Misfit Chef Bo Porytko Opening Eastern European Eatery in Former To the Wind Space

“I want it to be very familial. I want it to feel like when you go to your grandmother’s house and they feed you too much and you’re drunk, but you can’t really tell because you’re giddy and happy,” says Bo Porytko of his latest project, Molotov Kitschen and Cocktails, which will open in early 2023 at 3333 East Colfax Avenue, in the former home of To the Wind.

Porytko makes some of the most creative (and delicious) fare in Denver at his Misfit Snack Bar, which is located inside Middleman, just a block from his new venture. The small kitchen debuted inside the bar owned by Jareb Parker and his cousin, Charlie Thomas, in 2019. Before that, Porytko and then-partner Dan Laisy ran Rebel Restaurant, a divey, eclectic joint with an ambitiously adventurous menu.

“After Rebel closed, this was my very first idea. I wanted to have an Eastern European restaurant,” explains Porytko, whose grandparents emigrated to the United States from Ukraine after World War II. That original concept, which was going to be called Baba Yaga, called for a large space that would operate as a market during the day and a restaurant at night. “I still want to do that,” Porytko notes, but a lot has changed since 2018.

“After COVID, everyone was scaling down, not up,” he adds. “We were looking for something, and admittedly I had stopped thinking about the Ukrainian thing and was thinking about a different concept. But then when To the Wind popped up, it wasn’t good for that other concept, but it was perfect for a quaint little Eastern European spot.”

The intimate To the Wind announced its closure in May after eight years in business, after owners Royce Oliveira and his wife, Leanne Adamson, decided it was time to get out of the restaurant business.
“[Royce] was really excited to be able to pass it on to somebody he knew, a friend,” Porytko says. “This kind of fell into my lap. I was always looking for another space. After years of searching, talking to realtors…then, of course, the space we find has been right in front of our face the whole time.”

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One wall above the bathroom is covered in a floral design inspired by Ukrainian headdresses called vinoks.

Molly Martin

The space’s small size and proximity to Misfit, which will continue operating under chef de cuisine Dylan Rigolini, were both appealing to Porytko, as was getting to move into a spot with good energy. “I have such respect for Royce and Leanne,” he notes. “We’re not taking over a space that was doing poorly. They were just ready to move on. We’re moving into a place that was beloved in the neighborhood.”

He’s also excited to have a space to totally call his own. “As much as I love it [at Mistfit], it’s not fully mine. It’s nice to finally feel like I have something I have more control over,” he says.

Middleman’s Parker and Thomas are now partners in both Misfit and Molotov, and Parker (who also designed Middleman) is doing the work to bring Porytko’s vision for the new space to life. Details include tile around the kitchen with a design inspired by Ukrainian embroidery; a floral installation with sunflowers and wheat that evokes a vinok, a traditional Ukrainian headdress; photos of Porytko’s two grandmothers; and wheat-pasted posters with playful Eastern European propaganda. “It’s pretty fucking kitschy in there,” Porytko notes, a fact that inspired the spelling of Kitschen in the restaurant’s name.

The Molotov portion of the moniker is a nod to the hand-thrown weapon. “With the war [in Ukraine], I wanted something that had a more revolutionary name to it,” Porytko explains. Molotov, the person, was the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Russia in the ’30s and ’40s. “He was actually a real piece of shit,” Porytko says. “This is not celebrating him; it’s celebrating the cocktail — the very thing that was supposed to be in opposition to his regime and Stalin’s regime. Even now in the war, [the Molotov cocktail] is a huge part of what people [in Ukraine] are using in the streets to keep the Russians at bay.”

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Updates, including new tile featuring a Ukrainian embroidery pattern, are underway in the space.

Molly Martin

While the name and design are heavy on Ukrainian references, the menu itself will be influenced by other parts of Eastern Europe as well, such as Germany and Scandinavia. “There will be lots of pickling, lots of fermentation, lots of old-school technique,” Porytko says. Expect items like a rutabaga latke, spelt pelmeni (a small, pierogi-like dumpling) and elk sauerbraten, for example.

Molotov will offer two dining experiences. The dining room, which seats about twenty, will be à la carte, with a menu that will change seasonally. A separate tasting menu will be served at the eight seats around the kitchen, with that menu changing more frequently.

The bar program will include a “small but very unique wine selection,” Porytko notes.  Don’t expect anything from the usual suspects, such as Italy, France and Spain. “I want to find more underutilized areas,” he adds. “We’re not going to take anything from Russia, obviously.” There will also be infused vodka served in half carafes, “so you can treat it like you would sake,” Porytko explains.

While Molotov won’t officially open until after the new year, there are plans to do some soft-opening events in the lead-up, including pierogi for Christmas.

When Molotov finally does debut, its fine-dining approach to Eastern European fare promises to add something new to the city’s dining scene. “I think that we’re ready,” Porytko says. “And for me, I think I am. I want something that’s a little more upscale, a little nicer. Rebel was this punk-rock thing, and [Misfit] is a little more of a hybrid. I’m maturing — irritatingly — and I feel a little less angsty. I think it’s a logical next thing.”