Phil Simonson started Chocolate Lab in 2010 with little money and even less culinary experience to his name. Regardless, he left corporate America on a mission, initially “selling his [chocolate] creations at farmers’ markets, and other events as well as online.”
Coincidentally, Simonson’s business began to grow just as his friend’s business New World Cheese started to experience struggle. Chocolate Lab and New World Cheese soon combined their businesses in the same building to offset overhead costs.
Unfortunately, New World Cheese eventually went out of business, leaving Chocolate Lab to operate at the 2504 East Colfax Ave. location solo. From there, Simonson began creating more than just bite-sized chocolate morsels. In fact, the restaurateur told Westword earlier this year, “We put a little chocolate in all of our food, except the mac and cheese and grilled cheese — we can put it in there if you want, though.”
The rest of the menu includes decadently eclectic offerings like tender pork belly over polenta smothered in an andouille chocolate gravy and chocolate-infused French onion soup.
In February of this year, due to circumstances out of Simonson’s control, Chocolate Lab’s beloved Denver location closed down. Fortunately, that hasn’t stopped him. Simonson told Westword there’s too much fun to be had in the restaurant biz for him to bow-out now. That’s why What Now Denver caught up with the cacao connoisseur to see what’s next:
WND: Do you have any idea where the new Chocolate Lab will be located?
Simonson: This has been the struggle for us. We are looking for a very specific space. It has to be welcoming, intimate, and accessible. Many of the locations we have previewed have been one of the three, but I want the full trifecta.
WND: What are your hopes for a debut date?
Simonson: Couldn’t be soon enough. I am wishing we never had to close. Our customer base has been missing us and has been messaging weekly to find out the latest news. I miss the chaos of the restaurant and look forward to getting back into it.
WND: Will the menu remain the same once you re-open? If you plan to implement any changes, what will they be and which are you most excited about?
Simonson: We will keep a few options from the old menu; there are just some items that will never leave. I also will be crafting some new dishes and planning a larger menu if the new location allows. So many options ahead for an expanded menu! I have been testing out some ideas with friends while we have been closed. I couldn’t just stop doing what I love.
WND: Is there anything you plan to do differently this time around?
Simonson: In business, there is always a learning moment. If you are not constantly growing, you are not running a business. There are always opportunities for growth and enhancement in any business. We will take the knowledge we have from the previous location and expand upon that in the new.
WND: Pending this location’s success, will you consider opening multiple locations?
Simonson: I cannot predict this. The original plan was to have multiple locations and grow the business into a multi-state/worldly business. After having some time away and looking at the actual business, I may keep it as a one-of-a-kind to draw more people into Denver just to try what we are doing. I do have short business plans for sixteen other businesses, so perhaps I will open multiple businesses instead of multiple locations.
Chocolate Lab is a one of a kind place! Great food, great atmosphere and the menu is out of this world! Good luck Phil and god speed on finding a new spot!