ALLISON ROBENSTEIN Feb 26, 2020
There’s a new family-friendly eatery in town, with fun and games for all ages. The 18,000-square-foot North Side Social (9633 Prominent Point) is a restaurant and bar with table games, videogames, and soon to come: lawn games.
“This place screams fun!” said Mitch Yellen, CEO of Altitude Hospitality Group, “that’s why our catchphrase is ‘For the Fun of It!’”
When Yellen closed Till Kitchen at the location on Dec. 31, he knew that he wanted to do something unique with the space. And he wanted to do it quickly.
“We were Till Kitchen for almost four years,” Yellen said. “We voluntarily closed. The Springs just wasn’t ready (for the concept).”
During a recent media tour of the North Side Social, which held its grand opening Feb. 14, Yellen revealed his vision for transforming the cavernous space into a potentially more popular concept, “a place where people want to linger, want to hang out.”
North Side Social has pinball and video games, Skee Ball, and giant versions of Battleship and Connect Four. Yellen wants families to come and spend time at the restaurant, eating, drinking and playing. “Forget about the day, come out here with the kids, whatever it is and just enjoy,” he said.
Event space on the south side of the building could accommodate 300-400 people for team-building activities, work parties and other gatherings, he said. It is configured so that ping pong and foosball tables and other diversions can be removed and doors can open out to a heated patio with an outdoor fireplace.
Melissa Svenby, director of operations for Colorado Springs-based Altitude Hospitality, has been overseeing the transformation from Till to North Side Social, as well as changes to other local restaurants run by the group.
The most exciting part of North Side Social, Svenby said, “is being up in this part of town and seeing a different audience, young families hanging out. It’s a whole different vibe from Till.”
The Roost coffee shop seating area is morphing into a game lounge, where Hold Fast coffee is still served. In the main restaurant seating area, cozy booths are covered with comfortable, colorful cushions. A row of tall chairs line a counter where diners can sit and watch the open kitchen while noshing on upscale bar food. A large bar lined with televisions and ample seating flanks one side of the room.
Executive Chef Phil Griffin moved to the Pikes Peak region from Austin, Texas after being enticed by Yellen. “Basically, some friends had been trying to get me to Colorado for years, but I put it off for a bit, Griffin said.
One of Griffin’s favorite menu items is the perfectly roasted, slightly spicy and divinely smokey Shishito Peppers appetizer ($6), a holdout from the Till menu.
“We try to keep the (new) menu kind of simple, with a little twist, a little kick,” Griffin said. “We still have a lot of people who come in for small plates, and we just kind of kicked it up a little bit with briskets and smoked meats.”
The transition took the upscale Till menu (and prices) into more of a sports bar menu, which required retraining of the kitchen staff.
The Just Beet It Salad ($10) includes pickled fennel, oranges, pea shoots and of course beets in a sweet chili vinaigrette. Sandwiches include burgers, a buffalo chicken sandwich ($12) and the Beefed Up Brisket ($14) another of Chef Griffin’s favorites. The slow-cooked brisket is covered with a peach green chili barbeque sauce. Pickled sweet peppers and crispy kale are a foil for the richness of the meat.
Six pizzas are on the menu, but you can also build your own with toppings that include the familiar and the unusual. Pepperoni and Italian sausage are available, as well as Grana Cheese, otherwise known as Parmigiano-Reggiano.
“We brought in our people from San Fransisco because they said we can’t make good pizza here because of the altitude. It took us eight months to make good pizza,” Yellen said, with a nod to the massive wood-fired pizza oven.
The sweet-tooth satisfying Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookie ($6.50) is at least three times the size of one you would make at home.
For those over 21, there are 40 beers on tap and a fun menu of $8 craft drinks that include the Play Around Bloody Mary. The glass rim is dipped in Old Bay seasoning and includes Nan’s Naughty and Nice mix and Golden-based Van Jack vodka. The Gold Coin is a mix of Buffalo Trace Whiskey, lemon juice, honey simple syrup and Angostura bitters. Among non-alcoholic options is a refreshing, sparkling Grapefruit Soda Mocktail ($3).
In a future phase of development at North Side Social, Yellen plans to transform the existing parking lot into pickleball courts, a grass area for hosting concerts and in the winter, an ice-skating rink. He developed the idea after a neighbor convinced him to put in a pickleball court in his backyard. It turns out his neighbor is Scott Moore, the No. 1 male senior Pickleball player in the world, according to U.S.A. Pickleball Association.
A visit to a Wichita, Kansas, Chicken N Pickle, an indoor/outdoor entertainment venues and restaurant convinced him of what he had to do. “What got me when I went out the first time to this place, what got me more than anything it reminded me of a country club for people who don’t have a country club,” he said. Yellen noticed guests of every age having fun and socializing.
Altitude Hospitality Group also owns Garden of the Gods Market & Café (410 S. 26th St.) which is under renovation to add space for a new Till Kitchen, under Griffin’s guidance, later this spring. Garden of the Gods Market and Café will remain open for breakfast and lunch from chef Larissa Vendola during and after the expansion construction. Griffin will execute Till’s elevated cuisine for dinner service Tuesday through Saturday when the buildout is completed.
Sprig, formerly at 7 Spectrum Loop off Northgate Boulevard, which offers nourishing food bowls, is moving to the former Zeezo’s (112 N. Tejon St.) in late summer with a downstairs speakeasy that will serve “probably the best cheese plates in the state of Colorado,” boasted Yellen.
North Side Social is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, with closing time extended to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. There is a late-night menu of small plates, pizzas and desserts Sunday through Thursday 8-10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 9 to midnight. Learn more at northsidesocialco.com.