Of the eight stalls serving food at downtown Boulder’s Rosetta Hall (1109 Walnut St.), there’s one called Chameleon. While most of the other concepts in the food hall are largely set in stone cuisine-wise, Chameleon has been experiencing full overhauls roughly every six months. Though on Feb. 10, it opened as The Big Easy, which will serve an eight-item menu of New Orleans classics only through Tuesday, Feb. 21, Mardi Gras itself.
“We focused on the most popular items of the cuisine, and items that were good for both lunch and dinner crowds,” says chef Evan Fox. There’s of course a shrimp po-boy with cornmeal-fried shrimp, house-made pickle remoulade and a healthy portion of crisp Creole fries. Oysters come with Crystal Hot Sauce and the hush puppies have plenty of freshly diced jalapeños. The hearty muffuletta sandwich comes with Zapp’s kettle-cooked potato chips, and the remoulade seafood salad arrives packed with blue lump crab, gulf shrimp, avocado, cherry tomato and fried okra atop a bed of romaine. Though the real star of the show may be the red beans and rice, filled to the brim with cranberry beans, andouille sausage, scallions, smoked pork shoulder and a “milk chocolate” roux, a cocoa-free, four-hour gravy that takes its name from its deep brown hue.
When Rosetta Hall first opened in late 2019 — in the space that once held such iconic late-night venues as The Foundry and Absinthe House — each stall was managed and operated by an individual proprietor. Justin Brunson served up burgers at Folsom Foods and Natascha Hess incubated The Ginger Pig, which has since gone on to standalone success in Denver.
Over the course of the pandemic, the model shifted in favor of all of the concepts being run by a single team of chefs. The menus for all eight stalls are now developed and overseen by chefs Evan Fox and Mike Sullivan, pastry chef Casey Murnane, Director of Operations Sarah Beckwith and Assistant General Manager Kate Horton. Current stalls include Middle Eastern spot Amira, Italian fare at Amalfi, Thai cuisine at Chiang Mai, New American at Flatiron, Chinese at Shanghai Moon, Latin American at Cruz and handcrafted patisserie at Petit Fleur. “It’s always been a place that married all kinds of global influence,” Beckwith says.
“We want to be as fast but as upscale as possible,” Fox says. “I want people on a half-hour lunch to be able to eat anything in the hall.” Most menus don’t exceed 10 items and all the stalls have plenty of appetizers and entrees that are highly executable while still remaining refined. Cruz’s list was recently refurbished by consulting chef Manny Barella, who gained prominence in Colorado for his time as executive chef of the still-fabulous Bellota in both Denver and Boulder. The Torta Alambre, with shaved beef, fried onion and bell pepper, mild Chihuahua cheese and avocado on a telera bun is a must, though it will still be available long after The Big Easy has closed its doors.
While the task of handling a large staff and multiple cuisines is formidable, Fox says he thrives best in chaotic environments. Though the culinary pedigree of the staff likely keeps chaos in check. Beckwith attended the Culinary Institute of America, spent seven years at The Little Nell and worked at OAK at Fourteenth, where she hired recently departed chef John Bissell. Fox has been cooking since he was 15 and ran the kitchen at Southern Sun from 2012 to 2022. Fox says he continues to update the menus, finding inspiration while dining out, in an endless assortment of cookbooks, and in publications like Food and Wine. He says new dishes popping up on Chiang Mai’s menu have been influenced by frequent visits to Busaba, a Boulder and Louisville spot that serves “some of the best Thai food” he’s ever had. Fox says each stall will usually see one to two new menu items a month.
No Mardi Gras menu would be complete without cocktails. The bar has done a nice job of putting its own touch on a few notable classics. The Hurricane comes with Cihuatan rum, Plantation pineapple rum, and a blend of lime, orange, passion fruit and pomegranate juices. It packs the expected punch usually associated with bead tossing and other such festivities. The Bayou Spritz comes with Pimm’s No. 1, lemon, mint and Volio prosecco — a delicious and slightly less dangerous alternative to the Hurricane. The La Nouvelle Carre comes with Rittenhouse rye, Plantation pineapple rum, sweet vermouth, Benedictine and Angostura and Jamaican bitters. It certainly packs a punch but may be the slowest sipper of the bunch.
Even as The Big Easy has an unusually short tenure, the food is definitely worth a visit. The team is working on getting Chameleon’s next concept situated, with plans to open something in early March.