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Interested in Tundra’s culture, employees or history? This is our story. This is what we believe in & how we work – it’s all fun here!

Help Us Donate to Boulder Safehouse Outreach Center

Boulder Safehouse Outreach Center

Keeping with the spirit of our values in giving back, Tundra’s Culture Crew is putting together a donation drive for next month. This time, we’ll be taking donations on behalf of the Boulder Safehouse Outreach Center, an organization dedicated to offering support and services to those impacted by domestic or dating violence in the Boulder community.

Now through July 25th our employees will be bringing donations into the office, and we’d love if you could help us!  All you have to do is find extra things you have laying around that are unopened, and bring it into our showroom.  Our front counter team will even help you unload!

Here’s a quick list of items that was sent over to us from the Safehouse for immediate needs:

  • Ground Coffee
  • Liquid Laundry Detergent
  • Unopened Cold Medicines (allergy, pain relief…)
  • Cleaning Supplies (sponges, brooms, 409, ajax cleanser etc.)
  • Latex/Vinyl Gloves (for cooking and cleaning)
  • New Combs and Brushes (hair)

Find Other Donation Items Needed

If you can find anything around your house that you aren’t using, or come across a deal at the store next time you’re there, I’m sure ANY and ALL of your donations to the Safehouse are greatly appreciated.

SAFETY ALERT – Boulder Safehouse Outreach Center advises that if you are in danger, to please use a safer computer, or call 911, or call SPAN’s 24-Hour Crisis & Information Hotline at 303-444-2424. Learn more technology safety tips.

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Suspended Coffee – Dream Big. Start Small.

Suspended Coffees

When I started doing research on the Suspended Coffee Movement I expected to find a lot of information on restaurants and people working together to support those in need, but what I actually found was that this movement has its flaws that causes many restaurants to turn their cheek the other way.

What is the Suspended Coffee Movement?

First, a little background on what the Suspended Coffee Movement is.  Based on an Italian goodwill tradition, the idea is to pay it forward with coffee.  It sounds simple, but the story goes that a couple of friends were sitting in a coffeehouse and one friend heard a patron say that they’d like to order 5 coffees, 3 of which needed to be suspended.  This happens with the next few patrons until a homeless gentleman comes in and asks if there were any suspended coffees, and because people had paid for additional coffees (suspended the coffees), he was able to receive a free cup of coffee.

How could that be bad?

Well, if you’ve ever worked in the restaurant industry in front of house, especially in an area with a high homeless population, you can probably already answer that question.  The argument is that the free coffees are actually causing more issues than good.

The baristas and staff that are expected to manage the suspended coffees are already working to do the jobs they are assigned.  To then have to keep track of the suspended coffees, including managing the money (if the POS can even do that), would have to be figured out beforehand.

There’s also the issue of keeping the staff honest.  Without proper rules and management set-up prior to offering suspended coffees, who’s to say where those coffees go… friends? family? favorite customers?  There’s also dishonest patrons that may take advantage of the deal simply because they can.

And loitering (where I suppose was where I was going with the busy homeless population) is another issue.  In cold places, like Colorado (and such), keeping homeless people out of seats so paying patrons can have a sit, is always a struggle.  Drunk, belligerent vagrants tend to ward patrons away rather than encouraging them to suspend coffees.

But it’s the principal of the movement that we need to keep in mind.

It’s not about the coffee.  It’s not about the homeless.  It’s not about helping the less fortunate.  It’s about helping the world be a better place.

Your Ticket to Italy Sales Receipt

It’s really a simple idea.

It’s about paying it forward: doing something, anything to spread a little human compassion, and encouraging people to pass it on.  You could just as easily buy a cup of coffee for a homeless man, as you could just pass him a $10 gift certificate so he could order an entire meal.  You could also leave a rather large tip for a waitress that went out of her way to make your day, and maybe that encourages her to do something nice for someone else.

The point is that all of these small things add up to big things.  You could continue to look at the world as a big disappointment and hope to get by, or you could look for opportunity to make it a better place.

