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Cucci’s desire to connect people through the diversity of food and culture resulted in Linger’s inventive bar program and eclectic menu of global street food from multiple continents.

Chef Justin Cucci’s renowned restaurant, Linger, overlooks Denver from a picture-perfect location in the Lower Highland (LoHi) neighborhood. But the building that hosts Cucci’s artisanal kitchen and world-class cocktail bar wasn’t always a restaurant — it was originally a mortuary. Instead of scrubbing its past, Cucci has tastefully fused past, present and potential and created a new Denver icon. The classic rooftop sign still reads Olinger Mortuaries in huge script during the day, but at night it transforms into a neon “linger eatuaries.”

Cucci has a long history in the restaurant industry. His family owned and ran the notable Waverly Inn in New York City from 1956 to 1994 where he literally took his first steps in the dining room. Seeking a major change of pace, he headed south to laidback Key West, Fla., to open two successful restaurants over a period of 10 years. In between, Cucci moved to Denver for various kitchen positions and witnessed the importance of connecting a neighborhood to a dining experience.

He landed in Denver permanently in 2008 and opened Root Down in a funky reclaimed 1950s gas station in LoHi, the first of six restaurants that Cucci has launched as part of his Edible Beats concept group that expanded in 2011 with the addition of Linger, located only seven blocks from Root Down. Edible Beats also now includes Root Down DIA (Denver International Airport), Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, Vital Root and El Five, all in the Denver metro area.

Striving to incorporate the often weird history of the buildings into the flavors and brand of each restaurant led to a signature cocktail at Linger called the Corpse Reviver, which has a smidge of activated charcoal added to turn it jet black. Cucci’s desire to connect people through the diversity of food and culture resulted in Linger’s inventive bar program and eclectic menu of global street food from multiple continents, including eyebrow raising Cricket and Cassava Empanada (really!) and Devils on Horseback (which are a delicious combo of bacon, Medjool dates, herbed goat cheese and gastrique).

The décor for Edible Beats’ eateries is whimsical and often useful like the 40-foot-long Lite Brite-studded bar inside Linger, and on the rooftop, a 1975 GMC RV used as a bar and a repurposed food truck as the kitchen, landing the restaurant kudos from Travel + Leisure as one of America's Coolest Rooftop Bars.

Equally as funky as Linger and perhaps more so is Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, a boudoir-style “gastrobrothel” that Cucci opened in 2015. With the title of composer/chef for Edible Beats, it’s no surprise that Cucci enjoys listening to music and driving his 1969 “pimped-out” Lincoln Continental when he’s not dreaming up new concepts or working in his restaurants.

However, one thing that Cucci and his team is dead serious about are responsibly grown and sourced, innovatively simple and vegetable-forward menus. Whether its wind-powered buildings or 4,000 square feet of gardens in the middle of the city that supply his restaurants’ veggies, he is always looking for ways to keep it real.

Guest driven, groove friendly and gastronomically equal is Justin Cucci’s motto for his culinary creations that are truly one-of-a-kind and fluent in flavor.