Opening a door. That’s how a friendship started 16 years ago that has now led to opening the door of a new restaurant. When Dipesh Amin was a student at CU Boulder, he ran an ad for a roommate. The first person to respond was Josef (Joe) Sykora, who had just driven from Illinois, with several months’ worth of rent money, making him the logical choice. Besides bonding over their shared studies in molecular biology, Amin and Sykora also bonded over beer and how great it would be to have their own place that served beer someday. “We kicked the idea around for many years and, in college days, things aren’t always realistic but we kept touch with the idea and now it’s a reality,” says Amin. Along with Amin’s wife, Sita Kedia, who met both men 12 years ago, the three opened Table Top restaurant last month, in Park Hill.
While it’s not that unusual for a couple or a group of friends to open a restaurant, it is unusual for the new restaurateurs to have other day jobs—major day jobs. Both Amin and Kedia are physicians. Amin works as a researcher at University Hospital and an internist at Kaiser. Kedia is a pediatric neurologist at Children’s Hospital Denver. Sykora owns Sticks and Stones Woodworkers, a Boulder-based custom remodeling business that makes handcrafted furniture.
The three have been balancing their day jobs with creating Table Top from the ground up since they signed the lease a year ago in a space that has been a used furniture store, drive-through liquor store and dance studio. After looking at several locations, the 2230 Oneida Street spot enabled the owners to have a freestanding building, an overhang for a covered patio and a side yard for a beer garden. Having the restaurant near Amin and Kedia’s East Montclair home makes having two jobs a little easier than it is for Sykora, who commutes from Boulder but is seriously considering moving to Park Hill. Kedia says they are lucky the burden isn’t on only one person. “It’s the three of us and we work really well together.”
Although they plan to be present every day, the owners say it has been very helpful to have a team they can count on, including Executive Chef Brady Marcotte who has worked at Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant, Oak at Fourteenth and Acorn restaurant. Marcotte brings culinary influences from his French grandparents and his upbringing in Kansas with barbeque.
Originally, the menu was going to consist of only small plates to accompany beer. But neighbors encouraged Amin, Kedia and Sykora to serve more substantial food. The owners listened and a seasonal menu was created with appetizers, small plates to share and entrees including smoked meats, seafood, vegetarian and gluten-free items. The cuisine is referred to as “New American,” which Amin defines as “letting the chef experiment with food styles that are historical in different parts of the world but putting an American spin on it.” Menu items range from $4–$20. There is a kids’ menu as well.
Although the owners have learned every aspect of the business, they have fallen into distinct roles. Kedia focuses on the administrative side, also greeting and serving diners; Amin is responsible for selecting the craft beers, wine and cocktails and working behind the bar; and Sykora oversees the food’s smooth transition from kitchen to table. That’s fitting since he literally made all of the tables in the restaurant as well as all seating, the bar and light fixtures.
It was Sykora who came up with the name of the restaurant. “The table top is the place for conversation where people come together and interact. To me, it’s very comforting.” The lack of televisions in the restaurant is purposeful. “We want people to have a conversation with the person they are sitting with and the people at other tables,” says Kedia. “It’s a gathering place for the neighborhood where people can walk to or bike to.”
The three owners admit they are nervous about pursuing their dream. “It’s not an inexpensive undertaking by any means. It has been a lot harder than we expected,” says Sykora. “We went into it saying we’re following our dream and expected some hardship. But if you ever want to test your friendship, open a restaurant.” The group laughs, but Kedia quickly adds, “but we’re still here, and we’re still friends.”
For hours and upcoming events, visit http://tabletopdenver.com/