Heather’s savors spot in Basalt’s dining scene
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
BASALT – A Basalt chef with a following among lovers of savory pies and her husband have opened Heather’s on Midland Avenue, bringing to life a prime restaurant space that had been vacant for two years.
And finally, Heather and Rene Lujan get to work in the same state – together. Heather had been a longtime local caterer, with clients mainly in Basalt and Aspen (she called the business Have Your Next Affair With Heather) and most recently ran Heather’s Mayberry Cafe for two years out of the Phillips 66 station across the street. Rene owns a souvenir business in California and had been commuting back and forth.
They long had dreamed of running a restaurant together, but they didn’t both fit in the tiny Mayberry Cafe, which measured about 140 square feet. The cafe didn’t do Heather’s skills justice anyway, Rene contends.
“With her talents, the recognition wasn’t there because people won’t come into a gas station to eat,” Rene said.
The new Heather’s has taken over the space that Butch’s Lobster Bar and, before that, Mexican restaurant El Horizonte vacated. The quaint house-turned-restaurant with an ample front patio is best remembered as the longtime location of Chefy’s.
With Rene working the front of the house and Heather overseeing the kitchen, Heather’s is serving breakfast and lunch these days and preparing to enter the dinnertime business once the business secures a liquor license. Then, weekday breakfasts are likely to disappear, giving rise to weekend brunches.
Heather reports brisk business during the restaurant’s honeymoon as the new player on the block, but, the allure of gas station dining aside, at least some of the customers are Mayberry faithfuls who remember Friday Pie Day at the cafe.
“People would line up,” said Heather, who closed Mayberry’s in April.
Now, her savory pies are on the menu daily, including Heather’s famous chicken pot pie, a lamb and eggplant version of shepherd’s pie and “ropa vieja” (a Cuban stew). Heather envisions other varieties, as well, and pork pie – a holiday staple when she was growing up in New England – will be a holiday tradition at Heather’s.
Pies and the rest of the fare can be ordered to go. Patrons are charged a deposit for the pie dish, but already regulars are operating on the honor system, and all of the dishware has returned, Rene reported.
The couple has secured a part-time pastry chef and will offer cakes to order, along with a selection of other temptations.
Soups and salads are standard fare, and Aspenites might remember Heather’s Alaskan smoked salmon chowder – it captured third place at the Soupsköl competition this winter, she said.
Much of the menu, though, will change regularly based on what’s available.
“I promised I would never get into the perishable business again, and here I am,” said Rene, whose family ran a Mexican pastry business in Arizona. He was referring not to the nature of the restaurant business but the ingredients.
Hence, Heather’s will feature a handful of lunch and dinner specials that change frequently as staples such as the savory pies remain constant.
“It’s a chalkboard menu, meaning it changes up every eight days,” Rene explained. “Everything is basically made daily, made fresh.”
Popular items, though, might see a longer run, Heather said. A lunch item, orange basil chipotle chicken, for example, has been a hit and remains on the chalkboard, she noted. Other lunch specials early this week included salmon kebabs with red quinoa and Asian pork ribs with cucumber salad.
The couple is also contemplating live music one night a week, and Heather would like to put bocce or horseshoe pits in the narrow strip between the restaurant and the building next door. Board Night, featuring board games for families, also is on her radar.
Heather’s joins a number of eateries in the vicinity, but the Lujans figure there’s a space for their concept.
“I didn’t want to go to my deathbed saying I didn’t try,” Heather said.
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