It is incredible how cyclical life can be. Last June I wrote about the then newly opened Piencone Pizzeria in Eagle Rock, a spot I have revisited several times since, which has undergone its own evolution. Nearly a year later, the team behind Piencone and Four Cafe have furthered their conquest of the Eagle Rock stretch of Colorado Boulevard by opening up a third restaurant — Penny Oven.
The through line at all of Chef Michelle Wilton’s Eagle Rock eateries is family. Four Cafe, the first-born of the trio and open since 2009, is a sandwich, burger and salad joint all based around organic and sustainable, locally grown ingredients. Essentially, it’s like a farmers’ market where one person took all the best ingredients from the stands and made a fast-casual menu from all of it. Tables are adorned with mason jars holding napkins, or serving as small buckets of silverware.
Wilton’s middle child, Piencone, opened in 2018 and is the rebel of the trio. The pizza, pub, and ice cream shop was the anti-Shakey’s and a godsend to parents who missed eating at restaurants that didn’t use vinyl sheeting as tablecloths. With their elevated wood-fired pizzas and an entire dining room dedicated to families with a play area and ample room for movement for squirrely little ones to roam, families are able to enjoy a regular meal.
Fulfilling the stereotype of the youngest child, Penny Oven takes the best features of the older siblings and some special qualities and melds them into a new persona. (Full disclosure: I am the youngest child in my family.)
Penny Oven continues the same wood aesthetic as its elder siblings. From Four Cafe, Penny Oven takes on baked goods and breakfast. From Piencone, it carries over the wood-fired oven. But because it had to set itself apart from its elders Penny Oven could not just have a plain wood-fired oven. Taking it one level further, and true to its name, it is covered in thousands of real pennies. Perhaps as an homage to Piencone, Penny Oven also has a play area for little ones so that parents may enjoy their coffee while their children play in the small nook underneath the staircase.
Penny Oven is building its own identity with breakfast, coffee and lunches. Keeping that home style feeling that sets Wilton’s family of restaurants apart, nearly everything on the menu is made in-house, from all of the breads to the almond milk used in the coffee, it is all created right there.
It is not a coffee and laptop, get-work-done cafe. Instead, it’s more of a casual date cafe, or a spot for the couple in their mid-30s that reminisces about the days of bottomless mimosa brunches yet now have their toddlers in tow.
Effortlessly simple, Penny Oven’s menu is broken down into the refreshingly noncomplex categories of toasts, sweets, plates, sides, and kids. There is also a bakery display case filled with an ever-changing assortment of baked goods to ponder over and test your self-control as you wait in line.
One highlight is the toast menu does not feature avocado toast or any variation of the millennial kryptonite. Rather, Penny Oven does some more adventurous takes on their homemade breads. The croque toast ($10) comes with mushrooms, spinach, caramelized leeks and bechamel sauce.
The croissant sandwich ($8) takes the iconic donut store ham and cheese croissant flavors, sends them to charm school, and the result is Penny Oven’s croissant sandwich; a ham and gruyere omelet on their house croissant with a blood orange marmalade. The ham has a subtle spice, the eggs are rich and creamy, and the marmalade enhances the flavors perfectly. Despite my doubts about sometimes bitter blood orange, it works beautifully here.
The kid’s menu at Penny Oven really stands out for the level of care and detail in the options and ingredients not oft seen. For one of the first times, I, a childless adult male, seriously considered ordering off of the kid’s menu.
The pink dragon smoothie ($5) is a hot pink concoction of pitaya, spinach, blueberries, banana and apple juice and a super clever way to get your little one to consume vegetables. Even the mini-me pancakes ($5) are made with buckwheat, oats, bananas and spinach before they are topped with blueberries and maple syrup.
For fear of heart palpitations I was not able to try every coffee on the menu, but since I went on one of our sweltering mornings I was able to try one of Penny Oven’s iced coffees. The hemp cacao iced coffee ($4.50) is made with the titular ingredients and flavored with coconut oil, vanilla and maple syrup, brought all together with their homemade almond milk. Simultaneously refreshing and caffeinated, it is one of my favorite coffee drinks offered in the area. The freshness of the almond milk is clear by the rich flavor and lack of fully machinated smoothness.
Only open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, Penny Oven is perfectly poised for both the on-your-way-to-work pickup or the easy, breezy brunch. All of Wilton’s restaurants have held to a Matthew McConaughey level of effortlessly cool, relaxed dining, but Penny Oven really seals the deal on the natural and relaxed atmosphere. It’s summertime. Treat yourself to a visit for brunch or a light lunch and a crafted beverage. I promise you’ll catch those vacay vibes.
2131 Colorado Blvd.,
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