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Photo Contest: Win a Metalfrio Beverage Cooler

HBC60 Metalfrio beverage coolerFrom May 17th – June 14th we’re running a photo contest on our Facebook page. The grand prize is a Metalfrio Beverage Cooler valued at $949.95 and this puppy is packed with features including auto defrost by thermostat cycle, an LED temperature display and a front facing ventilation grill at the base for built-in applications. But above all, the HBC60 Beverage Cooler keeps beer at temps below freezing – how cool is that?

You can pack in 51 12 oz. bottles or 48 12 oz. cans, it has a 115V electrical rating which is perfect for any residential or commercial space and its only 15”W x 23.3”D x 34.5”H.

So… it’s obvious this arctic beast is a desirable piece of equipment and you probably want one, am I right? If so, you should enter our kick ass photo contest. It’s easy peazy and fun! Just go to the Facebook Photo Contest App, like our page and submit a picture of yourself enjoying tasty beverages with family and/or friends.

TIP: The Digital Marketing Team at Tundra will be judging the contest and picking one of the top 5 photos with the most votes. (that’s right – there’s voting involved!) The marketing team is a bunch of goof balls and will most likely select a humorous photo.

You can submit a different photo and vote every 24 hours so don’t forget to share your submission and invite your pals to vote!

The winner will be selected and notified via email. How terrible would it be to win and not know about it? Make sure you enter an email you check frequently. The winner will have 7 days to respond before another submission will be selected.

What are you waiting for? Submit a goofy drinking picture before you forget! Who knows, the winner could be you!

Enter Now
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Keeping Culture from Crumbling as Business Booms

Shared Values, Culture

Culture is a concept that seems to elude and confuse companies from one end of the business spectrum to the other, but a company’s culture is an ever-present aspect of any establishment. From the Mom & Pop corner diner to the highly-polished chain restaurant – and on up to the corporate offices calling the shots – each setting has a culture waiting to be understood and encouraged to thrive. Unfortunately, as business picks up and companies expand beyond the family-sized start-up, a healthy company culture is harder to harbor, and all too often as numbers grow, employees start to grumble and the culture well dries up.

As Tundra Restaurant Supply celebrates its 20th anniversary, focus on company culture remains strong, and the idea of evolving and expanding that culture as business booms has become a shared effort.

“When I started the recruitment process and we talked about what Tundra has to offer a prospective employee, Culture Crew and the culture of Tundra was brought up. It was really big for me that it was brought up,” Steve Trujillo, current face of the company’s Culture Crew, said of his hiring in August 2012. “I’ve worked for big box companies, huge companies, where I’m just a cog in the machine and I’m just a number [and] it’s more about what you can provide to the company in environments like that.”

Coming from a broad-spectrum background, with experience in both small companies and corporate powerhouses, Steve shares his enthusiasm for connectivity and community throughout Tundra, while realizing the pitfalls inherent to a growing business.

There’s Something Unique to Every Company

“I think there’s something unique to every single company,” Steve remarks regarding whether or not a culture template works across the board. “The individuals within that company need to kind of go through their own trials and tribulations to develop what that culture is and what kind of programs need to be done to keep culture strong. There are some loose methods, like communication. Every company should communicate across departments. There should be social events in every company. Those kinds of things can be thrown into a general template or process, but I think the key for every company is that [culture] just needs to be addressed.”

It’s important to evaluate a new employee’s potential to thrive and mature personally, as well as professionally, within any company. Being one of the few places Steve has worked where culture was actively discussed, Tundra’s approach to finding the proper fit in terms of employees and attitudes appealed to him from the very beginning. Throughout the interview process, professional skills and competency were discussed as well as whether or not his piece would fit into the puzzle of Tundra’s company culture.

“It felt like questions at that time were leaning towards “will this guy fit personally with the people and the team he’s going to come into, and on top of that will he fit within the company,”” Steve remembers. “It’s good to know that everybody gets some sort of question and answer period about who that person is and why they would be a good fit.”

Finding an employee that fits is only the first step of a long, tricky staircase that leads towards immersion in company culture and being a part of making that culture work. Many workplaces have a top-down “system” of culture where attitudes are dealt out like cards and employees just go with the flow. This can lead to varying views of exactly what a company’s culture means to different people, and a superior who stresses and instructs over involving and engaging employees isn’t really helping anyone.

