Food service changes are afoot at Silver Spring’s popular Denizens Brewing Co.
The brewery plans to launch a new food menu featuring seasonal, healthy items later this month. As part of the shift, Denizens will part ways with its previous food provider BBQ Bus, which had been serving barbecue at the East West Highway spot since shortly after it opened in the summer of 2014.
Emily Bruno, a founder and co-owner of Denizens, said parting with the Bus was tough, but the owners are hoping to create a menu that more closely aligns with the spirit of their business and the beers they serve.
“[BBQ Bus] was a great partner, it was a perfect partnership for our opening,” Bruno said. “But over the past year and a half of operations we experienced all aspects of food service and we realized there was a lot of missed opportunity. We weren’t able to have a complete representation of everyone coming in.”
Bruno said one missed demographic was vegetarians. The new fall menu offers items including a sautéed grains bowl, local mixed greens salad, grilled broccolini and a burger made from a grain blend.
“There’s a lot more vegetarian options and that was a direct response to the market we’re in,” Bruno said. “We also wanted to make sure we had enough healthy options for people so they can eat here frequently.”
Meat lovers shouldn’t be too worried—the fall menu also has a braised pork loin sandwich, soy honey wings and bacon toast with maple crema and pickled apple slaw.
The restaurant is adding Chef Josh Warner, who comes to Denizens after operating the D.C.-area food truck CapMac, and former Volt cook Viviana Nunes. Warner will bring some CapMac flavor to the brewery with a rotating pasta special.
Bruno said the menu features lighter options because the brewery is focused on serving beer and wants to make sure customers aren’t filling up on heavy food. Part of the plan is to pair seasonal beers with food specials that accent the beer.
“At the end of the day, we are a brewery first. We’re not trying to be the next great restaurant in the D.C. area,” Bruno said. “Our first question is still ‘What beer do you want to drink?’ ”
The menu items will be priced from around $8 for small plates and in the mid-teens for sandwiches and burgers.
At least one food item—the popcorn—even includes one of the brewery’s popular beers as an ingredient. The restaurant combines its Lowest Lord ESB beer with honey and thyme to create a glaze for the popcorn.
Che Ruddell-Tabisola, owner of BBQ Bus and also the executive director of the DMV Food Truck Association, said Friday he will continue to operate the truck locally and plans to expand his catering business. He said they’ll also be working out of the D.C. "food incubator" Union Kitchen to start up a wholesale distrubtion network for their barbecue sauces and spice rubs.
On leaving Denizens, Ruddell-Tabisola said, “It’s the next step for both businesses. For us, it has been an amazing opportunity.”