Escobar owners to test the dining scene in Aspen with Grey Lady | AspenTimes.com

Escobar owners to test the dining scene in Aspen with Grey Lady

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

Andre Salvail The Aspen Times

The owners of downtown nightspot Escobar are planning a restaurant venture in the South Mill Street pedestrian mall space that formerly housed R&R, Above the Salt and Junk.

Though the space at 305 S. Mill St. has seen a lot of turnover in recent years, Ryan Chadwick and Ian Perry don't believe it's snakebit. They recently finalized a one-year lease with an agent for the building's owner, Chicago businessman-developer Mark Hunt.

"I love cursed properties," Chadwick joked.

"I think it's a great location," Perry said. "Why do I think it's turned over so many times? Each turnover was unique. High turnover? People told us the same thing about the Escobar space before we opened that."

The eatery will be called Grey Lady, and the owners say it will be loosely modeled after their restaurant with the same name in Manhattan's Lower East Side.

That restaurant has a Nantucket theme, offering New England coastal favorites such as grilled lobster, tuna burgers, crab cakes, clam steamers, mussels, scallops and chowder. Perry said details have yet to be decided, but that the local version of Grey Lady will have "an Aspen twist," with the menu largely reflecting area culinary tastes as well as the vision of whoever is hired as chef.

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"We want to change some things about it. Our bar business at Grey Lady in New York is just insane. We want to be a little more food-focused with the Aspen project," Perry said.

He explained that the restaurant will have a "chef-centric model." Chadwick and Perry want the restaurant to be associated with a top-notch, identifiable culinary expert, and they are searching inside and outside of the Aspen area to find the right person.

They say the atmosphere will be casual; the prices affordable and locals-friendly.

"We don't want to be white linen," Perry said. "We're not going to try to take on the higher echelon of Aspen restaurants. We would prefer it to be approachable for everybody. Before we comment too much on exactly where in the market we're positioning ourselves, we want to leave a lot of that up to the chef.

"I don't want to dictate to a chef what to do," he added. "I'd rather a chef tell me what it is that they do best and how they want to express it. We want to be a restaurant where everybody knows the chef's name."

The 1,780-square-foot space was vacant during the 2013-14 winter-spring tourism season after Above the Salt owners Craig and Samantha Cordts-Pearce, who operate other restaurants in Aspen, decided not to continue there, despite undertaking an extensive renovation. Scott and Carly Weber, former owners of The Regal nightclub on South Galena Street, opened R&R in June and operated it through the summer season, but opted not to keep it going for the winter.

Initially, Grey Lady only will be open for dinner. The hours might be expanded at some point depending on demand, Perry said.

"We don't want to be a bar that has food; we'd rather be a restaurant that has a cool bar," he said.

The restaurant space is on the north half of a building that contains another restaurant, Jimmy's Bodega, which local restaurateur Jimmy Yeager opened in June after longtime tenant Pacifica shut its doors in fall 2013. Both spaces sat empty last winter.

Perry said the goal is for the two eateries to complement each other.

"We're not trying to replicate anybody's recipe for success," he said. "We're trying to identify something that no one else is doing. There's a lot of great food in this town. I don't think of other Aspen restaurants as competition. I think the more elevated the culinary scene becomes, the better it is for all of us because the city becomes more of a dining destination."

Chadwick said he had been searching for a restaurant property in Aspen after opening Grey Lady two years ago in New York with Perry and other investors. He and Perry started Escobar in January 2010.

"With Escobar and the bar scene, we have a great relationship with the locals and the city," Chadwick said. "I wanted to see how far we could go with the dining scene, as well."

They are in the process of hiring. Inquiries and resumes may be sent to greyladyaspen@gmail.com.

andre@aspentimes.com