Culture Crew

“At the beginning it really felt like one person was doing everything related to Culture Crew,” Steve says. “What we’ve done a really good job of, at least this year, is that we’ve all got a shared piece of the pie. Everything from Friday Funday to planning social events; everybody’s got an active role. Everybody’s all hands on board.”

With member representatives from a majority of departments within the company including warehouse, accounting, human resources, sales, and marketing Tundra’s Culture Crew meets weekly to discuss company attitudes and employee concerns as well as brainstorm team-building activities and events. Enjoying a company’s culture is an invaluable aspect of employee satisfaction that just can’t be built into the job. It’s a feeling of belonging that makes people want to refer friends and tell family about their fantastic company, and facilitating this feeling needs to be a daily, company-wide effort.

“I think culture is kind of all encompassing. Are you happy with the day you come in to? Is your workload easier to handle because your environment makes it that way,” Steve says of how he sees company culture in general. “To me, the culture aspect comes into play as external factors. The work’s going to be there every day no matter what. The whole idea behind why we have a Culture Crew is to keep this family, I mean it started out as a family business, we want to keep those family values and aspects.”

Tundra Restaurant Supply’s growing family of 135 employees all contribute on some level to the company’s evolving culture. Plans for the year include a company barbecue, pancake breakfast, ski trip, baseball game, softball and kickball leagues, and monthly Friday Funday and employee birthday/anniversary cake days. The company’s Culture Crew, with its rotating members, continuously tries to bring the fun back into the workplace.

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Our Heart Feels GREAT!

We don’t brag often, but the time has come! Some amazing partnerships have recently formed and we want to shout our excitement on the Back Burner blog!

High West Oyster FestHigh West Oyster Fest

Tundra has joined hands with the Big Red F Restaurant Group and Jax Fish House Boulder to support the Veterans Expeditions – a Colorado based non-profit that uses wilderness challenges to connect veterans, create community, and raise awareness. Their work supports the reintegration of veterans into society and empowers them to overcome the challenges many face following military service.

On Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013 Jax Fish House Boulder will host the First Annual High West Oyster Fest. Picture, if you will, 1,000 folks gathered at The Boulder Theater enjoying live music by local funk-phenomenon Juno What?!, slurping fresh oysters and sipping Odell Emersum Oyster Stout. There will be an Oyster Eating Contest and an Oyster Shucking Competition featuring the fastest shuckers from the finest oyster bars across the globe!

Proceeds from the High West Oyster Fest will go to the Veterans Expeditions. What a fun way to support such an amazing organization! Interested in attending?

I Have a DreamKitchens are Cooking! Tour

Our next marvelous partnership is with the “I Have a Dream” Foundation of Boulder County. On April 27th and 28th beautiful and unique kitchens throughout Boulder will be featured, many with a culinary cooking theme. There will be demonstrations and cooking ideas — all in beautiful home and loft kitchen settings. Tundra is donating Chef Wear for the event!

All proceeds from the Kitchens are Cooking! Tour will support “I Have a Dream” Foundation of Boulder County’s Fitness for Life program – provides low-income children with life skills focused on nutrition and well-being, participation in a variety of recreational activities, and healthy after-school snacks so they can be successful in school and life.

Milk+BookiesStory Time Celebration

Our third most recent partnership is with Milk + Bookies™ – a nationwide charitable organization that inspires children to give back, using books as its currency. March 10th  marks the 4th Annual Story Time Celebration which is a family fun day featuring celebrity readers such as Ginnifer Goodwin from ABC TV Series Once Upon a Time, Max Greenfield AKA Schmidt from FOX’s TV Series New Girl and Adam Scott from NBC’s TV Series Parks and Rec.  The event also has story inspired arts and crafts, photo flip books, literary characters, lunch (that’s where Tundra comes in – we donated the disposables!) and delicious milk and cookies!

Children do the giving and a giant bookstore is available for families to pick books, inscribe them with personal messages and then donate them back. Milk + Bookies then gives the books to local school children who simply have no books of their own.

