Mountain Mayhem: Cantina reunion
One of my first jobs in Aspen and my entrée into the working world post-college, 20-something years ago, was waitressing at the Cantina, a long-time popular Mexican spot on the corner of Main and Mill, which is now Mi Chola. Our team from the front and back of the house was close-knit, and our memories remain fond from that era. When we weren’t slinging drinks such as fishbowls of Margaritas or tall, iced teas or pints of draft beer and carrying heavy plates from the kitchen to the floor from chimichangas to burritos to taco salads, we were gallivanting outside together — climbing peaks, mountain biking, and camping.
There was a bond formed, for sure, which is why last weekend’s “Cantina in the ’90s Reunion” was an impressive gathering of friends from all over the country. The get-together was thoughtfully organized and generously hosted by Darren Chapple, who started out as a Cantina server all those years ago before becoming a partner in the business, eventually taking over the lease and, in 2016, creating Mi Chola with other investors.
Everyone who attended was in great form and high spirits and grateful to be together again, missing those who couldn’t make it, and reminiscing about the “olden days” and regular patrons like legendary Aspen architect Sam Caudill who would come in daily for lunch, solo, sporting a 10-gallon hat, carrying a walking stick, and always beaming with a cheerful disposition. The late, great Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis spent most afternoons back then in the bar, enjoying happy hour with his regular Chivas on the rocks and a soda water back, joined by fellow elected officials and close friends. The stories run deep from that era in the Aspen of our youth.
Rumor has it this reunion very well may become an annual event; though, for the next iterations, it’ll need to take over the entire restaurant to accommodate all the alumni from the Cantina and Mi Chola to come together and reflect on the fun times from the past and toast to the future!
On a recent September Saturday morning, I awoke with an intense yearning to lose myself in the mountains, disconnect from cell service, and rediscover why I decided to call Aspen home in the first place. Standing there, at the Cathedral Lake trailhead, I knew I was right where I needed to be.