Breaking the fast in the midvalley | AspenTimes.com

Breaking the fast in the midvalley

John ColsonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

Breakfast in America in El Jebel draws a steady stream of regulars each morning. Diners are seated at a U-shaped counter, surrounding the cooks and the griddles.

Whether a tourist seeking an early morning repast before heading out for a day of fun, a local worker bee loading up on the fuel to get you through until lunch, or simply someone looking for a great place to eat breakfast, there are numerous locations in the middle section of the Roaring Fork Valley that can fill the bill.Three particular establishments, however, stand out as long time favorites of locals and visitors alike The Village Smithy and the Red Rock Diner, both in Carbondale, and Breakfast in America in El Jebel.

Corner of Third & Main, downtown CarbondaleSince 1975, when founders Chris and Terry Chacos converted the building that once housed the village blacksmith shop into a breakfast and lunch eatery, The Village Smithy has acquired the status of legend.These days, run by the son of the founders, Charlie Chacos, the restaurant continues its tradition of hearty home-cooked meals that, if repeat customers and the long lines out the door are any guide, have not lost any of the qualities that got the legend going in the first place.Serving only breakfast and lunch, the Smithy chefs prepare meals drawn from two menus, one for the weekday and another for weekends.Many of the breakfast offering dishes are to be found on both menus, such as the legendary Huevos Rancheros and its more substantial cousin, McHuevos, along with such specialties as a choice of hearty omelettes, the Santiago Skillet (a bed of hash browns topped with grilled chicken and various fixings) and the Chile Relleno and Eggs, pancakes, Belgian waffles or French toast and even blintzes. Substitute a Kashi Medley (cooked buckwheat groats) or Home Fries for the hash browns if carbo-loading is the goal.For lunch, the options include Crystal River Burgers made with locally produced, free-range beef and featuring an array of enticing toppings, or sandwiches with everything from hot pastrami to steak to the meatless burger for those who dont eat red meat. Soups and salads round out the bill.The weekend variations include a couple of different omelettes, or a choice of Eggs Benedict Specialties and Big Brunch Salads, to name just a couple.The Village Smithy is open from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m., seven days a week.

0155 Highway 133, near the bridge at the entrance to CarbondaleOwner and founder Bob Olenick, who has worked in restaurants since he was 14 years old, likes to tell about how he bought the Red Rock building, which looks like a railroad dining car, from a manufacturer in Florida in 1994. He had it shipped here and basically assembled on a foundation, replacing a defunct gas station, and was open in a matter of weeks.It was the 67th such kit built by the manufacturer, Olenick said recently, adding that others have found homes around the U.S. and in England and Russia, among other locales. Since that rather unique beginning, he has been serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to a steadily growing and highly loyal clientele.His breakfasts have earned Olenick much of that loyalty, featuring everything from the basic two eggs, hash browns and toast for just over five bucks to more elaborate and more pricey offerings that include steaks, burritos, corned beef and hash and, in a nod to a known valley favorite, Huevos Rancheros and a lot more.Hell also serve up a fried egg sandwich, Pigs in a Blanket, various omelettes and an assortment of pancakes, waffles and French toast, in his drive to satisfy every palate.Another point of pride for Olenick is the fact that he keeps his prices low, and in fact contrives to raise them only every two years, thereby offering solace to the working stiffs who make up a large part of his customer base.The Diner is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays.

19125 Highway 82, El Jebel (in the old shopping center, across from City Market)Restaurant manager Maria Rockwell likes to keep up a running patter as she serves meals, buses the counters and give change to the customers when they leave, and she also likes to play a rock n roll trivia game to keep the diners entertained.Shes been on the job for the past four of the restaurants 14 years of existence, tucked into a small space alongside other restaurants, a liquor store and a bar.Marias proud of the fact that the clientele is made up of a lot of regulars along with a steady stream of skiers and snowboarders, leaf-peepers in the autumn and a full-steam ahead summer crowd. She refers to her customers as the cholesterol junkies, faithful and proud. We serve the best grease in the valley. If you wanna lose weight, Aspens that way, and for health food, the Village Smithys right over there, she points as she boasts.The tight quarters are filled by counter space for 18 surrounding the central grill and cooking area, with up to 40 table spaces outside next to the parking lot. The two-page menu displays the usual egg dishes omelettes, burritos, Huevos Rancheros, steak-and-eggs and other fare well known to valley residents, as well as waffles, blintzes, French toast. Belying her emphasis on greasy-spoon fare, the menu also offers something called the Monkey Bowl a bowl of granola with fruit and yogurt a Fried Rice Burrito and a Veg Head Burrito for those who prefer to go light on the grease.For those with more exotic tastes, theres a dish of salmon and eggs and a couple of items with obvious Spanish heritage the Migas (chorizo and eggs on a corn tortilla), or the Machacas (shredded port scrambled with eggs, onions, etc.)Rockwell said the small crew, anywhere from three to five depending on the time, serves up 350 meals or so a day, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 2 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays, and she said there are plans to open up on Sundays soon.jcolson@aspentimes.com

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