Mawa adds diversity to midvalley eats scene

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Market Street Kitchen owner Mawa McQueen displays her mastery Tuesday while whipping up a breakfast crepe.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

Mawa McQueen said she’s heard from fans of her cooking for years that they wish they had an easier opportunity to enjoy her fare. Now they do.

McQueen and husband Daniel Liesener have opened Market Street Kitchen in Willits Town Center — in the corner of the Element hotel and just a hop and skip away from Whole Foods.

McQueen said many people who work in Aspen but live downvalley don’t have a chance to make it to their Aspen Business Center restaurant, Mawa’s Kitchen. “People complain — ‘Oh, we really want to come here,’” McQueen said.

So McQueen and Liesener intend to nurture a destination restaurant that workers returning to downvalley homes will seek out and the growing Basalt population at Willits will frequent.

They took over the space briefly occupied by Bonfire Coffee and put their stamp on it. They added counter seating at the floor-to-ceiling windows. Patio tables were added to boost overall seating to 48. Additional seating is available at tables in the adjoining hotel’s lobby. The restaurant is bright with an open kitchen. They hope to acquire their liquor license by mid-June so they can serve Aspen Brewing Co. beers and Woody Creek Distillery spirits as well as wine.

The menu features super salads, bountiful meat and cheese plates and smoothie bowls that are a meal unto themselves. But the star of the show is the savory and sweet crepes.

“Love and passion”

McQueen is a native of Ivory Coast but was raised in Paris. She loves her crepes and it shows. They are made with organic flours and organic, free-range Colorado eggs. Market Street Kitchen’s menu notes that they proudly serve bacon, greens, cheese and organic ingredients from local providers.

McQueen said the critical ingredients of her crepes are “love and passion.”

In her bubbly, personable manner, McQueen turns up her nose at the prospect of ingredients with artificial flavors. “No foo-foo in there,” she said. “I just want crisp, clean food.”

And if variety is the spice of life, Mawa has got every possibility covered. While Liesener is a vegetarian, she is a meat eater.

“It’s a very well-rounded menu,” McQueen said. Whichever direction a diner goes, they don’t get shortchanged.

The Boulder savory crepe — one of many — features rotisserie chicken, pesto, mushrooms, a Gruyere and Swiss cheese blend wrapped in an organic buckwheat flour crepe.

Filling breakfast nook

The restaurant is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days per week. Market Street Kitchen provides the breakfast that Element provides its guests, free of charge, up to 9 a.m. That set the stage for the restaurant’s opening. Breakfast is served 9 to 11 a.m.

“There’s no breakfast place,” McQueen said of Willits. “It’s frustrating me because I’m a breakfast person.”

The Market Street breakfast crepe is a knockout with sweet potatoes, bacon, a brie and Swiss cheese blend and two eggs on the side. It’s one of several breakfast crepes.

Among the 10 sweet crepes is The German, with caramelized apples, cinnamon, raisins and graham crackers. It’s as good as it sounds.

When asked about her pricing strategy, McQueen said she charging a fair price for fresh, high-quality food. “Seriously, I went with quality,” she said.

While she’s not targeting the people who want a $10 meal, “it’s not going to kill the bank” to eat there, she said.

On the lunch menu, for example, savory crepes range from $10.95 for one with avocado, spinach, housemade pesto and mozzarella to $17.95 for the Burgundy, which features red wine-braised beef, carrots, onions, peewee potatoes and fine herbs. Dinner crepes are slightly higher.

Salads, which also come in ample servings, run $12.95 and $14.95 for lunch, slightly more for dinner.

Grand opening May 25

Tim Belinski, a local representative for Mariner Real Estate Management, the developer of Willits Town Center, said Market Street Kitchen is a good fit because crepes are a creative crossover food. He expects it to be a popular draw as the south neighborhood gets built out. A building with 50 rental apartments and 27 condominiums that will be sold is under construction next door.

“Mawa and Daniel are authentic, enthusiastic, laser-beam focused restaurant people,” Belinski said.

The restaurant debuted this week with a soft opening through word of mouth as they get everything dialed in. The grand opening will be at 5 p.m. May 25 at 499 Market St.