February 10, 2004
OK, listen up: The name of the restaurant is Six 89. The address of the restaurant is 689. The menu is divided into 4 categories: “Small plates,” “Bowls”, “Greens” and “Large plates.” The dessert menu is divided into one category: “Sugar!” The sign out front says, “Kitchen. Wine bar.” The only thing that could be more straightforward would be to have “spoon” and “fork” written on the appropriate silverware.
Six 89 (hereafter 689) is the best of many worlds. It has what some would say is “Aspen” quality (although that would in no way be a fair description, considering the many quality eating places in the “other” valley) without the Aspen attitude. It has upvalley elegance with downvalley prices and personality. It is the sort of thing that, for the most part, you would have to go to Aspen to find, yet it is right there in Carbondale. And please, before you start crying “Aspenization!” consider this for a moment … you are wrong. Let’s face it, the downvalley populace is, for the most part, what keeps Aspen up and running, only you have been forced out by the prices or the crowds or whatever. Now you have a little more of the same quality that brings people from all over to Aspen right in your cozy back yard. An Aspen restaurant without Aspen crowds. Sounds pretty good to me.
OK, I know that this is supposed to be a restaurant profile and not a manifesto, but I feel that outcroppings of restaurants of this caliber (Carbondale’s Bistecca Toscana being another example that comes to mind) are as much of a social statement as a culinary one. As manager Linda Graham put it, “(Chef/owner Mark Fischer) wanted to create a place where people could come in have a full meal or just a bowl of soup and a glass of wine and good conversation, a gathering place with community spirit. A place where you could actually have a couple of glasses of wine with dinner and then walk home and not have to drive home 30 miles.”
Well, based on our experience, he has succeeded. We opted for the full meal, wine and good conversation combo, even though Linda didn’t specify that as one of the options. We just thought, what the heck…let’s bust out of the mold.
Now, let’s begin with the menu. I’ll try to keep this as straightforward as the menu itself. Ahem … small plates we had: Rock shrimp and olive gnocchi w/scallion and lobster vinaigrette, $7. Yum. Ahi carpaccio w/ wasabi aioli and scallion green wonton salad, $8. Mmmm. Autumn antipasto; smoked salmon, potatoes, cheese, apples, mustard creme fraiche, $8. Happenin’. HOUSEMADE Yukon gold and sweet potato chips smothered in warm Maytag blue fondue, $5. Are you listening? Homemade potato chips!
In fact, manager Linda assures that everything is made right there in the back, …right down to the sausage in the soup. Last week we had a dish that called for mozzarella, and they made it. It makes it real easy to work here.”
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Bowls: Ask for the soup of the day. Then order it. Greens: Caesar BLT, $6. Autumn salad of apples and spiced walnuts with Maytag blue fondue, $6. Wilted spinach with wild mushrooms and hazelnuts w/shallots and sherry vinaigrette, $7.
Large plates that we had: Dry aged Black Angus strip “on the bone” with wild mushrooms and Madeira, $19.50. (Comments: “It was outstanding, at least until they killed it and served it to me.” We take that as a thumbs up.) Muscovy duck breast with wild rice risotto, sun dried cranberry and pecan relish, $18. (Comment: The reason that part of it was doggie bagged had everything to do with my desire to have it the next day for lunch.) Roast free range chicken with fried polenta and sherry pan jus, $13. (Comment: “It tastes like autumn, the season I like to eat most.”) Pan roasted Patagonian toothfish w/ bouillabaisse of mussels, rock shrimp and calamari, $17. (Comment: “Hey, this isn’t a toothfish, it’s a Chilean Sea Bass! What gives? It’s good, though.”) To inquire further into the toothfish dilemma and other food inquiries, simply flip your menu over and read the lexicon. You may never again wonder how to pronounce “gnocchi.”
Overall analysis: Seasonal eating is good eating. When we put our forks down for the last time we felt nourished and happy, and what else do you want?
Well, sugar, for one. All items on the sugar! menu are $5.50, and include the espresso creme brulee, banana and chocolate bread pudding with rum caramel sauce, the “daily crumble” (apple on the day we were there) and a few others. We had the special sugar, pumpkin cheesecake. On the check it actually read, “Special sugar…” Here’s to honesty.
Oh, and there’s a little pub-like wine bar in the back. A nice, Zen-like soulful atmosphere with lots of natural wood and natural people. Full bar, full wine list, and full patrons.
From the start 689 decided to not have a big gala grand opening, they just wanted to let word of mouth do its thing. Thus far, the response from the community has been outstanding.
When you really get down to basics there are only a dozen or so different stories that we tell and retell again and again. The essential archetypes are the same…. only the clothes and the hairstyles change.I think that that can also be said for food. What we have to eat on this earth is finite, yet there are unlimited ways to prepare it. The restaurant known simply as 689 does a beautiful job of telling a simple story in a way that bears repeating.