LONGMONT — Opening a restaurant is risky business under normal circumstances. Opening one during the COVID-19 pandemic, some might argue, is down right maniacal.
But, hey, some risks have to pay off, or else no one would take them, right?
Conceived in the early days of the pandemic and opened to the hungry public in spring 2022 by four restaurant-industry veterans, Urban Field Pizza & Market on the southern end of Downtown Longmont has not only proved a risk worth taking, but also one worth expanding throughout the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado.
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With Urban Pie gaining a foothold — along with a growing following of everyday pizza fanatics and social-media foodie influencers — at 150 Main St. in the South Main Station development and Rosalee’s Pizzeria continuing to sling the types of pies that generate nostalgic rumbles in the tummies of East Coast transplants just four blocks to the north, Main Street Longmont has emerged as one of Colorado’s premier pizza destinations.
“This pizza scene right now is pretty impressive, actually,” Nick Swanson, a classically trained chef and Urban Field’s culinary director, told BizWest. “We have one of the best pizza places right up the road in Rosalee’s. …The more competition there is, it elevates us all. You can’t just skate by, you have to do bigger and better all the time.”
Urban Field is the brainchild of Swanson; Paul Nashak, proprietor; Lindsey Beddard, operations director; and Darrin Gilman, beverage director; who joined forces after working together at restaurants operated by the local Mountain Sun Pubs and Breweries group.
The partners were in talks to open a pizza concept in a food hall when COVID-19 began sweeping the globe, but those conversations quickly turned to the idea of a brick-and-mortar pizzeria. “It was time to **** or get off the pot,” Swanson said.
When the South Main Station location on the first floor of a corner building in the rapidly developing mixed-use district came online, the quartet jumped on it. And despite challenges such as inflation, construction delays and supply-chain disruptions, the Urban Field team was eventually able to set up shop in Downtown Longmont.
“I come from a background of large restaurants, and I was looking to change that with this one,” Nashak said. “This is 2,700 square feet, so a very small footprint with a very clean vibe to it. …We just love this part of town, and it’s been really fun building this community. …The (South Main Station) complex is awesome, the density is massive.”
While the restaurant footprint might not be large, the Urban Field team is putting every square foot to use. The full-service lunch and dinner restaurant has about 65 seats, a full bar program, a market area with take-out offerings and a state-of-the-art kitchen, out of which Swanson is whipping up what he calls “modern twists on grandma’s classics.”
With the Urban Field team’s experience working in restaurants around the country, “pizza meccas” such as New York, Chicago and Detroit “were big inspirations for us” when creating the menu, Swanson said.
Urban Field offers two distinct styles of pizza in two distinct shapes: round and square.
The round pizza, which “we call an ‘artisan pie,’ is a cross between a Neopolitan and a New York style,” said Swanson, who has appeared on Guy’s Grocery Games on the Food Network. “It’s not quite as thin and crispy and chewy as a New York pie, but not quite as light and fluffy and pillowy as a Neopolitan — we’re trying to find a nice middle ground there.”
The square pie, Swanson, who last year placed seventh at the 2023 International Square Pizza Challenge, said, is a mashup of “Detroit, Sicilian and Roman” styles of pizza.
Beddard said she was initially skeptical about deviating from the traditional round pizzeria pie, but when she first bit into a slice of one of Swanson’s square offerings, “it was literally the best piece of pizza I’d ever tried. It was amazing.”
While pizza is a highlight at Urban Field, it’s by no means the only thing on offer. “What I love about this menu is it’s so eclectic,” Nashak said.
From shrimp scampi to smashed burgers to chicken Caesar salad sandwiches to enormous fried mozzarella sticks that tip the scales at more than one pound, “we’re doing so much more than just pizza,” Swanson said. “… We can really compete with any restaurant in town with what we offer.”
Urban Field’s bolognese pasta dish “is a real labor of love,” he said. “To make that sauce takes hours and hours and hours.”
As “a classically trained chef, I try to make everything in-house and use the best ingredients possible,” Swanson said, which includes ingredients sourced locally, such as sausage from Mulay’s in Longmont.
Many of Swanson’s recipes feature surprising elements such as a hit of pistachio in the meatballs and a touch of rye in the square pizza dough.
Urban’s Field’s expansion has already begun to the south with a partnership with the Boulder Theater, where concert-goers and neighborhood residents have access to a limited menu of pizza options made onsite and available for take-out and delivery.
Now the Urban Field team is shifting their gaze northward, first to Loveland.
“Watching how this brand performed in its first 12 months was an exciting thing to observe. And we started to realize that on some days, about half of the restaurant (visitors) were from Loveland, so we started looking at the region (for expansion) right out of the gate because of how quickly this pizza caught on and how quickly this concept caught on,” Nashak said. “So as soon as the right location in Loveland opened up, we jumped on it.”
The partners recently signed a lease at 214 Fourth St. in Loveland at the former Crow Hop brewery space, which Urban Field will soon begin transforming into a restaurant that is expected to open this summer. “We love the location, we love the landlord,” Nashak said.
While the Loveland outpost is an immediate focus, the Urban Field team has a bigger vision for expansion.
“For the next one, we’re looking at Fort Collins pretty seriously. We’ve got our eyes on a property right now that we’re going to discuss later today,” Swanson said during a late January interview.
The partners are also “working on a deli concept, so eventually it’d be nice to have a market, a deli, a pizzeria, a great bar program,” he said. “That’s kind of where we’re going — piecing together various things into one concept.”