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Alums go together like wine and cheese in new Wash Park bistro

It may have taken a jaunt across the Atlantic Ocean for Noah Stephens (BA art history ’05) and Emily Welch (BA international studies ’06) to cross paths, but when they did, the two alums formed a friendship over food.

The two met in Paris after they graduated from DU. Both were attending culinary school. After they finished, they returned home — Stephens to Minnesota and Welch to San Francisco — to work at restaurants.

But Stephens wanted to bring European-style cuisine to the Denver area. He bought a space in the West Washington Park area, oversaw construction for eight months, went antiquing every day for a month to create the right atmosphere and asked Welch to join in the project.

Voila! Vert Kitchen, located at 704 S. Pearl St., opened in February 2009.

With just 13 seats and about 750 square feet, the location is small but ideal, the owners say.

“We really wanted to be a part of this community,” Stephens says.

It’s fairly easy to see the French influence of the shop. The décor evokes a small Parisian bistro and their food is “most definitely” influenced by traditional French cuisine, they say.

Their sandwich choices are a bit out of the box: Their turkey sandwich (their most popular item) has figs, chevre and pine nuts; a skirt steak sandwich includes arugula and walnut mustard; and a lemon tuna confit features albacore, chervil, cucumber and Greek yogurt. Their personal favorite, they say, is the tortilla Española, a classic Spanish dish.

“We’re still working on getting that recipe as authentic as possible,” Welch says.

Stephens handles day-to-day operations while Welch is in charge of ordering the food. Vert has just one other employee, so most of the work rests on the pair’s shoulders.

Hours are 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Wednesday–Saturday.

“It’s all been fun,” Stephens says, adding that he’s forgotten all about the hard parts of managing a business. “When a customer’s plate comes back completely clean, that’s when I’m happiest.”

A new food business in a slow economy? Their survival lies in their lunch specialty, they say.

“With the economy the way it is now, it’s better to spend $15 at lunch for a good meal than an expensive dinner,” Welch says. A gourmet sandwich in a European atmosphere makes it more of an experience and less like a rushed lunch, she says.

Sandwiches top out at $10; salads, soups and sides are anywhere from $3–$9.

Vert, which means green in French, also signals their desire to keep their business organic.

“You have to put love in your food,” Stephens explains. For them, love means using fresh, local, organic food.

“It’s better for the environment,” Welch adds. “It’s important to me. I don’t like to eat chemicals in my food.”

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