John Johnson believes Castle Rock is becoming the kind of place people travel to for good food, and he’s happy to be a growing part of the phenomenon. The restaurateur has been a Castle Rock business owner for five years and just opened two eateries, next door to each other, on Wilcox Street this summer.
“People are starting to come from far away, to come downtown to see what’s going on with all the new restaurants,” Johnson told Colorado Community Media.
Most recently, Johnson founded B’s Craft Deli & Market on the ground floor of the Encore building, a seven-story residential and commercial use development near Town Hall. The shop, which can seat about 30 people inside and another 30 people on its patio, started serving its unique sandwiches — like a Korean Philly with shaved beef and kimchi or a hot dog topped with bacon, refried beans and jalapenos — the fourth week of August. The following week it began tempting shoppers from its colorful deli cases with prepared side dishes plus fresh steaks, chicken and fish for cooking up at home.
With marble tile walls, wood accents and a stained cement floor, Johnson said B’s is designed to look like an older Chicago-style deli.
Block & Bottle, Johnson’s “polished casual restaurant,” debuted in July. The 3,500-square-foot space seats 135 people when the patio is open and has a refined industrial feel with lots of warm wood, glass walls and dark metal fixtures. In addition to burgers and salads, Block & Bottle features memorable appetizers and classic comfort food entrees with an upscale spin.
Johnson’s current favorites are the battered and fried smoked shiitake mushrooms, the pastrami-style smoked salmon crostini and the beef stroganoff, which is made with fall-apart-tender pot roast.
“We’ve got elevated ingredients from better suppliers, kind of higher-end stuff,” Johnson said. “Costs a little bit more on the ingredients, but we felt that we needed to go that route to offer something different.”
Although the deli closes earlier than its sister restaurant, both venues are open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. Block & Bottle also plans to offer brunch on the weekends starting later next month.
Johnson’s career in the restaurant industry, which spans more than four decades, began when he was 13 years old with a summer job as a dishwasher. He became an executive chef at the age of 22 and worked in corporate restaurant circles for a time before becoming a business owner himself. His first restaurant in Castle Rock, Z’Abbracci, opened in 2017. It serves pizza, pasta and beer in a nearly 100-year-old building three blocks north of his new endeavors.
The hospitality veteran has business plans for more than half a dozen concepts, he said. But he chose to focus on elevated comfort food and a high-end deli in an effort to augment, not repeat, what’s already available in the area.
“The more quality restaurants we have downtown that complement each other, then the better we can all be in playing in the same sandbox,” Johnson said. “We complement each other, and it’s more of a culinary destination.”