Darwin’s in El Jebel up for survival of the fittest | AspenTimes.com

Darwin’s in El Jebel up for survival of the fittest

EL JEBEL ” A new restaurant in Basalt has certainly got the right name to survive in this tough economy, and the owner believes he has got the right concept as well.

Steve Sklar opened Darwin’s this week in the space formerly occupied by El Korita next to Movieland in the Basalt/El Jebel area. (El Korita moved some time ago to a larger space in the Willits Town Center.)

Sklar, who owned and operated The Grill Next Door in Aspen, which is now closed, and is co-owner of Big Hoss Grill in Snowmass Village, said the prime location of Darwin’s will help him succeed in the current business climate. “This is a fantastic location,” he said.

He hopes to capture people coming and going to the movies. He plans to offer quick service and serve food for people on a budget, which includes just about everyone right now. Darwin’s lunch menu features burgers and sandwiches for under $11. For dinner fare, there’s a 12-ounce prime rib for $16, an 8-ounce filet for $17 and crab cakes for $16. Sklar credited chef Javier Huerta, who also works at Two Rivers Cafe in Basalt, for developing the menu.

Both expect the menu to change to some degree. The tag line for Darwin’s is “ever evolving.” Sklar insisted that “the neighborhood” will tell him what they want. If they want a burger joint, he’ll fill that niche. He’s also ready to go more upscale, to a point. “There’s enough high-end around here,” he said, vowing to keep prices at low as he can.

Darwin’s will add a neighborhood bar to the area. While the interior is compact, it does feature a full bar that 10 or so folks can belly up to. Sklar said he saw that need in the midvalley and he was willing to sacrifice some table space for the bar. Three big-screen TVs give the place a bit of a sports bar feel. The total seating is for 43 people, and will expand in warm weather with patio space.

“I’d rather have a small spot with people waiting than a large spot with empty tables,” said the veteran restaurateur.

Darwin’s is going through a “soft opening” this week while it irons out its operations. Word-of-mouth is drawing people. Sklar is awaiting his state liquor license, which should arrive any day.

The restaurant’s opening is part of a flurry of recent changes in the midvalley bar and restaurant scene. In other developments:

– Jody Nobel purchased Basalt Bistro from Joseph Ciri, according to a liquor license transfer request submitted to the town of Basalt.

– The Crawford family is reviewing applications from individuals or businesses that want to rent the old Short Stop space in the El Jebel Plaza. The Short Stop, a working man’s watering hole, folded in early February. It hasn’t been determined yet if the space will continue to be a bar/restaurant, an office or some other use.

– Crave Kitchen temporarily closed its restaurant at the Willits Town Center to re-evaluate its business plan. A sign on the door indicates it will reopen.


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