New eatery plans fine time for locals in El Jebel | AspenTimes.com

New eatery plans fine time for locals in El Jebel

Scott Condon/The Aspen TimesBen Levy and his fiancee, Amanda Diaz, are aiming to make their Fine Line Bar and Grill a skiing-themed locals' hangout in El Jebel.

EL JEBEL – A once-popular midvalley eatery that fell victim to the recession has been replaced by a bar and grill that the young owners are determined to develop into a locals’ hangout.

The Fine Line Bar and Grill opened earlier this month at the El Jebel Plaza in the space that was home to Atlas Pizza for so many years. Ben Levy, 23, and his fiancee, Amanda Diaz, 21, wanted to open a place of their own and were undeterred by the recession. Levy said the Fine Line will deliver what it takes to survive in this tough economic environment – good food at an affordable price, and regular contact between owners and customers.

“We realized people want value in this economy,” Levy said. The menu is loaded with appetizers, soups, salads and sandwiches priced under $10. The entrees range from $10.95 for fettucine alfredo to $17.95 for top sirloin.

A burger and fries washed down by a beer will cost less than $10 during the daily happy hours from 3 to 6 p.m. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner, and will open on Mondays once the pro football season starts.

Levy said he and Diaz won’t be absentee owners because interacting with customers and recognizing what they want is the key to thriving.

“I feel it’s all about customer service in this business,” he said.

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They want to create a restaurant and bar where local residents feel comfortable stopping by for drinks after work or coming to eat with their family. The midvalley lacks a true hangout, even though several places have tried. “Nothing really caught on,” Levy said.

Feedback from locals will help them create the character of their business. They are starting out with karaoke on Tuesday nights, trivia competition on Wednesday nights and live music on Thursday nights.

The restaurant’s tag line is, “For Locals, By Locals.” Although Levy and Diaz moved to the Roaring Fork Valley one year ago, their management and head chefs have nearly 50 years of local restaurant service between them. Clint Wheeler is the bar manager. He is a veteran of several establishments, including Six89. Chef Lupe Morales brings many of the favorite items he helped establish on the menu of Atlas Pizza over 13 years. Chef Javier Huera comes from Darwin’s and other midvalley restaurants.

No single type of food dominates the menu. It’s a mix.

Levy and Diaz bought the lease, liquor license and some kitchen equipment from Atlas in July, then spent a month remodeling. The space was spruced up with bright blue paint and is decorated with awesome old-style ski posters created online by the owners. It’s the kind of place where skiers and riders would love to hang out even though the slopes are 15 miles away.

Levy moved to the valley from Vermont, where he skied Stowe and Mad River Glen. The bar and grill’s name was inspired by his love of skiing. “Fine Line,” he explained, comes from, “Let’s go ski the fine line – the one nobody’s skied yet.”

He plans to hit the slopes early to get his turns in this winter, despite devoting most waking hours to the new business. “That’s why we don’t open until 11 a.m.,” Levy said with a laugh.

scondon@aspentimes.com