One of the best restaurant locations in the valley changes hands in Basalt | AspenTimes.com

One of the best restaurant locations in the valley changes hands in Basalt

Andrew "Andy" Hopp and Claire Clarke stand on the expansive patio that makes the Riverside Grill a popular destination. They acquired the restaurant July 31.

After working for decades to help other restaurant owners operate their businesses, a couple have decided to make a go of it for themselves.

Andrew "Andy" Hopp and Claire Clarke purchased the Riverside Grill in Basalt on July 31. The couple, partners in business and in life, have decades of experience in the Roaring Fork Valley restaurant scene under their belts.

Hopp has been working in the restaurant industry for 20 years — including a decade with the Kenichi group and, most recently, six years with Smoke, where he was manager at Willits.

Clarke started with the Flying Dog Brew Pub and also has worked for Pine Creek Cookhouse, Takah Sushi and, most recently, with the Grey Lady during her 24 years with restaurants in Aspen.

They had been looking for a business of their own for about three years. They've known Martin Oswald for years and began negotiating the purchase of Riverside Grill from him in May.

The restaurant is widely considered to have one of the best locations in the Roaring Fork Valley, with its expansive patio overlooking the Fryingpan River.

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"I think this is kind of the landmark restaurant in Basalt," Clarke said.

"It's a bit of a hub for the community," Hopp said. "We basically want to carry on the tradition."

Clarke said they inherited a loyal following and a great staff, many of whom worked a long time at the restaurant. The bar and restaurant is popular with fly-fishing guides and customers. The patio attracts swarms of local residents and visitors on warm weather days.

The new owners jumped right into operations even before the purchase was complete. They will be very hands-on at the restaurant, which serves lunch and dinner. No major changes are planned, though they will make some adjustments to the menu in the fall and they will place a premium on service.

Oswald and his wife, Carolyn, owned and operated the Riverside Grill since 2005. Oswald will now concentrate on Pyramid Bistro, his restaurant in Aspen, as well as his catering business and speaking nationally on nutritional cooking, according to Charles Spickert, who brokered the sale through his business, Touchstone Business Advisors.

Hopp and Clarke live in the Fryingpan Valley, so they are enjoying the shorter commute to work. They plan on making the grill available for more community events — from employee parties to rehearsal dinners and nonprofit happenings.

They see big potential in Basalt with the midvalley expanding. Demand and critical mass is growing with Aspen Skiing Co. among businesses that have recently opened offices in Basalt and new residential projects. They also like that the midvalley is family-oriented.

While the number of restaurants in Basalt, Willits and El Jebel is increasing, it still isn't as saturated as the Aspen scene, Hopp said. They know several restaurateurs in the midvalley and look forward joining the mix. They said to stay tuned for announcements of a grand opening event in the fall.

Clarke acknowledged that running their own place is quite different than working for someone else, but they look to the future with confidence.

"If you're not nervous, you don't care," she said.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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