story and has recently overhauled its entire menu, serving pizzas to go in order to survive the winter. Next week: Our Top 10 pizzas in metro Denver. 

Three years ago, world travelers Justin Morse and Amy Keil decided to build their dream restaurant in Denver — a small neighborhood spot with good food at a price that wasn’t prohibitive and an atmosphere that fed off the energy of its customers.

The couple created an LLC and started construction on Brasserie Brixton inside a corner brick storefront at 37th and Williams in the Cole neighborhood. By the time they opened their little Denver restaurant in July, the setting and menu were everything they had envisioned. Aside from a pandemic, they had just one other problem to contend with: The brasserie didn’t qualify for any government aid, especially Paycheck Protection.

According to Morse, in response to relief applications, they were told that the Brasserie had opened too late in the year for aid, and that they couldn’t prove a real business “loss” from their sales pre-pandemic.

“In what world would you think that I’d make the same amount of revenue (during a pandemic)?” he told The Denver Post, baffled. “I work in an industry that literally has government regulations telling me I can’t open my doors.”

Not even six months into running the restaurant, Morse, Keil and chef-owner Nicholas Dalton needed to close shop temporarily to rebrand and reopen. Their answer to an impossible situation: a to-go pizza business, called (Le) Brix Pizza & Wine. To get them through the winter, (Le) Brix now specializes in personal and deep-dish pies, as well as a handful of salads and appetizers.

“It’s honestly been kind of nice doing the pizza, because I know that we’re not going to get shut down tomorrow,” Morse said. “It’s not a fire drill every day.”

The idea for pizza from a French kitchen came about back in November. It was Denver’s fall Restaurant Week, and Morse and Dalton were sitting down one night after service. They had just heard that restaurants would be closed to indoor dining again starting Nov. 20.

“What do we do?” Morse remembers thinking. The pair hadn’t designed their menu of snails, seasonal vegetables and steak frites to travel. Over the summer, they had placed a few picnic tables along the sidewalk (a process Morse said took five visits from various city entities for approval).

“We were joking around,” Morse said of the idea to start serving pizzas. Much has been written of the types of food that restaurants are finding profitable over the last 10 months, but in short, you can bet on things like fried chicken, sandwiches, pizza and other comforts that carry well.

Within minutes, the owners had decided “we’re a pizza restaurant now.” They got to work building a wood oven, experimenting with dough and coming up with a new name for the business.

“I really wanted to have a separation just so people didn’t … expect the same menu, or even service,” Morse said of rebranding. “If you don’t like our pizza, you know, come back for the French food. But having a little pizza joint in a neighborhood is a great amenity.”

They’ve even discussed keeping (Le) Brix in some form, pending customer feedback, once restaurants return to regular service.

“That’s a little bit of a silver lining that keeps us going,” Morse said.

For customers, the silver lining is that Dalton and his team of chefs who were trained in classically French food are putting their attention into combinations like the Grandma’s Potato deep dish (or, as I like to say, Bubbe’s Latke pizza). It’s a 13×9-inch pie loaded with julienne potatoes, bacon, onion, crème fraîche and fried rosemary ($26).

Personal pizzas (great for kids, but bite-sized by adult standards, $8) get even more creative with toppings like artichoke and mortadella or beets, goat cheese and dukkah (a North African seasoning). And because the team couldn’t stray too far from France, there are still bottles of Vin Mousseaux ($38), Pinot Blanc ($28) and more funky wines to drink.

“We didn’t want to do anything that was an inferior product,” Morse said. And while he admits he has “lost all hope” of receiving government aid, he has decided to shift his focus. “Any energy spent worrying about it … doesn’t help us be a better restaurant tomorrow. And we’re lucky to have a really great team. Our high-end dining chefs are making pizza now, but with a smile on their face.”

(Le) Brix Pizza & Wine, 3701 N. Williams St., open 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, 720-617-7911, brasseriebrixton.com


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