Restaurant news from Colorado’s glamour queen community
I don’t get to the Aspen area nearly as often as I’d like to, so I rely on other sources to stay sort-of in the loop when it comes to dining out in Aspen. I started reading EatAspen’s recent roundup of new restaurants, and see a lot of activity in the restaurant scene there.
Richard Sandoval Brings Modern Mexican to Snowmass
The biggest restaurant name to hit the Aspen area this year is Richard Sandoval, the chef who popularized distinctive modern Mexican Cuisine in the US. He has restaurants all over the place, including Tamayo and Zengo in Denver and two La Sandia locations in two metro shopping areas. Now, his restaurant group is opening Venga Venga Cantina & Tequila Bar in the old Cirque Cafe space on the Snowmass Mall. The restaurant is stocking some 75 tequilas and mezcals, and serving Mexican classics. The restaurant’s name means “Let’s go! Let’s go!,” and being a fan of Sandoval’s food, I am ready to go there. 105 Daly Lane, Snowmass Village, 970-923-7777.
Aspen Treasure or Aspen Junk?
I hated everything I read about plans for the original Junk, a dreadful name and an unfortunate concept for a group of Aspen area restaurants a couple of years back. I have never met developer Scott DeGraff. For all I know, he might be the most charming man on the planet, but his notions of what the Aspen area’s restaurant scene needs are downright awful. The worst of his several abuses was gutting the iconic Red Onion with a plan to turn it into a travesty called Junk at the Red Onion. Fortunately that never happened, and most of his other ideas were also junked. But DeGraff is not easily deterred, and Junk is open in downtown Aspen across from the Wheeler Opera House. I understand that Aspen’s good old Popcorn Wagon has been “intergrated” into the restaurant by opening up the side of the building and somehow inserting the wagon into it. Meanwhile, Junk'[s lliquor license was issued to Liza DeGraff, Scott’s wife, because he was previously denied a license, having been deemd as “unfit” to operate a bar. He is, however, managing his wife’s restaurant. Ahem!
I have not been to Junk, and I am unlikely to try it. I remain skeptical about anything this developer touches. He must have had a soft opening or something on November 14 or 15, because several Urbanspoon reviews were posted on the 15th that used similar words like “hip,” “just what Aspen needed” and “good food.” Could DeGraff have put his pals up to this? Ya’ think! 305 S. Mill St., 970-925-5865.
A Jewish Deli & Colorado Microbrew — Perfect Togther
Aspen hasn’t really had a New York deli or New York attitude since Schlomo’s at the bottom of Aspen Mountain closed and eventually became the upscale Ajax Tavern. That’s changing with the new Oy Vey Cafe, a New York style breakfast and lunch deli, that opens at 6:30 a.m. and serves through early dinner. The deli has a perfect location for ad hoc beer pairings, because it shares an address with the new Aspen Brewery Tap Room, which serves great locally brewed beer but no food. The tap room has does not serve food and has BYOL policy (bring your own lunch), and Oy Vey certainly is convenient. 504 E. Hopkins Ave., 970-544-1722 (deli) and 970-920-BREW (920-2739), (tap room).
Fast & Casual at the Rink
CP Burger at the Silver Circle Ice Skating Rink offers burgers, plus hot dogs, green chili and spiked milk shakes. It is run by the owners of Brexi, Lulu Wilson and Wild Fig, so it’s got good genes. 433 E. Durant Ave., 970-925-3056.
Silver Queen for Modern American Cuisine
The Silver Queen Restaurant combines the old and the new. The old is found in such touches as the elaborate back bar that reflects a mining camp in the Victorian age, while the new is the modern American cuisine served there — and those shiny metal armchairs too. The fare is mostly Italian and American. 520 Hyman Ave., 970-920-3616.
New Steakhouse in Aspen
The Pitkin County Steak House and Tavern is a steakhouse (dry-aged steaks, seafood and a big salad bar with local ingredients, when available) and a sports bar and pub featuring draft beers, televised sports and shuffleboard –and also the steakhouse menu. 305 E. Hopkins Ave., 970-544-6328.
Fine French Pâtisserie Comes to Town
Locals know all about Franck Thirion French Pastry & Cafe (pastries, croissants, cakes and specialty coffees) at the Aspen Airport Business Center, and now, it’s going mainstream with a second location downtown. I am writing this on a Sunday, when the AABC location is closed, so I can’t reach anyone to find out whether the new one is already open, but it is (or expects to be) at 317 E. Hopkins Ave., 970-925-3569.
Exclusive Florida Resturant Opening in Exclusive Aspen
Casa Tua aims at replicated the ambiance of a chalet in the Italian Alps, but it arrives in Aspen from Miami, where it is a resturant, club and hotel. Aspen is getting two out of three, a fine dining restaurant in the Italian, French and Swiss mode and upstairs, a members-only club.I’m sure it’s very good, but I can’t help thinking: Just what Aspen needs. Another place only a few may enter. Details are sketchy. The restaurant is supposed to be in the old Ruth’s Chris space, at 447 E. Cooper Ave ., but it still lists a South Florida phone number, 305- 532-7732.
American Fare in the Offing
BB’s Kitchen, promising moderately priced American comfort food, is coming to 525 E. Cooper Ave., maybe later this month. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, apres-ski and great views of Smuggler and Red Mountains are promised. They just received their liquor license, so stay tuned.
Food Changes at the Aspen Club & Spa
Nu Trition, an affordable gourmet salad bar, has made an appopriate moved and relocated from the AABC into the Aspen Club & Spa, 1450 Crystal Lake Rd., 970-544-3441. They dish out salads, soups and Asian-inspired hot plates such as Hoisin chicken, Korean steak, Thai shrimp and tofu, all for take-out. Garnish, which used to be in the Aspen Club, is moving to Snowmass Village, supplanting Butch’s Lobster Bar. Garnish is known for its soups, which have won a slew of local culinary competitions. 690 Carriage Way (above the Mall and adjacent to Timberline Condos), Snowmass Village.
Pyramid (Bistro) to Top Explore Booksellers
The Pyramid Bistro is supposed to open on December 15 in the former Explore Cafe (and later Escape) space above Aspen’s revered Explore Booksellers. The space has been (or is still being) totally made over to accommodate Pyramid, like its predecessor a vegetarian or “vege-centric” restaurant. 221 E. Main St.
Awaiting Word on The Palace
The old Crystal Palace in the Wheeler Opera House was a dinner theater. In its place will be The Palace, but I can’t find any information yet.
Makeover of Aspen Highlands Base Area Eatery
New ownership, major remodel and faster food service present Out of Boundsat the base of the Aspen Highlands ski area, just out of town, in a whole new light. The space was previous occupied by Northwoods Lodge, Iguanas and ZG Grille, and I hope the newest incarnation will be the right mix. No phone number yet.