Maddie’s: The Little Café That Could

Maddie’s, a homey breakfast and lunch spot, has grown so popular, it’s expanded into bigger digs next door


Photo by Annette Slade

“Don’t do it; it’s too much work.” It was a warning Gayor Geller ignored. Instead, the Pittsburgh native, DU graduate, real estate entrepreneur, concert tour manager and promoter, producer of “The Last Waltz—Revisited” (a local Polytoxic production that reinterprets Martin Scorsese’s concert film “The Last Waltz”) and alumnus of the American Culinary Foundation, followed his intuition.

In 2013, he unleashed Maddie’s, a diminutive breakfast and lunch nook in the Rosedale neighborhood near the University of Denver that bears the name of his daughter. “When I began this amazing journey, I had no experience in the restaurant industry,” Geller says, “but had I heeded the well-intentioned advice of my friend who told me not to open a restaurant, it would have been the worst advice I’ve ever been given.”

To prove his point, Geller shuttered the original Maddie’s—a 20-seat alcove—in early November to make way for a significantly larger Maddie’s, which squats next door in a 50-year-old service station that he also purchased in 2013. “The new kitchen alone is bigger than the entirety of the original Maddie’s,” says Geller, adding that the refurbished space, tricked out with wood-beamed ceilings, a wall dedicated to pop art and a game station for kids, trumpets 65 seats inside, plus 45 seats on the sprawling front patio, an elevated oasis that boasts a fireplace, grill station for summer barbecues and stage for live music.

“From preproduction to production, a restaurant is like a rock show. You’re always on stage, and if you do your best, it’s all good,” insists Geller, who recently chatted with us about Maddie’s migration from a minuscule café to a monumental labor of love.

I’ve always been a dreamer. When I was I kid, I wanted to be a pro baseball player, but I was only good enough to play at the college level. I was fortunate enough, though, to spend many childhood winter ski trips in Colorado, and I knew I wanted to live and raise a family here— in short, to make a life here. In that sense, my dreams have come true.

My grandma Rivka was an amazing cook, and during our family visits in Israel, I enjoyed the wonderfully simple food that she loved to prepare. Now my mom carries on that tradition by cooking the family recipes—dishes like kreplach, chicken schnitzel and matzo ball soup— all Eastern European Jewish staples made with care and lots of love.

The first time I ever worked in a restaurant was the day the original little Maddie’s opened its doors. It’s been a magical experience, thanks to the support of my family, our amazing staff (my second family), our neighborhood and our chef Jason Morse, my good friend.

My daughter, Maddie, was born in 2011, the same year that we began this restaurant journey, and she endowed it with a special meaning. The birth of my son, Asher, propelled the start of our expansion plans. Who better to work hard as hell for than your kids?

Someone once told me to buy passive, income-producing real estate, which gives you a check and the ability to golf every day. It was probably the best advice I’ve ever gotten, but I’m glad I didn’t listen. As nice as it would be to spend my days on the golf course, I love that I get to put my heart into something that’s contributed to the improvement of a neighborhood, makes people happy and allows me to work with amazing people daily.

Breakfast is the meal that starts your day; it’s informal with a comforting feel. Breakfast lends itself to mixing and matching variations of savory and sweet that you can share with family and friends.

Anyone who comes into Maddie’s enjoys delicious food and a homey atmosphere where there are high-fives all day long. We’ve worked hard to become part of the fabric of this neighborhood and, in turn, we’ve become part of people’s weekly routines. We know personal things about our customers, like what they do for a living, if they root for CU or CSU, the Broncos or the Patriots.

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