Mario Vega launched his cozy seafood restaurant, Mario’s Ocean Club, in May 2018, picking up where the Chowder Room left off on South Broadway. Things weren’t easy though, Vega notes, and six months after the inauguration he was already looking for a buyer to take over the space. And just over a year later, Mario’s will close after dinner service this Saturday, August 17.
Vega says that soon after he put the restaurant up for sale, business improved enough — especially with an additional boost from Denver Restaurant Week in February and March — that he was thinking about closing his head. But at the same time, he and a business partner were planning another restaurant project. “With this new opportunity, I didn’t think I would be able to do both well,” he explains.
And then early in the summer, Vega received a new offer for the restaurant, and the timing seemed fortuitous. “I made the decision about a month ago and briefed the staff to give them time to line up new positions,” he says. “They were all great and stayed until the end.”
Mario’s Ocean Club specializes in American seafood at reasonable prices, offering a $1 oyster happy hour and $45 dinner for two every Thursday night. The seafood offerings and quality earned the restaurant our Best Budget Seafood Restaurant award earlier this year.
With Mario shut down, Vega turns his attention to his new business, which is in the process of securing a lease in Littleton. He says it won’t be a seafood restaurant, but rather he wants to capture the spirit of the Lake Tahoe vacation that was an annual tradition for him and his family. He remembers cooking family meals in a big house overlooking the lake – meals and good times far more memorable than going out to dinner.
The new location is tentatively called Lake House Kitchen & Tavern, and it will specialize in American tavern fare such as pressure cooker fried chicken, prime rib, and fish from the lake.
Vega spread the word about the closure of regular customers at Mario, and he says reservations for the past few days have been pouring in. He’s not planning anything fancy for the shipment, just spending time chatting with customers he needs to know over the past year.
Mario’s Ocean Club is located at 560 South Broadway. Call 303-777-3474 for reservations and hours of operation through Saturday night.