Despite many successful years working in the restaurant business and enjoying the popularity of their restaurant D Bar Uptown, Chefs Keegan Gerhard and Lisa Bailey consider it a dream come true to have opened D Bar Central Park last month. The main reason? It’s in the married couple’s neighborhood just steps away from where they’ve lived for 15 years.
The co-owners of the bakery and café wanted to provide a quick service version of their original restaurant, which opened in 2008. During the pandemic, they realized that many of their menu items were very conducive to the grab-and-go format.
The Central Park location has a smaller footprint than their 19th and Pennsylvania restaurant, and it allows the couple to do most of their prep-work out of a commissary kitchen at the nearby Mosaic Campus. Early each morning, Gerhard and Bailey prepare high-volume products at the commissary before taking them to the Central Park location, where items like cookies and croissants are then baked. This will be the model for other bakery café locations they hope to open around the Denver metropolitan area in the next few years.
At D Bar Central Park, which seats approximately 15, items can be purchased to go or enjoyed in the café along with coffee drinks and a limited alcohol menu. Some of the most popular items from D Bar Uptown include Bacon Mac & Cheese and D Bar Dates (with Manchego cheese and bacon).
Afternoon Tea, a popular feature at their Uptown location, will begin at Central Park in May, in conjunction with Mother’s Day and by reservation on an ongoing basis.
“It’s not the old-school, opulent, harp, and dripping-in-gold thing,” says Gerhard. “It’s our take and it’s more food and drink than anyone should probably have in an afternoon, but it all travels really well.”
Opening a D Bar location in Central Park was important to the couple who believe that one of the responsibilities of a restaurant is to join and enhance a community. But the proximity to home was also a factor, especially since the couple recently got their first dog.
“Part of it is just selfish—we wanted to be able to walk to our restaurant,” Gerhard admits. “If you have your own restaurant business, it’s easy to find yourself opening and closing every day and being there 14, 16, 18 hours a day. We thought if we had a place right by us, maybe we could walk home, take a break, and take the puppy for a walk.”
Being closer to home is also beneficial to Gerhard after years of frequent travel as a host and judge of Food Network’s Food Network Challenge and Last Cake Standing. He’s currently working behind the scenes on shows for Netflix and Apple TV that allow him to be in Denver more.
“I did TV for a long time, and as grateful as I am for it, ultimately it just takes me away from the restaurant. What I love about the production side of things is that I can do most of it from here because, when I’m gone, even to do one show, it’s a minimum of three days and then everything falls on Lisa,” says Gerhard. “I don’t consider myself a TV guy, that’s for sure. I consider myself a cook and I like being at the restaurant.”
The couple senses more pressure having a restaurant in their own neighborhood, but also feels a personal connection to it. Although people had been asking Gerhard to open a D Bar in the neighborhood, he was concerned that having a pared-down version would be a letdown for regular customers who are familiar with their full-service brand. “I don’t use the word ‘brand’ lightly,” Gerhard explains. “People tell us we have a great brand but I don’t know if that was intentional. We were trying to make delicious food.”
Gerhard and Bailey are excited to carry the brand into Denver International Airport in the fall when they’ll open a small concept of D Bar in Terminal A. Since both domestic and international flights go out of that terminal, Gerhard loves the idea that people can take something fresh from D Bar while they fly to other places.
After 15 years, Gerhard and Bailey are glad they had the opportunity to open D Bar Central Park at this point in their business. “We never wanted the location to be a place where we were experimenting and figuring things out,” Gerhard says. “We hoped that by the time we could open a spot in our neighborhood, we would have built a good enough name.”
“What’s crazy to my little pastry brain is that we have people who went to D Bar on their first date, got engaged there, had us make their wedding cake, and now their kids’ birthday cakes,” he adds. “I could not be more grateful. I take it as a really serious responsibility and challenge to make sure we don’t let people down because they come in with high expectations.”
D Bar Central Park is located at 7302 E. 29th Ave. The website is dbardenver.com.
Front Porch photos by Christie Gosch