Pueblo’s first food hall is open for business

Pueblo’s first food hall is finally open.

Fuel & Iron Food Hall, owned by Denver real estate brokers Zach Cytryn and Nathan Stern, debuted five new food hall concepts, a coffee shop, an ice cream parlor and a bar on Friday, April 28, three years after it was first announced.

“We went under contract to buy this in March 2020 and have had so many hurdles come our way,” Cytryn said. “There were nights I would second guess that this day would ever come, so to see the space turn out as beautiful as it did and full of energy, people eating, drinking and having a good time is such an amazing feeling.”

In May 2020, the brokers, who previously worked for Broad Street Realty, bought the 43,500-square-foot former Holmes Hardware building at 400 S. Union Ave. in downtown Pueblo, two hours south of Denver, for $2.7 million.

Cytryn said they did a multi-million dollar renovation on the property to create the 12,00-square-foot, ground-floor Fuel & Iron Food Hall and 28 income-restricted apartment units, dedicated to workforce housing, on the second and third floors.

“The building itself has been sitting vacant in downtown Pueblo for 40 or 50 years before we did this project,” Cytryn said. “The main thing Pueblo has is the riverwalk, but it doesn’t take that long, so having a major attraction on the other side of Union, which is their Main Street downtown, will draw a lot more traffic down that main block and bring more visitors to Pueblo.”

The food hall features four concepts from Pueblo-based operators and one from James Beard Award-nominated chef Jose Avila, who owns La Diabla in downtown Denver.

Mosh Ramen, owned by Pueblo chef Chris Doose, serves Asian street food and ramen. (Photo by Steve Bigley for Fuel & Iron)

Mosh Ramen offers Asian street food and ramen with a punk-rock aesthetic from chef Chris Doose, a Puebloan who’s had every job in the restaurant industry, except restaurant owner.

Steel Crescent Kitchen is a New Orleans-style cajun restaurant from Pueblo-raised chef Edward Tracey, who has worked in five continents, but never owned his own restaurant.

Diavolo Hot Chicken makes Nashville hot chicken with Pueblo chiles from chef Richard Warner, owner of Bingo Burger in Pueblo and Colorado Springs.

The Hungry Buffalo’s menu features all things buffalo: bison burgers, bison chili, bison gyros, etc. from chef Charles McKay and Sue Ray. This is the Pueblo food truck’s first location.

Santa Fonda, owned by Denver chef Jose Avila, serves make-your-own tacos with meat sold by the pound or half-pound. (Photo by Steve Bigley for Fuel & Iron)

Santa Fonda is a make-your-own taco concept, selling meat by the half-pound or pound, inspired by the taco vendors in Mexico City from Denver chef Jose Avila

“We’re both big believers in the food hall model,” Cytryn said. “It’s an opportunity to go to one location with a group of friends and family, and they can get whatever they want. It’s centered around a bar with local options and not big national players. I think every community can support at least one food hall, so rather than being the 15th or 20th in the Denver market, we really wanted to be first in a market that didn’t have one yet.”

Fuel & Iron is named after the Colorado Fuel & Iron, a steel mill that once employed 15,000 in the southern Colorado city. It’s also the name of the brokerage that Cytryn and Stern started last year, and was the former name of the Denver bar, at 1526 Blake St., that the two brokers opened in April last year as a way to get more interest in their new food hall. The bar is now called Honor Farm to avoid confusion and has a haunted theme to honor the building’s history.

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Stern was the driving force behind the decision to develop in Pueblo. His first job was working for the state employee union, which had an office in Pueblo. And from 2011 to 2015, he drove a coffee truck around Denver for Solar Roast, a coffee shop in Pueblo, which also has a location in Fuel & Iron Food Hall.

Cytryn said the food hall took three years to get up and running mainly because of financing. COVID hit right after they purchased the building, and he said a lot of investors pulled out or lenders began to second-guess the project, on top of construction delays.

“For Nathan and I, this was our first development deal, and as far as our previous experience as real estate brokers specializing in restaurants, we were really confident in our ability to fill the spaces and find awesome chefs to take them,” Cytryn said. “But our biggest learning curve was everything else that went into getting the food hall up and running.”

The pair see the food hall as an incubator, in which vendors will eventually be able to graduate to a traditional brick-and-mortar space.

“One of the most important things about the food hall is we’re building out the kitchen for chefs who may not have a few hundred thousand dollars lying around to build out a restaurant space, and can open with relatively low cost of entry, so it feels great to give people a shot that deserve one,” Cytryn said. “We want to help them move onto brick-and-mortar space in Pueblo and back-fill them with other startup chefs in town.”

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