Check out this video to learn more about the Milk + Bookies Story Time Celebration:

Tundra’s 10th value is to “share the gains with our people, our customers and the community” and that is exactly what we intend to do! We are thrilled about our new partnerships and community involvement and can’t wait to see who walks through the door next…

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A Look at Tundra’s History with Co-Founders Michael Lewis & Rob Fenton – Part II

20th Anniversary Logo TundraWith the expansion into the online marketplace came the potential for Tundra to bring business to the national and global fronts, providing large establishments as well as the at-home consumer an avenue to shop equipment and parts from the comfort of a computer. A bare-bones website, constructed and maintained by Michael’s son Ryan Lewis in the early 2000’s, generated a single order on the day the site launched, (“for one cutting board,” Michael laughs) and after a few months the company had carved out a place for itself online.

“The first website was very primitive, very clunky, but it was sort of cutting edge at that time,” Michael jokes. “Then we went on to the second one, and with each one we were able to expand the amount of product we put on. We were able to get deeper into the customer world. We became far savvier with web marketing. I think the rest of that’s history to where [the web] is one of the most significant growth engines in this company today.”

The push into web sales and marketing also added to Tundra’s ability to cater to customers on a different level by providing a convenient, customized shopping experience for larger businesses.

“At that same time we started to get a lot of interest from different groups that we worked with. Restaurant chains. They were interested in utilizing and liked the idea of having their own website,” Rob reflects regarding Tundra’s chain sites. “We were able to create a lot of uniqueness for them. It’s amazing how many people are involved in that and want that. It’s worked out well.”

While technological advances assisted in the company’s growth, it’s a core set of values on which Tundra finds its footing for day-to-day interactions and ethics. Jotted down as Michael left his old company, and unaltered as they were cemented into how business is conducted, the thirteen values are painted on the walls and keep the company focused.

“In fifteen minutes I wrote down the values of what I wanted to take with me from my prior experience and hold on to,” Michael explains. “It was the stuff that was successful or wished to be successful. The things that when we had difficult times held us together. That’s where the thirteen values came from.”

As years progressed and times changed Tundra’s culture continued to blossom, and with more product and sales came more challenges. Adjusting to additional business and providing customer and employee satisfaction may not have always come easy, but working back toward the values that helped form the company proved invaluable.

“That’s the beauty of culture, and values, is that they drift.” Michael says of the Tundra’s strong values. “You know the old saying is ‘to be off the path is to be on the path, because at least you have a path and you know you’re off it,’ and having a core set of values to return to was always a centering point.”

And with that centering point always in mind the business has continued to expand. Bringing high quality parts and equipment to restaurants and cozy kitchens around the world has proven fruitful, and both Rob and Michael see the possibilities for Tundra as endless.

“I think it’s unlimited,” Rob says. “As we go forward, always going back to who we are and what we do and the ability to focus on the customer and take care of them as we have in the past, the future’s bright. There is no limit.”

As Tundra celebrates its 20th anniversary this month orders will continue to ship, customers will continue to browse the showroom, and calls will continue to come in. Those humble beginnings of a three employee effort have grown to a well-oiled 135 person team, with each member contributing to the expansion of ten products to nearly 70,000, and the company’s culture and drive for customer care continues to evolve with no limits in sight.

“It’s been one hell of a ride,” Rob remarks.

Read Part I.

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A Look at Tundra’s History with Co-Founders Michael Lewis & Rob Fenton – Part I

Tundra Co-Founders Michael Lewis & Rob FentonFrom a garage based one-man parts company, to a recognized national supplier of literally everything including the kitchen sink, Tundra Restaurant Supply has grown as a business and evolved as a concept for the past twenty years. This month Tundra’s crossing that anniversary line, and co-founders Michael Lewis and Rob Fenton have been along for the ride since the company’s conception. Keeping business practices and employee relations grounded in a solid “ways not policies” mentality, both men can still be seen laughing with vendors or conversing with co-workers on a daily basis. Michael and Rob recently took a trip down memory lane and reminisced about the early days, what makes Tundra special, how things have changed, and how staying the same where it counts has kept the company strong and unique over the years.

“When I came out here it started very fundamentally,” Michael remembers of his move from New Jersey in 1992, “It literally started in my garage. I came out here with the idea of starting a smaller, regional restaurant dealership that emphasized parts and brought what my prior company did at the wholesale level to the retail level.”

