by Sarah Morin
Where the Local’s eat: Leo’s Kitchen
Honest food and local love – the slogan says it all. Leo’s Kitchen shares an upbeat, lively atmosphere in the heart of Winter Park. Tucked into Cooper Creek Square, with an inviting balcony overlooking downtown Winter Park, you will find affordable food, highly sought out happy hour deals and an incomparably diverse menu.
Leo’s Kitchen offers a relaxed and casual vibe surrounded by an open, bright, rustic chic décor. The restaurant’s hospitable, fun and experienced staff maintains the always thriving bar scene. This is a great destination to settle down after a day of hiking, biking or just enjoying a relaxing evening out in the valley.
After residing in Denver for most of his life, owner Leo Shukan jumped on the opportunity to take his culinary skills into his own restaurant surrounded by the mountains. Martin Menzel, the general manager, calls Leo’s cuisine a “chef-inspired Americana,” highlighting the daily changing specials. Both Leo and Martin take pride in serving “honest food,” while keeping guests satisfied and sure to return again for something brand new.
The wide-ranging menu is filled with original concepts of Italian, Greek and American classics. The use of fresh ingredients is highlighted throughout the infinitely changing “specials board.” This includes daily renditions of house-made ravioli, a fresh catch of the day, butcher’s cut, wild game lasagna and a tempting array of desserts.
Savoring astute cooking in a social setting
Bruschetta lover? Well the chef’s balance of unlikely ingredients perfects this traditional Italian dish. A warm baguette is topped with melted mozzarella goodness flowing over the sides, and then layered with plump tomatoes, artichokes and a sharp reduced balsamic drizzle to finish off this palette/crowd pleaser.
Leo’s Spartan meat and cheese board is impressive. Oozing with Greek essence, the board is loaded up with crispy shaved gyro meat, crumbled feta, heirloom tomatoes, pitted Kalamata olives, crunchy-diced pepperoncinis and creamy sage-infused cheeses to complement the meat. Completed with warm, charred pita bread laid out amongst a rich spicy feta tip, thick tzatziki sauce and red pepper hummus, which are all made in Leo’s kitchen.
If you’re searching for savory, salty and sweet, you can’t find a set of chicken and waffles anywhere else in town. A southern favorite marries the four different pieces of crunchy fried chicken that are piled high on top of fluffy waffles.
I have never set foot into Leo’s for happy hour without ordering a $10 16’’ round mozzarella pizza – with voluminous buttered crust and finished with ample choices of fresh toppings. Start out with a glass of wine and chargrilled Caesar salad for a full balanced meal – drizzled in savory dressing and heirloom tomatoes accompany the crunchy, grilled romaine wedge.
You come in for the happy hour steals and keep coming back for the consistently fresh food. Locally approved and loved – Leo’s Kitchen is open six days a week (closed on Tuesdays) from noon to midnight. This is one of the only restaurants you will find in Winter Park that offers late night food service and happy hour. It’s located at 47 Cooper Creek Way, Winter Park, CO 80482 // 970.363.7265 // leoskitchenwp.com