Aspen’s newest restaurant, Bamboo Bear, offers authentic Vietnamese cuisine
June 15, 2016
Vince Bagford and his wife, Xuan, are bringing a taste of Southeast Asia to town at Aspen's Bamboo Bear, which opened last week in the little space where StoneyRidge Fridge most recently operated. The mom-and-pop shop, located at 730 E. Cooper Ave., prepares authentic Vietnamese food that's made to order.
Bagford said Xuan's top goal is "to share her cultures through the universal language called food."
Xuan — who's from an urban district of Ho Chi Minh City called Binh Tan — met Bagford four years ago in Vietnam. Bagford, who's spent most of his life in the culinary scene, relocated to Vietnam in 2012 to learn more about the country's culture and food. The two moved to Aspen shortly after and have worked in the local food industry ever since. When the opportunity to open their own restaurant arose, Bagford said he couldn't say no.
In its first week, Bamboo Bear was slammed with diners, some of whom visited the restaurant more than once a day.
Eric Bennett, who estimated he ate at Bamboo Bear seven to 10 times during its first four days of opening, is one of those repeat customers. Bennett said he's "stoked" to see something like it in Aspen.
"The food is super-fresh," he said. "You can tell there's love in there." Bennett added that the chicken wings are especially "on point."
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Taste and quality aside, other Bamboo Bear diners noted the restaurant's affordability as a selling point.
Nick Surls, who also reported dining at the restaurant more than once during its first week, described the food as "way good and way affordable."
"For me, it's a no-brainer," Surls said, adding, "It's as close to traditional Vietnamese as you can get."
Bagford said pricing Bamboo Bear's menu was important to him.
"I want to be able to feed the local people — the food-and-beverage people, my people," he said. "They're the ones that need to eat, and they can't spend $20 or $30 a day on lunch."
Some of the more popular items on the menu so far are the fresh rice-noodle bowl, pork riblets, rice-noodle salad and homemade kimchi, which also is available in a to-go container, Bagford said.
The restaurant also sells traditional Vietnamese snacks at the front of the eatery next to the cashier.
Bamboo Bear will likely operate seven days a week from about 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Bagford said, noting that he's still "figuring it all out."