Printing and passing out product fliers, in person, to Boulder, Colorado’s budding restaurant scene in early ’93 helped Michael get familiar with the area and the restaurateurs he’d be doing business with. “Well, we have these in stock and we can get a whole lot more,” was his pitch, and pretty soon it was time to print the first official catalog. This is when Michael and Rob crossed paths.

“It’s kind of an interesting story,” Rob recalls. “Out of hundreds of printers in the Front Range, Michael picks three out of a catalog. I was one of the three. I was working for a printing company, and we were able to win and secure the business.”

Those first few small catalogs solidified the duo’s working relationship and paved the way for Tundra’s future.

“We were comfortable with each other right away. I liked his history, where he came from, what he had done in his past life,” Rob says. “My only statement was ‘I know this is going to work. I believe it will work. I just don’t know how long it’s going to take to get there.’”

The answer was:  not long. With three employees (Michael, Rob, and a fundamental team member named Nancy Hogan) Tundra powered forward, securing space, building a customer base, and working with vendors to acquire product. By mid-1993 the shelves had product on them, the phone was ringing intermittently, and the company was able to purchase and ship orders.

“One of the things that worked well at the start was we had a strong value base,” Michael explains. “We had a high integrity for the customer, the vendors, for product, and we were going to deliver a level of service that we believed was not available.”

At that time we did something really revolutionary. We listened to the customer,” Rob agrees. “I think it was key timing too. Timing was perfect.”

With a value system in place that focused on customer service, having fun, respect, and forward progress, paired with a desire to provide customers with the parts and products they needed, the business began to grow. Restaurant supply had been a niche market up until the early 90’s, and as Tundra expanded, so too did the local restaurant scene. Over twenty years of building and maintaining relationships in and outside the area, Tundra’s product offering has gone from parts to small wares, equipment, disposables, and on to textiles and design all with help from the customer. “That was all customer pool,” Michael says. “It wasn’t necessarily a back room creation or we thought this was what the customer wanted. It was asked, and we were able to deliver.”

Continue on to  Part II.

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Tundra Restaurant Supply Turns 20!

20th Anniversary Logo TundraBack in 1993, Michael Lewis was traveling to Boulder, Colorado from back east and already had a dream about starting a new restaurant supply company.  He was so amped about this new adventure that he scribbled down the mission statement and company values before he even had a name for the company – the company that was later named Tundra Specialties.

Tundra Specialties was born in March of ’93 and started as a parts supplier.  Our first catalog was 10 pages long and only had 245 products listed.  All of our sales efforts were outbound, and Michael signed on Rob Fenton (employee #3 at Tundra) to help him get in front of more people.  Rob would walk from one restaurant to the other letting different restaurant owners and operators know about Tundra and how we were different from competitors – it was all about the customer from the very beginning.  This was the early beginning of Tundra.

Celebrating 20 Years

Today, we’ve grown from a mere 3 employees, to over 135!  Our catalog has grown to include restaurant, food service and plumbing supplies and equipment, and is well over 500 pages.  Our name has changed to Tundra Restaurant Supply and we now proudly sell over 60,000 products!  We have an in-house design firm, are able to accommodate large chain restaurants, and still hold true to our mission statement and values.

To celebrate our 20 years in business, we wanted to thank you – our customers, readers, and loyal fans – for helping us get to where we are today!  Because we truly believe we wouldn’t be where we are without you, we are giving away cash prizes to celebrate!

Again, we thank you for getting us where we are today!

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15 Year Veteran Employee, Alonzo Clemons

alonzo-clemons-sculpting One of our veteran employees has a gift that has inspired people worldwide.  His name is Alonzo Clemons and he has Savant Syndrome – “a rare, but spectacular, condition in which persons with various developmental disabilities have astonishing islands of ability or brilliance that stand in stark, markedly incongruous, contrast to the handicap (Treffert, n.d.).”

When Alonzo was three years old he had an accident that left him with a disability that harbored his mental capacity, leaving him with an IQ of 40.  It took a while for Alonzo to learn basic things that we all take for granite, like tying your shoes or being able to communicate your needs, but what Alonzo was brilliant at was being able to form a lump of clay into the most amazing masterpieces imaginable.  This gift came almost immediately after his accident, and Alonzo has been perfecting his gift ever since.

