As strange as it sounds, it’s fried chicken that you can feel good about. Opened last week in West Vail near Qdoba and Gohan-Ya, Yellowbelly restaurant offers a different take on the comfort food previously associated with The Colonel and the southern United States.
That’s an image that co-owner Barry Davis wants to change when it comes to his restaurant. The recipes start with the bird. Davis and company source as many products as they can in Colorado and the chickens are all-natural — no GMO, free-range and vegetarian-fed. Nothing is frozen. When you look into the kitchen, you’ll see real cooks cooking, not people just heating things up. Very little is pulled out of a bag and tossed into a fryer without the caress of a qualified cook.
The chicken options are simple — rotisserie or fried. The fried-chicken batter, though, is where Yellowbelly sets itself apart. First off, it’s completely gluten-free. The gluten free batter gives the crunch that fried chicken should, while also offering a distinct flavor.
“We didn’t start with gluten-free or try to find the best way to make things gluten-free,” says Davis. “We were trying a bunch of different recipes, and this one was the best. It also happens to be gluten-free. We didn’t sacrifice any flavor to get there.”
A daydream turned reality
Davis, who also owns the upscale bowling alley-and-restaurant Bol, started Yellowbelly with chef Eric Wupperman and friend Michael Friedberg. The name Yellowbelly came about because someone who is a “yellowbelly” might also be called, well, a chicken. The restaurant started as a brainchild of Davis and Wupperman.
“Bol is a big animal – in the winter we have 100 employees, and it gets pretty crazy,” Davis says of the Vail restaurant. “The idea for Yellowbelly started as a daydream – me and Eric (Wupperman) thought, ‘What if there’s just the two of us cooking food, what would we want to eat?’ On our nights off we just want something quick that we can pick up.”
“It went from something that was fun to talk about to something that became a viable idea,” Davis says.
The two did some more research and found out that there wasn’t really anyone around going where they wanted to with an all-natural, quick-and-easy piece of chicken. They aim to do for chicken what Chipotle and Qdoba have done for burritos or what the local Larkburger has done for burgers – it’s traditional fast food gone natural and gourmet.
Going forward, the trio of Yellowbelly saw that no one was doing the “all-natural” thing with chicken. Davis and Wupperman picked up Friedberg – a former World Cup skier and entrepreneur – as a partner and the restaurant was born.