Branford vegan restaurant G-Zen is closing to focus on West Hartford location

Ami Beach and Mark Shadle, who opened the upscale East Main Street eatery 11 years ago, said Monday that G-Zen will close its doors April 30. They’re evolving the brand, and will focus on a new fast-casual vegan concept in West Hartford, incorporating elements from both the restaurant and G-Monkey Mobile, the couple’s popular vegan food truck.

G-Monkey Plant-Fueled Fast Food will open later this year at 625 New Park Avenue, in the space most recently occupied by Citizen Chicken & Donuts and before that, Hartford Baking Company. Beach said Monday they’re aiming for a potential June 1 debut.

The G-Monkey brick-and-mortar concept will begin in West Hartford, but the intention is to open more locations, they said, including on the shoreline.

Chefs Mark Shadle and Ami Beach started G-Zen Restaurant, which features sustainable, plant-based cuisine, in October 2011.Photo courtesy of Jeff Skerik

“We are aiming to do this in a scalable way, which we could have never attained with G-Zen,” Beach said. “We see it being something we can replicate, and we do want to come back to the shoreline [with this concept.] We’ve never had a concept that we could really run with, and I feel like this is why we’re doing this, to make it more accessible and just normalizing vegan [food.]”

The new restaurant will offer many of the more casual items from the truck menu, which were also featured at G-Zen. G-Monkey will serve housemade plant-based dishes like soups, veggie burgers and bowls, chili fries, “raw” tacos, vegan versions of grilled cheese and Reuben sandwiches, burritos and raw desserts.

Beach said the West Hartford menu would feature several varieties of housemade vegan burgers, including one with grilled pineapple, sriracha and coconut bacon, inspired by the couple’s second home in Culebra, Puerto Rico. She also envisions “disco fries” with mushroom gravy and vegan cheese, and plant-based milkshakes made with oat milk. 

Chili cheese fries from GMonkey, which will open a brick-and-mortar vegan restaurant in West Hartford this summer.

Chili cheese fries from GMonkey, which will open a brick-and-mortar vegan restaurant in West Hartford this summer.

Courtesy of GMonkey

Shadle, who for years was the executive chef and co-owner of It’s Only

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San Antonio developer Weston Urban buys Koehler House with plans for hotel, restaurant

Weston Urban added another item to its collection of iconic San Antonio landmarks. The developer behind downtown’s Frost Tower purchased the Koehler House from Alamo College District on Tuesday, February 22. While details on the developer’s plans for the 121-year-old house are limited, Weston Urban’s San Antonio projects show that the plans could be ambitious.  

The Koehler House at 310 West Ashby Place sold for $2.03 million at Tuesday’s meeting, with approval from Alamo College’s board members. The board previously designated the 12,655-square-foot house and the 1.9-acre property as surplus in September 2021. 



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Weston Urban was the highest among two bidders, according to agenda documents. Led by Rackspace Technology Co-founder Graham Weston, Weston Urban says the property will be used for a hotel, restaurant and entertainment space. 

San Antonio College president Robert Vela sent a letter to the Tobin Hill Community Association on Monday, February 21, saying the property will “become an asset for the neighborhood with all amenities open/available for use by guests and walk-in customers,” the Express-News reported.

Here is a look at some of Weston Urban’s past and upcoming projects to give a sense of what the developer could do with the historic property.

Rand Building

Weston Urban purchased the 100-year-old Rand Building from Frost Bank. It now hosts coworking space Geekdom and Pabst Brewing Company.

Courtesy Mike Farquhar

Weston Urban bought the historic Rand Building in 2013 and underwent a complete interior and exterior renovation to make way for coworking space company Geekdom. 

Pabst Brewing Company would later move its headquarters into the building in 2020. 

Milam Building

Weston Urban bought the Milam Building in San Antonio in 2016.

Weston Urban bought the Milam Building in San Antonio in 2016.

JERRY LARA /San Antonio Express-News

Weston Urban purchased this historic 21-story building at 115 E Travis Street in 2016. Randy Smith, president and CEO of Weston Urban, says the Chicago Gothic revival building would be mostly commercial and office space. Weston Urban’s website says the project is still “under construction.”

The Park

Weston Urban unveiled a 1.2-acre park  in November 2020 on the west side of downtown San Antonio near Frost Tower that is also home to Pinkerton's barbecue. 

Weston Urban unveiled a 1.2-acre park  in November 2020 on the west side of

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Opening nightmare: launching a restaurant into a world stricken by Covid and Brexit | Restaurants

Every morning last autumn, as he took the short walk from Farringdon station in central London to his new restaurant, Russell Norman came face to face with a ghost. The pandemic had hit the hospitality sector hard, and this stretch of takeaway outfits and dine-in burger chains was no exception. A Byron, a Coco di Mama, an Itsu – all long gone, doors locked, interiors dark. And then, just before the final right turn, the one that really hurt, the words on its signage removed but the outline unmistakable: Polpo.

The Venetian-inspired restaurant, which took its name from the Italian for “octopus”, had been a breakout success for Norman in the early 2010s. With its small plates, no-reservations policy and stripped-down interiors, the original Soho site had been credited with reinventing casual dining after the Great Recession. But then, like so many brands that emerged during the same period, it started to expand: taking on investors, extending tentacles across the UK, and then collapsing in instalments from 2016 onwards. Most of its sites were forced to close in the context of a broader casual dining crunch, as the cost of running a restaurant rose and the number of customers fell. These days, just two Polpos survive, in Soho and in Chelsea, west London, under the management of Norman’s former business partner Richard Beatty. Norman’s own departure from the project was finalised in June 2020.

Now, after a hiatus, he was back. For years, Norman had wanted to open an old-fashioned trattoria, replicating the homely, family run restaurants of Italy for a central London audience. A 2017 trip to Tuscany had brought his vision into sharper focus. Many of the region’s most celebrated dishes are rooted in the tradition of cucina povera (“poor cooking”), which makes resourceful use of pasta, beans, bread and offal. The food is nourishing and full of flavour, but beige and unphotogenic. In recognition of this, the restaurant would be called Brutto – or, in English, Ugly.

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Almost from the start, the name

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