At first, Alonzo started his sculptures from looking at photography, which gave them a very 2-dimensional look.  But when Alonzo’s work really came to life was when he started visiting different animal habitats like the Denver Zoo, the National Western Stock Show, and local farms. His sculptures began to be more realistic and precise.

Such works of art, like Alonzo’s first life-sized sculpture called “Three Frolicking Foals,” can take most skilled artists months to create, but Alonzo created this sculpture in as little as 15 days.  He has an amazing photographic memory where he can simply look at what he wants to recreate, and bring his sculpture to life later on without staring at the object or using a photo; in fact, he can even sculpt in the dark.  His works of art have sold for as much as $45,000!

Little Rumba Alonzo Clemons

What’s Alonzo Up to Now?

Today, Alonzo lives by himself, and stays very active in the Boulder community.  He maintains his part-time job here at Tundra – where he’s been working with us for over 15 years – while also working at the YMCA doing ground maintenance.  He also visits the local schools to teach children about his gift and just how easy it is to sculpt (easy for him of course).  He also enjoys power lifting in the Special Olympics, and has been on numerous television shows, including Discovery Channel’s Brain and Intelligence.

Learn more about Alonzo on his website.


Treffert, Dr. D. (n.d.). About Savant Syndrome. Retrieved March 1, 2013, from:

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Restaurant Designs From Jeff Katz & The Tundra Design Group

Frasca in Boulder, ColoradoThe Tundra Design Group is a talented team that provides design services to owners, operators, developers, and design professionals involved in restaurant, hotel and resort food service facilities worldwide.

With restaurants including Frasca, Mountain Standard Vail, The Kitchen and Hapa Sushi on his resume, Jeff Katz has perfected the art and science of restaurant design. I recently sat down Katz, Vice President of Tundra Design Service, to learn the latest from him on his teams recent design projects.

Katz and his team designed, planned and completed kitchen and restaurant designs across the country, their impressive list includes:

  • Northside Coffee & Kitchen is nestled in the famous Vail Valley. Northside specializes in breakfast and flavorsome coffees not to mention they offer the only donuts in town! Northside offers a full bar and extended menu in the evenings.
  • Mountain Standard Vail is a fresh, pioneering restaurant. This rustic and relaxed tavern aims to set a new standard in the Vail valley by using an ancient form of cooking via the most primal cooking methods: over an open and live wood fire.
  • 5 Star Burgers combines gourmet burgers with some of the best wines and beers. With locations in New Mexico, Colorado and Missouri, USA Today recently rated 5 Star Burgers as one of the best burger restaurants in the country.
  • Pizzeria Locale is a contemporary pizzeria inspired by traditional pizzerias of Naples, Italy. Located on the trendy Pearl Street in downtown Boulder, Colorado, Pizzeria Locale is quickly becoming a foodie favorite.
  • Amante Coffee is the exclusive North American importer of Ghigo family coffee, the most popular coffee and espresso in Northern Italy. Based in Boulder, Colorado Amante is committed to bringing a piece of ‘old world’ charm to its customers. Amante offers a sleek yet comfortable ambiance.
  • Hapa Sushi has four convenient locations in the Denver Metro area where you can always satisfy your sushi cravings. Hapa’s menu is based on traditional Japanese cooking fundamentals, which are then amplified, muted, or mixed with influences from many different styles of cooking until they are something completely new.
  • The Kitchen is a community based restaurant where they are committed to environmentally-friendly practices and working with local farmers and ranchers.
  • Ace Restaurant is a Ping-Pong hall, fostering social gatherings, playfulness and healthy competition. Ace serves Asian inspired dishes that encourage sharing, drinking and hanging out.
  • Frasca Food & Wine is a neighborhood restaurant that is inspired by the cuisine and culture of Friuli, Italy. Frasca has continuously been ranked No. 1 by 5280’s Top 25 Restaurants to dine in the Denver Metro area.

Jeff Katz and his team choose projects that inspire, imagine and create tantalizing dining experiences. Whether they are creating a local neighborhood burger restaurant or designing a five-star fine dining experience, once you visit a Katz restaurant you not only see the difference, you can feel it.


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