TAG. Bubu. Mister Tuna. Guard and Grace. Hashtag. FNG. Los Chingones. If reading that list of hit Denver restaurants is exhausting, imagine what it must be like for Chef Troy Guard, the mastermind chef behind the TAG Restaurant Group. With at least ten restaurants and a new location of Los Chingones set to open in Colorado Mills in 2018, you’d expect Guard to be harried. Yet on a sunny spring evening in RiNo, while we sip margaritas seated at Los Chingones’ gorgeous rooftop bar, Chef Troy strolls around smiling, casually chatting with his staff and patrons.

“He always has to make the rounds, kiss some babies,” laughs Beth Windle, manager of marketing and business development for TAG Restaurant Group. “He always wants to check in with everyone when he’s here.” 

Indeed, connection and community play a big role in Chef Troy’s restaurants, values that can be traced back to his Hawaiian upbringing. Many of his restaurants aim to be neighborhood hangouts, a place for regulars and newbies alike to connectand enjoy some damn fine food while they’re at it. Even the award-winning Guard and Grace, Guard’s modern take on the swanky steakhouses of old, is bright and playful to invite guests to relax and socialize. Glancing around Los Chingones, we certainly couldn’t deny the coolness factorthe space is vibrant and colorful, and we were lucky to snag a seat from the crowd of young Denverites gathering on an otherwise ordinary Wednesday evening. Pressed for space, the restaurant recently expanded to open Los Lounge next door: a cozy bar that still manages to keep Los Chingones’ badass Mexican vibe. 

While his years of success in Asia and New York brilliantly influence Chef Troy’s slew of Denver restaurants, one of his biggest inspirations comes from an even more personal place. After all, you only have to look at the TAG moniker: Chef Troy’s initials. His steakhouse Guard and Grace? Named for his daughter, Grace. Mister Tuna, a Hawaiian-inspired neighborhood hangout, is a throwback to his roots and named after his father, who earned the nickname manning their backyard grill. Other restaurants are nods to Guard’s brothers.

“With Chef Troy, things come from the heart,” explains Windle. With so much soul poured into his restaurants, you could almost worry that Guard is bound to run out of inspiration. Don’t.

“When people ask what’s next, I always say I’m open to opportunities,” Chef Troy smiles. “With our new location near Colorado Mills, I’m kind of looking around for where else we could go.”

That’s good news for Denverand anyone looking to connect over award-winning food, atmosphere, and most of all, plenty of heart.