Karamiso ramen at Peko Peko in Avanti Boulder. | Photo by Ashley Beguin

Top Chef Alumni Dishes On His New Concepts and Favorite Late Night Places to Eat

Peko Peko brings a new menu to Avanti Boulder from the Pig and Tiger co-owner Travis Masar, as well as news of a brick and mortar coming to Denver.

BY Linnea Covington


Pig and Tiger has left the Avanti Boulder building. But while the concept is gone, chefs Travis Masar and Darren Chang have launched a summer-friendly eatery in its place. Dubbed Peko Peko, the new stall features chef Scott Walton at the helm. But the original chefs aren’t going far. 

Masar, who competed in Top Chef season 11 in New Orleans, opened Pig and Tiger with Chang in 2020. The name comes from the chefs’ personal Chinese zodiac signs, with Chang born in the year of the pig and Masar in the year of the tiger. While the pair’s Taiwanese eatery shifted, Masar said they are close to signing a lease for the brick-and-mortar version. This iteration, he dished, will be in the Five Point neighborhood in Denver, and offer all the Taiwanese favorites from the original menu, plus so much more.

Sunomono, aka a refreshing cucumber salad, at Peko Peko. | Photo by Ashley Beguin
Sunomo at Peko Peko by Top Chef alumni Travis Masar. | Photo by Ashley Beguin

Though not actively working and cooking the line at Peko Peko, the chefs still own the business. As we wait to get a bit of the super spicy and traditional mapo tofu and new items such as salt-and-pepper shrimp cocktail at Pig and Tiger, diners can satiate hunger with Japanese fare such as Smoked Salmon Temaki ($6.50) and Tonyu Ramen ($15). Fans can also pick up a jar of Pig and Tiger classic chili crisp (plus two new flavors), available at the restaurant, Mr. B’s Wine & Spirits, Moxie Bread, and through the website

Or, head to one of Masar’s favorite places to eat at when not in his own kitchen. The chef leans into late night dining where he and his partner can have a solid meal after 8 p.m. He also loves Asian food thanks to numerous years working in Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam, as well as opening Uncle Ramen in Highland with Tommy Lee. Of course, he added, he won’t knock a good burger either. Find out his go-to spots below. 

Ramen is on the menu at Peko Peko in Boulder. | Photo by Ashley Beguin
Ramen is on the menu at Peko Peko in Boulder. | Photo by Ashley Beguin

Yummy Pot 

All-you-can-eat hot pot is the name of the game here, where adults eat for $26.99 (kids 4 to 12 cost $15.99, and those over 65 cost $22.95). It’s a spot Masar and Cheng both love, and the rumor is another location will open in the Highland neighborhood soon. 

To order, diners pick one of six broths including spicy, pork bone, and tom yum. Next comes the meat and seafood, with a vast selection from lamb to beef tripe to shrimp balls. With over 20 vegetables and soy products, plus dumplings and noodles, the meal becomes well balanced and even more delicious. 2500 W. Alameda Ave., Denver, denveryummyhotpot.com

Kawa Ni

“If we can ever get in, Kawa Ni is a favorite,” said Masar about the laidback Japanese restaurant in LoHi. For him it’s the cabbage appetizer, aka Addictive Cabbage ($11), and the Schezuan dumplings ($16). His tip for getting the most “bang for your buck,” is with the $26 Temaki Scallop or Wasbi Tuna. “It’s like build-your-own and though It says it serves two to four, I feel like it’s four to six depending on how fat you’re rolling them.” 

Shaved broccoli miso goma at Kawa Ni stuns. | Photo by Linnea Covington
Shaved broccoli miso goma at Kawa Ni stuns. | Photo by Linnea Covington

Owned by Bill Taibe, Kawa Ni is a Connecticut transplant that opened last year. Other popular dishes include the Biang Biang Chicken Bao ($15), Spicy Kai Udon ($16), and Crab Fried Rice ($18/$24). Masar also recommends getting the sake bomb, which, he added, isn’t like the drink of college days. Instead, it’s served with fresh ginger and works as a great digestive. If you hear the gong, you know someone has just had one. 1900 W. 32nd Ave., Denver, kawanidenver.com

Lucy’s Burger Bar 

For a basic burger this is the place Masar and his partner Ken like to go. Because both work late, the chef said he was thrilled when the hours expanded to close at 9 p.m. on weekdays. The couple meets there and Masar orders the classic Juicy Lucy ($15) with raw and griddled onions, a shot of Uncle Nearest ($12) and a cold tall can of Montucky Cold Snacks ($5). 

For Ken it’s always the Epic Grilled Cheese ($9) with griddled onions, no pickles, a shot of tequila and a cocktail. Add on a side of fries to share, and it’s a full meal for less than $50. 4018 Tennyson St., Denver, lucysburgerbar.com

The vegetarian mushroom dip at Pony Up is a favorite sandwich. | Photo by Linnea Covington
The vegetarian mushroom dip at Pony Up is a favorite sandwich. | Photo by Linnea Covington

Pony Up

“This place is always a classic for us,” said Masar. “We get the Smoked Mushroom French Dip and split it.” The $15 vegetarian sandwich is huge, but if they want more food the wings ($14), Country Karaage ($16), or twice-cooked potatoes ($10) usually make the cut. As for cocktails at the bar, it’s usually an Old Fashioned or the Saturn, a classic gin-forward tiki drink. Pony Up also has one of the best happy hours. Held daily from 4 to 7 p.m., the menu features $5 draft beers, $8 cocktails, and $7 glasses of wine. 1808 Blake St., Denver, ponyupdenver.com

Temaki at Peko Peko. | Photo by Ashley Beguin
Temaki at Peko Peko. | Photo by Ashley Beguin


Open till midnight, this Japanese eatery is one of the places Masar frequents. Usually he starts with a couple hand rolls (starting at $5), which could be anything from the simple yellowtail and green onion roll ($9) to the signature Tokio Roll ($27) with lobster tempura, avocado, Kobe beef, garlic butter, and a garnish of shoestring potatoes. 

Other bites he loves include the agedashi ($6), house-made shu mai ($9), and tofu pockets ($2). To drink he gets the house sake. It’s only $7 for a large size during happy hour, which runs every night from 10:30 to midnight, as well as 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays. 2907 Huron St. #103, Denver, mytokio.com

Content Continues Below


Linnea Covington

Linnea Covington is the managing editor of DiningOut. She comes to us with a long background in food, restaurant and drinks journalism. Over the last two decades she’s written for tons of publications including Denver Post, Washington Post, Forbes Travel Guide, 5280 Magazine, New York Magazine, New York Times, Time Out New York and more.